Most capital litigants have been wildly successful in frustrating their grim reaper by ensuring the blood thirsty states where they are incarcerated have no lethal-injection drugs to pull off the state-sanctioned murder.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has had enough of the obstruction and has given notice that the electric chair is now a viable option. Historically, states turned away from the electric chair, believing lethal injection to be quicker, less painful and less likely to be declared cruel and unusual punishment. However, Virginia is one of eight states that already allow electrocution as a method of execution, letting inmates choose between it and lethal injection. The next inmate slated to die, Ricky Gray, has not yet picked a method. What will happen at his March 16 execution — or if it will go on as planned — remains unclear.
Executions by electrocution are far less common than those by lethal injection, though they are not unheard of. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 158 people have been executed by electrocution since 1976, compared with 1,252 by lethal injection. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia permit the practice in theory, according to data from the center, though each state has different rules. The last inmate to pick electrocution in Virginia was Robert Gleason Jr., who was given a life sentence for killing someone to cover up his involvement in a drug gang, then death for killing two fellow inmates behind bars. He was executed in 2013.
Courts in Georgia and Nebraska have ruled that electrocution violates their state constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.