Video Vault: Revisiting Ohio's electric chair

Chair called 'Old Sparky' and 'Old Thunderbolt'

CLEVELAND - When Frank Spisak was found guilty in 1983 of killing three people on the Cleveland State University campus during the previous year, the jury returned his death sentence in just 5 hours.

Spisak told his attorneys he wanted the electric chair as soon as possible.

But 'soon' in the legal world of the death penalty took nearly 28 years, and by the time of Spisak's execution, the electric chair was no longer an option for execution in Ohio.

Ohio's electric chair was known to many as "Old Sparky." Gallows humor? Definitely. Some inmates called it by another colorful name however, "Old Thunderbolt."

Looking through our archives researching Frank Spisak's crimes and trial, I came upon a series of stories Alan DePetro did in 1983 here at WEWS on Ohio's death penalty. A couple of his stories focused on the electric chair. Click on our video player to watch Alan's stories.

These stories give a fascinating view of some of the 312 men and three women killed by the electric chair in Ohio.

Alan's stories contain some interesting facts such as the chair being invented by an Ohio man in the same town as Thomas Edison's birth, Milan, Ohio, and the first person executed in the chair was 17 years old.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's website, 'Sparky' was last used in an execution in 1963.

The death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in 1972 and the Ohio General assembly took two attempts to write one which would pass muster. The current death penalty law took effect in 1981.

Governor George Voinovich signed a bill in 1993 granting a prisoner the choice of their execution between the chair or lethal injection. Eight years later, Governor Bob Taft made lethal injection Ohio's only form of execution.

There are currently 155 men and one woman on death row.


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