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This page is about death by hanging. For the computer malfunction, see hang. For other meanings, see hang (disambiguation).

Hanging refers to the suspension of a person by a cord wrapped around the neck, causing death. Throughout history it has been used as a form of capital punishment, first in the Persian Empire approximately 2500 years ago<ref>The process of judicial hanging</ref>, and is still used in some countries. It is also a common method of committing suicide.


[edit] Methods of judicial hanging

There are four methods of performing a judicial hanging — the short drop, suspension hanging, the standard drop, and the long drop.

[edit] The short drop

The short drop is done by placing the condemned person on the back of a cart, horse, or other vehicle, with the noose around his neck. The vehicle is then moved away leaving the person dangling from the rope. Prior to 1850, it was the main method used. It is still used widely in Middle Eastern countries. A ladder was also commonly used with the condemned being forced to ascend, after which the noose was tied and the ladder pulled away or turned, leaving the victim hanging. A person hanged in this way would be said to have been "turned off".

[edit] Suspension hanging

Suspension hanging is similar, except the gallows itself are movable, so that the noose can be raised once the condemned is in place. This method is currently used in Iran, where tank gun barrels or mobile cranes are used to hoist the condemned into the air. Similar methods involve running the rope through a pulley to allow raising of the person.

[edit] The standard drop

Black Jack Ketchum's execution, New Mexico, 1901
Sepia-tone photo from a contemporary postcard showing Tom Ketchum's decapitated body. Caption reads "Body of Black Jack after the hanging showing head snapped off."

The standard drop involves a drop of between four and six feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters), and came into use in the late 19th century. It was considered an advance on the short drop because it was intended to be sufficient to break the person's neck, causing immediate paralysis and immobilization (and perhaps immediate unconsciousness-- though this matter is questioned). However, in some cases, the long drop was enough to decapitate the victim, such as the famous case of "Black Jack" Tom Ketchum in New Mexico in 1901.

[edit] The long drop

This process, also known as the measured drop, was introduced in 1872 by William Marwood as a scientific advancement to the standard drop. Instead of everyone falling the same standard distance, the persons's weight was used to determine how much slack would be provided in the rope so that the distance dropped would be enough to ensure that the neck was broken.

Prior to 1892, the drop was between four and 10 feet (1.22 to 3.05 meters), depending on the weight of the body, and was calculated to deliver a force of 1,260 lbs (572 kg or 5,604 newtons), which fractured the neck at either the 2nd and 3rd or 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae. However, this force resulted in some decapitations. Between 1892 and 1913, the length of the drop was shortened to avoid doing so. After 1913, other factors were also taken into account and the force delivered was reduced to about 1000 lbs (454 kg or 4,448 newtons). [citation needed]

[edit] Suicide

Suspension hanging is a common method of suicide. The materials necessary for suicide by hanging are relatively easily available to the average person, compared with firearms or lethal poison, as most people can obtain rope, and tree branches or wooden beams can provide something from which to hang one's self. Full suspension is not required and for this reason hanging is especially commonplace among suicidal prisoners. A type of hanging comparable to fulll suspension hanging may be obtained by self-strangulation using a ligature of the neck and only partial weight of the body (partial suspension). This method is dependent on unconsciousness produced by arterial blood flow restriction, while the breath is held.

  • In Canada, hanging is the second most common method of suicide,<ref name="cansuicide">"Statistics about suicide".</ref> after suffocation.
  • In the US, hanging is the second most common method of suicide, after firearms, <ref>Suicide Statistics. URL accessed on 2006-05-16.</ref>.
  • In Great Britain, where firearms are less easily available, as of 2001 hanging was the most common method among men and the second-most commonplace among women (after poisoning).<ref>Trends in suicide by method in England and Wales, 1979 to 2001 (PDF), Office of National Statistics. URL accessed on 2006-05-16.</ref>

[edit] Famous suicides by hanging

[edit] Medical effects

A hanging may cause one or more of the following medical conditions:

The cause of death in hanging depends on the conditions related to the event. When the body is released from a relatively high position, death is usually caused by severing the spinal cord between C1 and C2, which may be functional decapitation. High cervical fracture frequently occurs in judicial hangings, and in fact the C1-C2 fracture has been called the "Hangman's fracture" in medicine, even when it occurs in other circumstances. Accidental C1-C2 fracture victims in fact do not generally report unconsciousness as immediate result;instead this after some minutes, from asphyxia.

In the absence of fracture and dislocation, occlusion of blood vessels becomes the major cause of death. Obstruction of venous drainage of the brain via occlusion of the internal jugular veins leads to cerebral oedema and then cerebral ischemia. Other processes that have been suggested to contribute are vagal collapse (via mechanical stimulation of the carotid sinus), and compromise of the cerebral blood flow by obstruction of the carotid arteries, even though their obstruction requires far more force than the obstruction of jugular veins, since they are seated deeper and they contain blood in much higher pressure compared to the jugular veins. Only 7 lb (3.2 kg or 31 newtons) of pressure may be enough to constrict the carotid arteries to the point of rapid unconsciousness (this varies from individual to individual).

Where death has been caused by blocking the veins, the face will typically have become engorged and cyanotic (turned blue through lack of oxygen). There will be the classic sign of strangulation - petechiae - little blood marks on the face and in the eyes from burst blood capillaries. The tongue may protrude. Where death has occurred through carotid artery obstruction or cervical fracture, the face will typically be pale in colour and not show petechiae. There exist many reports and pictures of actual short drop hangings which seem to show that the person died quickly and fairly peacefully, while others indicate a slow and agonising death by strangulation. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

When cerebral circulation is severely compromised by any mechanism, arterial or venous, death occurs over four or more minutes from cerebral hypoxia, although the heart may continue to beat for some period after the brain is no longer resuscitatable. When death occurs in such a case is a matter of convention. In judicial hangings, death is pronounced at cardiac arrest, which may occur at times from several minutes up to 15 minutes or longer, after hanging. During suspension, once the prisoner has lapsed into unconsciousness, rippling movements of the body and limbs may occur for some time which are usually attributed to nervous and muscular reflexes. In Britain, it was normal to leave the body suspended for an hour to ensure death.

There is a popular myth about sexual stimulation of hanged men, due to the apparent erection some exhibited. The effect is attributed to gravity causing the blood to settle in the legs and lower torso, thereby engorging the penis. (This myth fuels the auto-erotic asphyxiation, a practice that might lead to an accidental death.)

After death, the body typically shows marks of suspension, e.g. bruising and rope marks on the neck. Forensic experts may often be able to tell if hanging is suicide or homicide, as each leaves a distinctive ligature mark. One of the hints they use is the hyoid bone, that, if broken, often means the person has been murdered, by manual choking. Also, there have been cases of autoerotic asphyxiation leading to death; children have accidentally died playing the choking game.

[edit] References by country

Currently hanging is still a method of capital punishment in many countries with civil law, including India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan as well as Islamic countries that follow Sharia law, such as Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia

[edit] Australia

The last man executed by hanging in Australia was Ronald Ryan on February 3, 1967.

[edit] Brazil

Death by hanging was the customary method of capital punishment in Brazil throughout its history. Some important national heroes like Tiradentes (1792) were killed by hanging. The last man executed in Brazil was Manoel da Motta Coqueiro, in 1855 - who was innocent. After this, capital punishment was abolished in Brazil.

[edit] Bulgaria

Bulgaria's national hero, Vasil Levski, was executed by hanging by the Ottoman court in Sofia in 1873. Every year since Bulgaria' liberation, thousands come with flowers on the date of his martyr's death, February 19, to his monument where the gallows stood.

[edit] Canada

Hanging was the only method of execution used in Canada up to the abolition of capital punishment in 1976. The last hangings in Canada took place on December 11, 1962.

[edit] Great Britain

Image:Pisanello 010.jpg
Detail from a painting by Pisanello, 1436-1438

As a form of judicial execution in England, hanging is thought to date from the Saxon period, approximately around 400. Records of the names of British hangmen begin with Thomas de Warblynton in the 1360s; complete records extend from the 1500s to the last hangmen, Robert Leslie Stewart and Harry Allen, who conducted the last British executions in 1964.

In 1965 Parliament passed the "Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act" abolishing capital punishment for murder. And with the introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998, the death penalty was officially abolished for all crimes in both civilian and military cases.

The last woman to be hanged was Ruth Ellis on July 13 1955 by Albert Pierrepoint who was a prominent hangman in the 20th century in England.

[edit] Germany

In the territories occupied by Nazi Germany from 1939 to 1945, strangulation hanging was a preferred means of public execution. The most common sentenced were partisans and black marketeers. Those bodies were usually left hanging for long periods of time. In the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II, hanging was the method used for the 11 executed defendants of the Nuremburg trials, and also for numerous war criminals found guilty by international tribunals. After signing of the peace treaty, war resistance in occupied Germany was dealt with by various execution methods, which varied by occupying power (see Allied Occupation Zones in Germany). The British continued executions by hanging in the British military zone. France used the French (and also common Nazi) method of beheading, while the Soviet Union and United States usually executed resisters by firing squad.

[edit] Hungary

In a newspaper interview in 1957, Khrushchev commented regarding the failed late-1956 Hungarian revolution that "support by United States ... is rather in the nature of the support that the rope gives to a hanged man."<ref>Simpson, James (1997). Simpson's Contemporary Quotations. Collins, 672 pages. ISBN 0062701371.</ref>. In keeping with the metaphor, the prime minister of Hungary during the 1956 revolution, Imre Nagy, was secretly tried, executed by hanging, and buried unceremoniously by the new Soviet-backed Hungarian government, in 1958. Nagy was later publically rehabilitated by Hungary [1].

[edit] India

The Supreme Court of India has suggested that capital punishment should be given only in the "rarest of rare cases". A recent case of capital punishment by hanging is that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was convicted of the 1990 murder and rape of a 14 year old girl in Kolkata in India. The manner in which the crime was committed (the accused first bludgeoned the victim with a blunt object, and raped her even as she was slowly dying) was considered brutal enough by the supreme court to warrant the death penalty. An appeal for clemency was made to the president of India, but was turned down. Chatterjee was executed on August 14 2004 in the first execution in West Bengal for eleven years. Recently, in a high profile case, the High Court of Delhi, sentenced Santosh Kumar Singh to death by hanging for the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo. Also in the Parliament attack case, the Supreme Court of India, sentenced Mohammed Afzal Guru to death by hanging for conspiring against the state.

[edit] Iran

As one of several means of capital punishment in Iran, hangings are carried out by using an automotive telescoping crane to hoist the condemned aloft.</br>

[edit] Iraq

[edit] Israel

In Israel's only executed death sentence, Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was executed by hanging in 1962.

[edit] Japan

[edit] Singapore

In Singapore, mandatory hanging using the long-drop method is currently used as punishment for various crimes, such as drug trafficking, kidnapping and unauthorized possession of firearms. <ref>"Singapore clings to death penalty", Sunday Times (South Africa), 2005-11-21. Retrieved on 2006-04-02.</ref>. </br>

[edit] United States

At present, only the states of Washington and New Hampshire still retain hanging as an option. Laws in Delaware were changed in 1996 to specify lethal injection, except for those convicted prior to 1996 who were sentenced to hanging. These convicts were allowed to choose lethal injection, but in 1996 Billy Bailey, who was given the choice, chose to hang. This was the last hanging in the country. Since the hanging of Bailey, no Delaware prisoner fits in this category, thus the practice is ended de facto, and the gallows have been dismantled. In New Hampshire, if it is found to be "impractical" to carry out the punishment of death by lethal injection, then the condemned will under the law be hanged.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Other forms of capital punishment, such as the electric chair and more recently lethal injection, have largely replaced hanging.

The last public hanging legally conducted in the United States (and also the last public execution in the United States) was that of Rainey Bethea, who was publicly hanged on August 14 1936, in Owensboro, Kentucky.

[edit] Soviet Union

In the Soviet Union, the last persons to be sentenced to death by hanging were Andrey Vlasov and 11 other officers of his army on August 1, 1946.

[edit] Hanging in popular culture

The word game hangman is somewhat based on hanging. In films like Back to the Future Part III, victims are often saved by their accomplices who shoot the rope with a gun just in time. However, the television show MythBusters showed that this was not possible and took several well-placed shots to break the rope.

[edit] Grammar

Look up Hanging in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

In standard usage, the past tense of the verb "to hang" when referring to an execution or death by hanging is "hanged", whereas in other contexts it is "hung".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

da:Hængning de:Erhängen es:Horca fr:Pendaison gl:Aforcamento ko:교수형 it:Impiccagione he:תלייה ka:ჩამოხრჩობა lt:Korimas nl:Ophanging (doodstraf) ja:絞首刑 no:Hengning nn:Henging pl:Powieszenie pt:Forca ru:Повешение fi:Hirttäminen sv:Hängning zh:绞刑


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