Death by electrocution is “grotesquely painful, terribly disfiguring and a kind of brutality that harkens back to ancient times. It is absolutely barbaric and compares to no other type of punishment that exists in modern society,” says Fordham Law Professor Deborah Denno, Ph.D.
Denno, the country’s leading expert on the legality of electrocution, calls the supreme court decision to review whether electrocution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment as being 109 years late. Denno was the only attorney to testify on the cruelty of electrocution in one of the Florida cases, and submitted expert testimony in the second Florida case that led the Supreme Court decision to review the procedure. “I have seen the pictures of the person executed in Florida, the basis of this case, and they are just grotesque. The pain on his face is clear and there is blood everywhere,” Denno says. “Finally, after 109 years, the Supreme Court has agreed to look at the issue — too bad they hadn’t done it earlier.”
Denno’s writings on the constitutionality of electrocution have been cited in court cases and provided the basis for expert testimony in state and federal courts on electrocution and lethal injection. The majority of states have banned electrocution in favor of lethal injection, but four states, including Florida, currently use an electric chair. The Court agreed to review the constitutionality, specifically whether it is cruel and unusual punishment, just months after the fourth botched electrocution attempt in Florida.
Fordham University School of Law was founded in 1905, and has over 13,000 alumni practicing in all 50 states and throughout the world. Under Dean John D. Feerick’s leadership since 1982, Fordham Law School has secured a place as a national leader in public interest law, legal ethics and human rights law.