Drama surrounded our next American execution. In a will-he-won’t-he cliff-hanger, Thomas Harrison Provenzano sat hooked up to the gurney even as they battled in a last-ditch attempt to get a stay of execution.
For Provenzano was deemed not to be mentally stable. Indeed his unpredictability had already been proven.
He was being executed for murder – he’d gone into a court of law and gunned down policemen in a reprisal after he’d been charged with disorderly behaviour five months previously.
One died there and then, one died of his debilitating injuries seven years after the shooting and one was left permanently paralysed. Conflicting reports suggest there may have been a fourth injured too.
That Provenzano was guilty was not in question, but his mental state was. Apparently his sister Catherine Forbes had written to Florida Governor John Ellis ‘Jeb’ Bush (younger bruv of George) to say that Provenzano was convinced he was Jesus Christ and that he was being executed because people hated him.
The law states that the person must understand why they are being executed. However, Bush chose to ignore this fact and stated that he could see no reason to overturn the decision to execute.
Similarly there was controversy around the method of execution – the inhumanity of the electric chair was the subject of huge courtroom battles, not least because there had been gruesome and bloody deaths. A compelling example was ‘Tiny’ Davis. As a result, Provenzano’s method was altered to lethal injection.
This brings us neatly up to the early evening on this day in 2000. Even as they were on the brink of flicking the IV lever, a courtroom statement was due. It finally came and the answer was simple: execute. Provenzano was pronounced dead eight minutes later, aged 51.