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3rd Leuchter Report


This basic design was developed almost seventy years ago by those tasked with designing a device for the execution of condemned criminals. With very few exceptions, it is still state of the art. It is basic, effective and reasonably safe. Failure to follow these criteria in the design of a gas chamber would result in death to the operators and others not concerned with the execution process. These criteria were developed in the United States, where the only execution gas chambers were ever built, or used. These basic design principles have proven themselves for almost three-quarters of a century. They were even utilized by the Germans in the construction of their delousing chambers to fight vermin infestation and typhus in central Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

8.001 Required: Design a Lethal Gas Chamber to utilize hydrogen cyanide gas for the execution of convicted criminals, knowing the gas is extremely deadly, explosive, and condenses at 78.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

8.002 The chamber and all inlets, whether electrical or mechanical, must be sealed to prevent leakage. The door must be gasketed with some type of pressure seal as used on water-tight doors at sea. The windows, if any, must be gasketed and sealed. Further, the chamber must be operated at a pressure less than the outside ambient pressure (vacuum) to insure that any leak would be inward.

8.003 Because the gas is explosive, all lighting and electrical hardware in the chamber must be explosion-proof. Any mechanical hardware must be prevented from causing a spark, as well as the occupant who must be restrained from causing an explosion. The concentration of the gas at the generator or at its source (the inert carrier in the case of Zyklon B) is almost 100%, much greater than its 6% lower explosion level (lel).

8.004 Either the gas is to be generated, supplied from tanks or supplied from an inert carrier such as Zyklon B. If it is to be generated, mechanical means must be supplied to drop sodium cyanide into an acid solution. If it is to be supplied from tanks, a heated water jacket must be used to vaporize it from a liquid (its form in the tank). If Zyklon B is to be used, a hot air circulator must be employed to evaporate the gas (boil it off) from the inert carrier. The simplest means is to generate the gas in the chamber. If we used tanks, the heater and the valves must all be explosion proof. If Zyklon B is utilized, we need an expensive circulator, piping system, additional seals on the chamber and the pump and, further, must be concerned with possible gas leaks outside the chamber proper. Further, we must see that the heater never causes an electrical spark.

8.005 We must have a system for exhausting the air-gas mixture from the chamber and a stack above the tallest object to dissipate the gas before it can harm anyone. This requires an inlet valve and an exhaust valve, both gasketed, and an exhaust fan capable of sufficient flow to clear the chamber a number of times in a short span of time. The intake air must be heated to a temperature of greater than 78.3 degrees Fahrenheit (25.7 Celsius) to prevent condensation of the hydrocyanic acid in the chamber. We must add a strong base to the intake air to neutralize any leakage backwards to the operators.

8.006 After the usage, we must have a system or procedure to neutralize the executee's body of hydrocyanic acid and to purge the chamber of the same. This requires the washing of the subject, as well as the chamber, with a strong base while wearing protective suits and gas masks or air supplies. Further, we must have some type of indicator for gas leakage, as well as an air exhaust system to protect the operators. We require special hydrogen cyanide medical kits, resuscitators and doctors trained to handle an emergency. We must restrict the hydrogen cyanide gas and the residual prussic acid or Zyklon B carrier from unsuspectingly coming into contact with the operation.

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