Execution By Electrocution Ruled Constitutional

1890

In In re Kemmler, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that New York’s law allowing execution by the newly invented electric chair is constitutional. The Court refuses to find the death penalty is itself “cruel and unusual”; rather, only if the chosen method of execution involves “torture or a lingering death” will it violate the Eighth Amendment. The Court says the electric chair is intended to execute prisoners more humanely than other methods (such as hanging).

After the ruling, William Kemmler becomes the first person in the United States to be executed in the electric chair.