The death sentence and methods of executing criminals have a deep-rooted history in Arizona, going back two years before Arizona became a state in 1912.
In fact, the Pinal County Historical Museum, 715 S. Main St., Florence, houses artifacts of the state’s death row and execution history — a portion of the museum that could be viewed as either horror or history, depending on your point of view.
The death row history exhibit, which has been in existence for 40 years, features all of the nooses used in the 28 hangings between 1910 and 1931, a customized double-chair built for the two brothers who were the first to die in the Death House’s gas chamber by lethal gas in 1934, and the trap door to the gallows where bodies were dropped after hangings to ensure their death.
Chris Reid, a historian at the museum for the last 12 years, said when people see the death row history, they have mixed reactions.
“Some people view it as gruesome, some people view it as justice or out of curiosity,” Reid said. “It just depends on what your view on the death penalty is. It’s part of our town’s history.”
Arizona never has used the electric chair since it began executing criminals in 1910, but has used three execution methods over the last century — death by hanging, lethal gas and since 1993, death by lethal injection.
Arizona voters approved death by lethal injection as a means of execution in the November 1992 general election. Since death by lethal injection was approved, inmates who committed crimes prior to 1992 and sentenced to death may choose execution by lethal gas or lethal injection, according to information from the Department of Corrections.
For 30 years, from 1962 to 1992, there were no executions in Arizona, partially during a time the U.S. Supreme Court implemented new procedures for death penalty cases. The court had ruled in 1972 that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment and violated 8th Amendment rights, and in 1973, implemented new procedures for death penalty cases.