The Judge Advocate General’s Corps and the Office of Military Commissions do not typically conduct “business” on Saturdays, but for Richard Bruce Cheney, they made an exception.
Cheney, who on 18 January was convicted of treason and murder and sentenced to death, was hanged at Guantanamo Bay Saturday morning before a quorum of military brass—Rear Adm. Darse E. Crandall and “White Hat” loyalists from other branches of the Armed Forces, excluding the National Guard and Coast Guard.
The execution, however, had a hitch. Cheney tried to cheat death when the pivoting door beneath his feet failed to open after Rear Adm. Crandall had given the “execute” command.
Unlike gallows of bygone days, which functioned mechanically with levers and pullies, the apparatus at GITMO works electronically; an anonymous soldier pushes a button, and the door swings open.
When the door did not open, Cheney tried to invoke a myth of the Wild West stipulating that if gallows failed—rope breaking, for example—the prisoner would be set free, his sentence commuted.
“I should be released. Your machine broke. It was customary in the 1800s, that when a lynching went awry, for whatever reason, the condemned was released,” Cheney said as he stood atop the platform with his head in the noose.
“Unfortunately for you, this isn’t 1867 Cheyenne, it’s 2022 GITMO,” Rear Adm. Crandall said. “But if it were, we wouldn’t hang you. I think a duel at 20-paces would be far more gratifying.”
A soldier from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arrived in 15 minutes. He found a short in the wiring, which he repaired promptly with a portable soldering iron.
Unsurprisingly, Cheney began swearing and cussing, his voice rich with condescension, at Rear Adm. Crandall and the other officers in attendance, vowing his people would avenge his death.
“You’re about to be reunited with some of those people,” Rear Adm. Crandall said, and once more instructed the soldier atop the platform to press the button.
This time the gallows worked flawlessly. The door swung open, and Cheney dropped to his death. A physician on-scene pronounced him dead, and his body was sealed in a plastic bag.