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Death by Stoning

The Condemned


Stoning stands apart from other forms of capital punishment in that the entire community participates in the killing.
Stoning of St. Emerenziana

A detail from Ercole Ferrata's "Martirio di Santa Emerenziana" (1660), a marble engraving carved to adorn the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone of Rome, Italy. The engraving depicts the stoning St. Emerenziana, martyred at the grave of St. Agnes.

Public domain. Image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center.
History: Stoning is arguably the world's oldest form of execution. It is as old as written literature, and the most common death penalty described in the Bible (prompting Jesus' famous anti-death penalty statement in John 8.7: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"). Although it has never been a legal form of execution in the United States, it is practiced elsewhere in the world, primarily in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

Unsavory Overtones: Stoning is primarily enforced by Islamic fundamentalist sharia law, often for bizarre reasons. In 2004, 13-year-old Zhila Izadyar was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran for the "crime" of being raped by her older brother. Although the sentence was later overturned due to international outcry, equally horrific stoning sentences are quietly carried out throughout the developing world on a regular basis.

How It Works: The prisoner is buried either up to his waist (if male) or up to her shoulders (if female) and then pelted with stones by a crowd of volunteers until obviously battered to death. Under the terms of most fundamentalist courts, the stones must be small enough that death cannot reasonably be expected to result from only one or two blows, but large enough to cause physical harm. The average execution by stoning is extremely painful, lasting at least 10 to 20 minutes.
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