Buffalo Commercial/Buffalo Men at the Execution

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Buffalo Men at the Execution

October 29, 1901

Buffalo Men at the Execution

Sheriff Caldwell and Charles R. Huntley Saw Czolgosz Die.

Their Impressions

Both Say that Czolgosz Gave No Evidence of Fear in the Death Chamber

Did Not Utter a Groan

Sheriff Caldwell and Charles R. Huntley returned from Auburn shortly after 1 o'clock this afternoon, having witnessed the execution of Leon F. Czolgosz, the slayer of President McKinley. Asked about the execution, Mr. Huntley said to a Commercial. reporter:

"There is really little to be said about it. The case has been described correctly in the newspapers. I read them on my way up from Auburn and find that they picture the proceeding accurately. Czolgosz did not show any signs of fear and he did not tremble or turn pale; he walked into the death room between two men, and walked with a firm step. He stumbled as he came into the room but did not fall, nor did his knees weaken. I was quite surprised at his demeanor, as was everyone else, I should say. He was perfectly strong and calm. He just slid himself into the chair exactly as a man might who expected to enjoy a half hour's repose. The fact that in a moment a death current was to be forced through him did not seem to perturb him in the least.

"Yes, I heard him make the statements accredited to him. He spoke very plainly and in a voice which did not waver in the slightest degree. He said first that he was not sorry for having killed the President, and, as the straps which bound his jaws were put in place, he said that he was sorry he could not see his father. Everyone in the room must have heard and understood him. He had expressed a desire to speak, so it was claimed, after getting in the presence of the witnesses. He wanted everyone to hear him. It was supposed, therefore, that whatever talking he intended to do he would do before getting into the chair. It was a general surprise to hear his voice after the men had begun to affix the electrodes. The witnesses were somewhat startled and were amazed at the man's calmness. We all kept our eyes on him and listened most attentively. But the men at work beside him and in front, of him did not pause. They kept on affixing the appliances. Evidently Czolgosz had prepared something to say and what he said was part of his prepared piece. That is my thought of the matter. I wouldn't say that he tried to make a hero of himself. There was no spirit of bravado manifest at all. He said a few things just as if he felt it his duty to say them."

"Did, he tremble or grow pale as the straps were put in place?" was asked.

"No, not at all. He was collected and calm every moment, to all appearances. Sheriff Caldwell, who was with me, said he looked better and more self-possessed than he looked during the trial here in Buffalo. His face had the normal amount of color in it, and his hands didn't tremble a bit.

"The majesty of the law was perfectly sustained," continued Mr. Huntley. "There wasn't a hitch anywhere and not an incident which could merit the faintest criticism. Czolgosz was sentenced to die in the electric chair, and his death was effected quickly and certainly. It was but an incredibly short time after the murderer walked into the death chamber when the doctors in attendance pronounced him dead. There had been no scene; no one had fainted or grown excited. Everyone conducted himself with remarkable sang-froid. The attendants were busy right up to the moment of turning on the current, and had but stepped back when the body of the assassin was in the grasp of the powerful current. As I have said, not a thing marred the formality. Everything went off smoothly, according to a schedule carefully planned."

Sheriff Caldwell's Impression.[edit]

Sheriff Samuel Caldwell was asked by a Commercial reporter as to his impressions of the execution of the assassin. He replied:

"I was impressed with the idea that the assassin was a man of great nerve. Although guards had hold of his arms, the prisoner could have walked unaided to the chair. Aside from the prisoner's last words, there was not a sound in the death chamber, and the prisoner himself gave no evidence of fear.

"As soon as he had been seated in the chair and his face covered so that his nose and mouth were alone exposed, Warden Mead raised his hand and Electrician Davis turned on the current which snuffed out the prisoner's life as with a snap of the finger. The electrician then felt the prisoner's jugular vein. Dr. MacDonald did the same, and was followed by Prison Physician Gerin. The doctors then stepped back, and Warden Mead again raised his hand. Again the current was applied and was continued about 50 seconds.

"When the electricity was again shut off, the physicians examined the body by the usual means, and at the end pronounced that the man was dead. The witnesses left the death chamber before the body was removed to the operating table in the autopsy room. I signed the document. swearing that I saw the electrocution of the assassin. The doctors remained for the autopsy, but I came home immediately.

"The prisoner's nerve was evidenced by his conduct from the moment he entered the death chamber. No groan escaped him, and his lips did not even move except when he was making his final statement to the effect that he did not repent his crime. When the electricity entered the assassin's body it stiffened with successive jerks, but death was so quick that he did not have time to groan."