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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Hooded Executioner

     Florida takes the executioner's secrecy to extremes. One of the last states to use a civilian executioner, the Sunshine State is also one of the last that hoods the man. Hired through classified ads, his name is known by only two people in the state whose identities are also secret. At five on the morning of sentence, the executioner is picked up and hooded at a designated spot by an administrative assistant of the Department of Corrections (DOC). The hood stays on for the drive to the prison farm at Starke where the executioner is shown to a small room off of the death chamber. He sits there until sunrise when he's summoned to another small room called the "executioner's alcove" which is visible to the execution participants but not the witnesses.

   How strange this hooded man must look to the condemned, who in Florida has full view of his executioner before his head is pinioned to the electric chair.
     After the condemned man is strapped in, two electricians engage the circuits and a third man throws a switch activating the "executioner control panel." When the moment comes, the warden nods to the hooded man who hits a switch that begins an automated sequence of voltages. For reasons no one in the DOC can explain, this hooded man is the last to leave after sentence is carried out. Driven to the spot where he was picked up, he's paid $150 in cash. [In 2000, legislators in Florida passed a law allowing death row inmates to choose between lethal injection and the electric chair.]

Ivan Solotaroff, The Last Face You'll Ever See, 2002

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