Mississippi's Execution Methods Have Changed With The Times

Since Mississippi joined the Union in 1817, several forms of execution have been used.

Hanging was the first form of execution used in Mississippi. The state continued to execute prisoners sentenced to die by hanging until October 11, 1940, when Hilton Fortenberry, convicted of capital murder in Jefferson Davis County, became the first prisoner to be executed in the electric chair.

Between 1940 and February 5, 1952, the old oak electric chair was moved from county to county to conduct executions. During the 12-year span, 75 prisoners were executed in the Magnolia State for offenses punishable by death.

In 1954, the gas chamber was installed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. It replaced the electric chair, which today is on display at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy. Gerald A. Gallego became the first prisoner to be executed by lethal gas on March 3, 1955.

During the course of the next 34 years, 35 death row inmates were executed in the gas chamber. Leo Edwards became the last person to be executed in the gas chamber at the Mississippi State Penitentiary on June 21, 1989.

On July 1, 1984, the Mississippi legislature partially amended lethal gas as the state’s form of execution in §§ 99-19-51 of the Mississippi Code. The new amendment provided that individuals who committed capital punishment crimes after the effective date of the new law and who were subsequently sentenced to death thereafter would be executed by lethal injection.

On March 18, 1998, the Mississippi legislature amended the manner of execution by finally removing the provision lethal gas as the alternate form of execution.