The Shocking Death of William Kemmler: The First Electric Execution

YESTERDAY’S NEWS

Eye for an Eye Edition

Following the brutal murder of his common law wife Tillie Ziegler in Buffalo, New York, March, 1889, the rough character William Kemmler said he was glad he did it was was happy to hang for the crime. He did not quite get his wish, as a newly passed law in the state of New York allowed Kemmler to become the first man to die in the electric chair. His executioners knew that the execution would be an experiment of sorts, and it was not exactly the rousing success they had hoped for, but it did usher in a new era in America’s criminal justice system.

In this adaptation of coverage from the New York World, we learn about the gruesome crime and the agonizing price William Kemmler paid for it.

Many people predicted that after Kemmler’s execution that the electric chair would soon fall out of disfavor. It has, but it took over 100 years and more than 4,400 electrocutions at the hand of the state to begin turning the tide. Although lethal injection is now the preferred method of execution in most states, some still offer electrocution as an option, and men have died in the electric chair as recently as 2013.

Theme song by Chuck Wiggins.

Sources and clips:

1890 0807 The_World_Thu__Aug_7__1890_ (1) Roanoke_Beacon_Fri__Aug_15__1890_ The_Evening_World_Wed__Aug_6__1890_ (1) The_Evening_World_Wed__Aug_6__1890_ The_Inter_Ocean_Thu__Aug_7__1890_ The_Saint_Paul_Globe_Thu__Aug_7__1890_ (1) The_Saint_Paul_Globe_Thu__Aug_7__1890_ The_World_Thu__Aug_7__1890_