Professor Deborah Denno was quoted in an Oxygen article about the alleged smoke that appeared during the electrocution of a death row inmate in Nashville.
Lawyers for Lee Hall, who was electrocuted last week, had previously raised concerns that a puff of smoke had risen from the blind death row inmate’s body as 1,750 volts of electricity jolted through him at a maximum-security prison in Nashville.
The claims surfaced after various witnesses said they saw what appeared to be a wisp of white smoke hovering above the right side of Hall’s face in his final moments. He was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m. on Dec. 5.
Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor, who has studied electrocutions for nearly 30 years, said smoke potentially signals a botched — and inhumane — execution.
“It’s not the norm,” Denno told Oxygen.com. “Smoke indicates that there was burning of the skin or hair and that really shouldn’t be happening. This is an electrocution — we shouldn’t be burning somebody to death.”
Denno said a smoke trail may also mean that the wrong type of sponge was used, an inmate’s hair wasn’t clipped enough, that the voltage used to execute them was too powerful, or that the electric chair itself somehow malfunctioned another way.