Louisiana v Resweber; 329 US 459

in Legal Chyme by

Willie Francis, a 16-year-old black youth, was convicted of murder in Louisiana and sentenced to death by electrocution. On the appointed day, Francis was strapped in the chair and the executioner threw the switch. Electric current passed through Francis’s body but it was insufficient to kill him. The malfunction required a repair of the chair. In the meantime Francis sought to prevent the second execution attempt.

Whether or not the second attempted execution deny Francis due process of law because of double jeopardy guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment and because of cruel and unusual punishment of the Eighth Amendment?

No and no. The equipment failure does not bring due process into play. This was not the wanton infliction of unnecessary pain in the execution of the death sentence. And the cruelty of the Eighth Amendment refers to cruelty in method, not that cruelty which is part of the actual suffering accompanying a lawful sentence of death.

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