is the lethal suspension of a person by a
states that hanging in this sense is
"specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", although
it formerly also referred to crucifixion
and death by impalement
in which the body
would remain "hanging".
For lack of a better term, hanging
has also been used to
describe a method of suicide
in which a
person applies a ligature to the neck and brings about
unconsciousness and then death, by means of partial suspension or
partial weight-bearing on the ligature. This method has been most
often used in prisons or other institutions, where full suspension
support is difficult to devise. The earliest known use of the word
in this sense was in A.D.
Methods of judicial hanging
There are four ways of performing a judicial hanging — the short
drop, suspension hanging, the standard drop, and the long drop. A
mechanised form of hanging, the upright
, was also experimented with in the 18th century.
The short drop is done by placing the condemned prisoner on the
back of a cart, horse, or other vehicle, with the noose around the
neck. The object is then moved away, leaving the person dangling
from the rope. The condemned prisoner dies of strangulation,
typically between ten and twenty minutes. Before 1850, it was the
main method. 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 condemned hanging.
Another method involves using a stool, which the condemned is
required to stand on, being kicked away.
The standard drop, which arrived as calculated in English units,
involves a drop of between four and six feet (1.2 to 1.8 m) and
came into use from 1866
, when the scientific
details were published by an Irish doctor, Samuel Haughton
. Immediately its use spread
to English-speaking countries and those where judicial systems had
an English origin. It was considered a humane improvement on the
short drop because it was intended to be enough to break the
person's neck, causing immediate paralysis and immobilization (and
probable immediate unconsciousness). This method was used
to execute condemned Nazis under United States jurisdiction after the Nuremberg Trials including Joachim
von Ribbentrop and Ernst
Nazis executed under British jurisdiction, including Josef Kramer
, Fritz Klein
, were hanged by Albert
using the variable drop method devised by William Marwood
This process, also known as the measured drop, was introduced to
Britain in 1872 by William Marwood
as a scientific advancement to the standard drop. Instead of
everyone falling the same standard distance, the person's height,
weight and strength were 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 but not so much that the person
Prior to 1892, the drop was between four and ten feet (about one to
three metres), depending on the weight of the body, and was
calculated to deliver a force of 1,260 lbf
or 572 kgf
), which fractured the neck at either the 2nd and 3rd
or 4th and 5th cervical
. However, this force resulted in some decapitations, such as the famous case of
"Black Jack" Tom Ketchum in New Mexico Territory in 1901.
Between 1892 and 1913,
the length of the drop was shortened to avoid decapitation. After
1913, other factors were also taken into account, and the force
delivered was reduced to about 1,000 lbf (4,400 N or 450 kgf).
decapitation of Eva Dugan during a botched hanging in 1930 led the
state of Arizona to switch to
the gas chamber as its primary execution
method, on the grounds that it was believed more humane.
of the more recent decapitations as a result of the long drop
occurred when Barzan Ibrahim
was hanged in Iraq in 2007.
Suicide by hanging.
Hanging is a common method for committing suicide
. The materials necessary for suicide by
hanging are easily available to the average person, compared with
firearms or lethal poison. It is a deceptively simple yet highly
effective suicide method. Full suspension is not required, and for
this reason hanging is especially commonplace among suicidal
. A type of hanging comparable to
full suspension hanging may be obtained by self-strangulation using
a ligature of the neck and only partial weight of the body (partial
Canada, hanging is the most common method of suicide, and
in the U.S., hanging is the second most common method, after
In the United Kingdom, 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
A hanging may induce one or more of the following medical
conditions, some leading to death:
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. Usually, accidental C1-C2
fracture victims do not immediately become unconscious; instead
death occurs after some minutes. Another process that has been
suggested is carotid sinus reflex
. By this theory, the mechanical stimulation of the
carotid sinus in the neck brings on terminal cardiac arrest.
In the absence of fracture and dislocation, occlusion of blood
vessels becomes the major cause of death, rather than asphyxiation
. Obstruction of venous drainage of the
brain via occlusion of the internal jugular veins leads to cerebral edema
and then cerebral ischemia
. The face will typically
become engorged and cyanotic
through lack of oxygen). There will be the classic sign of
—little blood marks
on the face and in the eyes from burst blood capillaries. The
tongue may protrude.
Compromise of the cerebral blood flow may occur 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 31 newtons (7 lbf or 3.2 kgf)
of force may be enough to constrict the carotid arteries to the
point of rapid unconsciousness. Where death has occurred through
carotid artery obstruction or cervical fracture, the face will
typically be pale in color and not show petechiae. Many reports and
pictures exist of actual short-drop hangings that seem to show that
the person died quickly, while others indicate a slow and agonizing
death by strangulation.
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 can no longer be resuscitated. The time of
death in such cases 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.
After death, the body typically shows marks of suspension: bruising
and rope marks on the neck. Moreover, sphincters will relax
spontaneously and urine and faeces will be evacuated. 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
broken, it often means the person has been murdered
by manual choking
Notable references by country (political)
Hanging has been a method of capital
in many countries.
Capital punishment was a part of the legal system of Australia
from its early days as a penal colony
for the British Empire, until 1985. During the 19th century, crimes
that could carry a death sentence included burglary
, sheep stealing, forgery
, murder and manslaughter
During the 19th century, there were about 80 people hanged each
year throughout Australia for these crimes.
Australia abolished the death penalty in all states by
last man executed by hanging (or any other means) in Australia was
Ronald Ryan on 3 February 1967, in
hanging was the customary method of capital punishment in Brazil throughout
Some important national heroes like Tiradentes
(1792) were killed by hanging. The
last man executed in Brazil was the slave Francisco, in 1876.The
death penalty was abolished for all crimes, except for those
committed under extraordinary circumstances such as war or military
law, in 1890.
hero, Vasil Levski, was executed by
hanging by the Ottoman court in
Sofia in 1873.
Every year since Bulgaria's
, thousands come with flowers
on the date of his death, February 19
to his monument where the gallows stood.
The last execution was in 1989, and the death penalty was abolished
for all crimes in 1998.
Historically, hanging was the only method of
execution used in Canada and was in
use as punishment for all murders until 1961, when murders were
reclassified into capital and non-capital offences.
death penalty was restricted to only apply for certain offences to
the National Defence Act in 1976 and was completely abolished in
The last hangings in Canada took place on December 11, 1962.
In the territories occupied by Nazi
from 1939 to 1945, strangulation hanging was a
preferred means of public execution, although more criminal
executions were performed by guillotine
than hanging. The most common sentenced were partisan
and black marketeers
, whose bodies were usually
left hanging for long periods of time. There are also numerous
reports of concentration camp inmates being hanged. Hanging was
continued in post-war Germany in the British and US Occupation
Zones under their jurisdiction, and for Nazi war criminals, until
well after (western) Germany itself had abolished the death penalty
by the German constitution
as adopted in 1949. West-Berlin was not subject to the
"Grundgesetz" and abolished the death penalty in 1951. The German
Democratic Republic did not abolish the death penalty until
The last execution ordered by a West German court was
carried out by guillotine in Moabit prison 1949. The last hanging in
Germany was the one ordered of several war criminals in Landsberg am
Lech on June 7, 1951.
The last known execution in
East Germany was in 1981 by a pistol shot to the neck.
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 publicly
exonerated by Hungary.
Capital punishment was abolished for all crimes in 1990.
All executions in India are carried out by hanging.
, Mohandas Gandhi
’s assassin, was executed by
hanging in 1949.
Court of India has suggested that capital punishment should be given only
in the "rarest of rare cases".
case of capital punishment by hanging is that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a Security Guard
who was convicted of the 1990 murder and rape of a 14-year-old
girl, Hetal Parekh, in Kolkata in India.
manner in which the crime was committed, bludgeoning the victim
with a blunt object and raping her as she was slowly dying, was
considered brutal enough by the Supreme Court of India to warrant
the death penalty. An appeal for clemency was made to the President
of India, but was turned down. Chatterjee was hanged on August 14,
2004. It was the first execution in India since 1995.
As one of several means of capital punishment in Iran
hangings are carried out by using an automotive telescoping
to hoist the condemned aloft.
The death penalty is used for many offences and is the only
punishment for rape, murder and child molestation, with all
hangings taking place in public.
19, 2005, two boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz
Marhoni, ages 15 and 17 respectively, who had been convicted of
the rape of a 13-year-old boy, were publicly hanged at Edalat
(Justice) Square in Mashhad, on charges of homosexuality and rape.
On August 15, 2004, a 16-year-old girl,
Rajabi), was executed for having committed "acts incompatible with
on July 27, 2008, the Iranian Government executed a total of 29
people at Evin
Prison in Tehran.
December 2008, an unnamed man was hanged for murder at Kazeroun
Prison, just moments before he was pardoned by the murder victim's
family, then quickly cut down and rushed to a hospital where he was
was used under the regime of Saddam
Hussein, but was suspended along with capital punishment on
June 10, 2003, when the United States-led coalition invaded and overthrew the previous
The death penalty was reinstated on August 8,
In September 2005, three murderers were the first people to be
executed since the restoration. Then on March 9, 2006, an official
of Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council confirmed that Iraqi authorities
had executed the first insurgent
Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity
5, 2006, and was executed on December 30, 2006 at approximately
6:00 a.m. local time. During the drop, there was an audible crack
indicating that his neck was broken, a successful example of a long
By contrast, Barzan Ibrahim
, the head
of the Mukhabarat, Saddam's security agency, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar
, former chief
judge, were executed on January 15, 2007, also by the long drop
method, but Barzan was decapitated by the rope at the end of his
fall indicating that the drop was too long.
Also, former vice-president Taha
had been sentenced to life in prison on November
5, 2006, but the sentence was changed to death by hanging on
February 12, 2007. He was the fourth and final man to be executed
for the 1982 crimes against humanity on March 20, 2007. This time,
the execution went smoothly and without obvious mistake or
At the Anfal genocide trial, Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid
(aka Chemical Ali),
former defence minister Sultan
al-Tay, and former deputy Hussein Rashid Mohammed
were sentenced to hang for their role in the Al-Anfal Campaign
against the Kurds on
June 24, 2007. Al-Majid was again sentenced to death for the 1991
suppression of a Shi'a uprising along with Abdul-Ghani Abdul Ghafur
on December 2, 2008.
provisions in its criminal law to use the death penalty for
extraordinary crimes, it has only been used once.
On May 31,
1962, Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann
executed by hanging.
On February 27, 2004, the mastermind of the Sarin gas attack on the
, Shoko Asahara
found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. On December 25, 2006,
serial killer Hiroaki Hidaka and
three others were hanged in Japan.
Hanging is the common method of execution in capital punishment
cases in Japan, as in the cases of Norio
, Mamoru Takuma
hanging is the traditional method of capital punishment in Jordan.
is the traditional way of capital punishment in Malaysia.
The last person executed by hanging in Portugal was Francisco Matos
Lobos on April 16, 1842. Before, it had been a common death
In Pakistan hanging is the most common form of execution.
to many other countries, the Russian Empire used the death penalty for a wide range of
The death penalty was officially outlawed shortly after the
revolution of 1917, but the government later permitted the use of
the penalty for soldiers on the front. In the next several decades,
the death penalty was alternatively permitted and prohibited, but
reign, the death
penalty was used in many cases. The last persons to be sentenced to
death by hanging were Andrey Vlasov
and 11 other officers of his army on August 1, 1946. Numerous
executions from that date forward were carried out by gunshot,
which became the standard method of capital punishment in the
Federation the death penalty is still technically allowed but
is currently under a moratorium.
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
A 25-year old Vietnamese-Australian, Nguyen Tuong Van
, was hanged on December 2,
2005, after being convicted of drug trafficking in 2002. Numerous
efforts from both the Australian government, Queen's Counsels
and petitions from
organizations such as Amnesty
failed to persuade Singapore to rescind its
old Malaysian, Took Leng How, was
hanged on November 2, 2006, after being convicted of the murder of
Huang Na in 2004.
Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, a Nigerian national was sentenced to death in Singapore for
hanged on January 26, 2007.
As a form
of judicial execution in England, hanging is thought to date from the Anglo-Saxon period.
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.Until 1865
performed in public. In London, the traditional site was at
settlement west of the City on the main
road to Oxford, which was
used on eight hanging days a year,
though before 1865, executions had been transferred to the street
Bailey, now the site of the Central Criminal Court.
In 1965, Parliament passed the Murder Act
temporarily abolishing capital punishment for murder for 5 years.
The Act was renewed in 1969, making the abolition permanent. And
with the passage of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
the Human Rights Act 1998
death penalty was officially abolished for all crimes in both
civilian and military cases. Following its complete abolition, the
gallows were removed from Wandsworth Prison, where they remained in full working order until
The last woman to be hanged was Ruth
on July 13, 1955, by Albert
who was a prominent hangman in the 20th century in
England. The last hanging in Britain took place in
1964, when Peter Anthony Allen,
Prison in Liverpool, and Gwynne Owen
Evans, at Strangeways Prison
in Manchester were executed for the murder of John Alan West.
In the UK, some felons have traditionally been executed by hanging
with a silken rope:
The two largest mass executions in the U.S., of 38 and 13 men at
the same time, were carried out by hanging.
At present, capital punishment varies from state to state; it is
outlawed in some states but used in most others. However, the death
penalty under federal law is applicable in every state. Other forms
of capital punishment have largely been replaced by lethal injection
in the U.S., where the
condemned may choose this as an option. Only lethal injection
is used at the federal level and only the states of Washington and New
retain hanging as an option. Hanging was the preferred method of
execution in the state of Iowa until 1965,
when Iowa abolished the death penalty.
The last inmate to be
executed by hanging in the state of Iowa was condemned murderer
, on March
. Currently, Iowa
has no death penalty, all suspects convicted of capital murder are
automatically sentenced to life without parole.
Delaware were changed in 1986 to specify lethal injection,
except for those convicted prior to 1986, who were allowed to
If a choice was not made, or the convict
refused to choose injection, then hanging was the default method.
This was the case in the 1996 execution of Billy Bailey
, the most recent hanging in
American history. Since the hanging of Bailey, no Delaware prisoner
has fit into this category, thus the practice has ended there
, and the gallows have
In New Hampshire, if it is found to be 'impractical' to carry out
the execution by lethal injection, then the condemned will be
hanged, and in Washington the condemned still has an outright
choice between hanging and lethal injection.
California, Clinton Duffy, who served
as warden of San Quentin State Prison between 1940 and 1952, presided over ninety
He began to oppose the death penalty and after
his retirement he wrote a memoir entitled Eighty-Eight Men and
in support of the movement to abolish the death
penalty. The book documents several hangings gone wrong and
describes how they led his predecessor, Warden James B. Holohan, to
persuade the California Legislature to replace hanging with the gas
chamber in 1937.
Some speakers of English
that the past tense and past participle of "hang" in this sense
must be "hanged" and not "hung".Some dictionaries do list only
"hanged", but others show both forms.
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Office of National Statistics. URL accessed on
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hanged January 15, 2007.
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