8 April 1947 – George Sitts

George SittsSouth Dakota christened Old Sparky today in 1947 after it plonked the first and only victim on the hot seat.

Sitts in the chair

The execution was a real DIY job – the chair had been handcrafted by prisoners and instead of a steel cap, they used a football helmet. It was a joke, and even George Sitts saw the funny side as he sat waiting for his lethal jolts – ‘this is the first time authorities have helped me escape prison’ he quipped.

Sitts back

You see, he’d managed to saw himself out of jail once before and it was while Sitts was on the run from Minnesota jail, that he killed an agent and a sheriff as they tried to apprehend him. He was re-captured and promptly put back on trial for murder. However, seeing as Sitts was already serving a life sentence for bumping off an off-licence employee, the only sentence left was death.

He was strapped in and four electrodes were attached to his ankle, his head shaved and a wet sponge placed on his head, before the helmet was wedged on his head, then the switch was flicked. He was pronounced dead, aged 33.

As for the DIY electric chair – it was put out to pasture after its shocking debut, as South Dakota chose not to execute anyone for the next 60 years. However, the state finally succumbed to the death penalty on 11 July 2007, with the lethally injected Elijah Page.

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