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December 12, 1984 - Execution Of Alpha Stephens Botched, Secretly Recorded - Today In Crime History

On this day, December 12, in the year 1984, Alpha Otis O'Daniel Stephens was executed by electrocution in the State of Georgia.  He survived the first two minute electrical jolt, to the surprise of prison officials.  Six minutes later, when doctors found that Stephens was still alive, a second jolt was administered causing death.  Years later, secret audio records of this execution were disclosed.

Alpha Otis O’Daniel Stephens was electrocuted by the State of Georgia for his execution-style killing of Roy Asbell who had surprised Stephens in the course of a home burglary.

Shortly after midnight, on December 12, 1984, Stephens was led into Georgia’s execution chamber. Several seconds after a hood was placed over Stephens' head, the first electrical jolt was applied, causing his fists to clench tightly and his body to lurch forward. Soon his body slumped when the electrical current stopped approximately two minutes later. Shortly afterward, though, witnesses saw Stephens’ begin to breathe. For approximately six minutes, while the body was too hot to touch, Stephens took about 23 breaths. At 12:26 a.m., two doctors examined Stephens and determined that he was still alive. At 12:28 a.m. a second electrical jolt was administered and Stephens body again lurched forward. The electrical charge was terminated at 12:30 a.m.. At 12:36 a.m., Stephen’s was again examined by the doctors and pronounced dead. The government’s execution was complete.

It was discovered, years later, that the Georgia Department of Corrections had made audio recordings of its executions as part of a secret archive of the proceedings. Several hours of recorded executions were leaked and have now been made public. While the original recording was approximately 20 minutes long, you may listen to an abridged version that has long silences and unintelligible content excised here.

During the haunting sound recording one hears prison officials realize that the first electrical jolt did not kill Stephens. There is an agonizing wait for Stephens’ body to cool enough for doctors to perform an examination. One then hears the electrocution cycle begin again. From the sound of it, the prison officials are worried that the second jolt may not have caused death as it apparently looked like Stephens was still breathing very late in the procedure. Read full execution transcript here.

Georgia wound not abandon electrocution as the state’s approved method of execution until the year 2000.

Sources and more information:

1984: Alpha Otis O’Daniel Stephens: Hear It Live,

The Georgia Death Penalty, Then and Now

Recording of a Botched Execution

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