The Botched Execution of John Louis Evans
Between the years 1927 and 2002, more than 135 men were put to death in Alabama using the electric chair known by most there as “Yellow Mama.”
One such man was John Louis Evans, a death row inmate convicted for the robbery of a mobile area pawnshop and murder of its owner, Edward Nassar. Confined to Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama, Evans was scheduled to be put to death on April 22, 1983. What happened next was horrific and became widely cited by opponents of the death penalty in the years that followed.
Hit with the first 30-second jolt of electricity, Evans’ body tensed and an electrode on his left leg snapped free, but he did not die.
Once the electrode was reattached, Evans was hit by another 30-second jolt of electricity which resulted in smoke and flames shooting out from under the hood that covered his head. Two physicians sent in to check the condemned man determined that he was still alive.
Despite pleas from his lawyer to stop the botched electrocution, a third jolt of electricity was then applied and he finally succumbed to death. A reporter present gave this first-hand account of what he witnessed, a harrowing account of the events that unfolded that day. His article is below.
Witness to An Execution By Mark D. Harris of United Press International, Atmore, Ala.
Ten hours before being led into a small room to witness the execution of John Louis Evans III, I learned my wife was pregnant with our first child, and in that brief span of time my notions of life and death became something abruptly personal — beautifully and horribly.
There is still a nagging regret that my joy over the impending birth was blurred by the chilling sight of Evans’ chest rhythmically rising and falling after what was supposed to be an instantaneously lethal dose of electricity.
And now a week after the fact, questions linger about whether Evans still felt anything after that first bolt of electricity ripped into his shaved skull.
Three reporters and the two witnesses Evans asked to attend his execution were searched at Holman Prison on April 22 and…