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Brownout of Electrocution
When the lights dim in the prison, everybody knows that some poor sap's been executed.


(permanent link) added: 2012-04-12 18:19:10 sponsor: condottiera edited by: elwoz (last reply: 2012-05-04 11:09:08)

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In a prison setting, sometimes there'll be a character on Death Row. The other prisoners by no means get to go watch the execution, but they'll know when the guy is dead when they see the lights dim.

Once upon a time this was Truth in Television, as the requirements of an electric-chair were so massive that if you decided to go with an over-engineered single generator for the prison instead of a dedicated one for the chair, the lights would dim when you used the chair. Nowadays, though, this no longer happens, as they almost always have switched to dedicated units in the few states that still allow electrocution.

Examples:

Comics
  • Subverted in one of The Simpsons comics. When the lights dim suddenly and Bart says it's because some sucker is getting electrocuted; cut to the break room where Chief Wiggum has in fact just overloaded the prison power sockets.

Film
  • Manhattan Melodrama: As Jim walks down the hall, the lights dim overhead and we know that Blackie is dead.
  • The Green Mile
  • Subverted in I Want To Live! Barbara asks an inmate if the dim lights mean somebody got killed, but she replies that it's just the warning for lights out.
  • Escape from L.A.
  • Top Secret!: Nick Rivers is being led to the electric chair with a priest going before him spouting fake Latin. It cuts to a man pulling a switch and the lights dimming, only to reveal that the priest is in the electric chair.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, Bill and Stan see the lights dim and it shows them how dire their situation is.

Liturature
  • In the book The Green Mile, this is averted. When the generator was turned on, the lights in the prison got a little brighter; this made everyone think that the execution had just ended (thinking that the lights must have gone slightly dimmer a few seconds beforehand), when in fact it was just starting.
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