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Playing With / Failed Execution, No Sentence

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Basic Trope: If a certain number of executions fail, the convict goes free.

  • Straight: Mary is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. They try to hang her, but the rope breaks. They try to have her Shot at Dawn, but the guns misfire. They force her to drink poison, but she survives. Then the judge decides that since she has survived three executions, she deserves to be released.
  • Exaggerated:
    • During a war, Mary betrays Troperia to The Empire. This directly leads to Troperia's defeat and subsequent occupation. Then she heads the brutal puppet regime that has tens of thousands of Troperians tortured and killed over trivial "offenses" like criticizing the Empire. When Troperia's allies win the war and liberate the country, the surviving Troperians uniformly call for Mary's execution. After they sentence her to death for treason and war crimes, they try to hang her with a crappy old rope that unsurprisingly breaks... and the judge decides to let her go free.
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    • Mary the thief accused of Felony Murder has been sentenced to death. Over the course of a whole month, every single day, the prison has tried to kill her. They have tried to shoot her, hang her, electrocute her, gas her, run her over with a car, drop her from an airplane, draw and quarter her, tie her limbs to four horses and made them run in different directions, tie raw meat to her and toss her into wild animal exhibits, put her in a room with the grieving family of the man that died (alongside a Wall of Weapons and twelve hours of freedom to do with her as they wanted), made her hear Vogon Poetry and even tried to tickle her to death... and after thirty hellish days, she has survived everything more or less intact. The judge grants her a full pardon and orders the police to never arrest her again, no matter what.
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  • Downplayed: After Mary survives three executions, the judge commutes her sentence to 10 years in prison.
  • Justified:
    • Troperians believe that Mary surviving three executions must mean that God knows she's innocent, and intervened to save her life.
    • Troperians tend to follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit. The law only states that a person convicted of murder should "be hanged", not "be hanged until dead".
    • The failed executions themselves are considered so traumatic that the judge believes Mary has suffered enough already.
    • Mary is immortal. She will outlive the continent Troperia is built on, let alone the people condemning her. Even being put in prison is just a matter of time.
    • A witness eventually recants or new evidence is brought to light which allows Mary to be set free. If she had been executed, that would have been that, but surviving made someone decide to look things over again.
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  • Inverted: Mary's hanging kills her. Somehow the judge decides that this proves her innocence.
  • Subverted: After Mary survives hanging, poisoning and the firing squad, it's announced that the judge has made a "shocking" ruling. Everyone believes she'll be exonerated, but it turns out she'll be the first test subject of a new invention — the electric chair.
  • Double Subverted: As Mary also survives the electric chair, she goes free.
  • Parodied: Mary sabotages her executions in plain sight. The judge still attributes her survival to "an act of God" and lets her go free.
  • Zig Zagged: The law is unclear about what to do if an execution fails. Some judges will release the convict, while others will demand executions until the convict finally dies.
  • Averted:
    • Mary survives three executions. The judge decides that they should give up trying to execute her, and instead lock her up for life.
    • After Mary survives the hanging, the judge rules that they should keep performing executions until one proves fatal.
  • Enforced: Originally, Mary was going to be executed and Killed Off for Real. However, Executive Meddling demanded that the writer keep Mary around because of her popularity. As she's terrible at escapes, the only way the writer can save her is by having her execution fail and the judge letting her go because of that.
  • Lampshaded: "Yeah, I had my gang members sabotage my executions. The judge believed God intervened to save me, so he let me go. What a dumbass."
  • Invoked:
    • "You have to let her go. She can't survive three executions in a row unless God knows she's innocent and is protecting her."
    • "There isn't an executioner in Troperia who is willing to attempt to carry out Mary's execution now, after so many have failed, except at a cost that we frankly can't afford to pay once, let alone another fifty times. It'll be cheaper to just let her go."
  • Exploited: Mary's thugs sabotage her execution, as they know she'll go free if she survives it.
  • Defied:
    • Troperian law explicitly states that the court has to continue performing executions until the convict dies.
    • Mary survives three executions. Someone proposes her release, but it's quickly shot down because she's obviously guilty and unrepenting.
  • Discussed: "What happens if your execution fails? Do they just release you?"
  • Conversed: "Isn't it strange how people on TV release their criminals after they survive an execution or two? Guilty or not, that's bound to happen sooner or later by sheer coincidence."
  • Deconstructed: The Troperians' misguided belief that a convict who survives three executions deserves a pardon leads to them releasing and trusting a dangerous criminal.
  • Reconstructed: Mary the Heroine is a Born Unlucky Iron Woobie and the fact that she survived a lethal injection and was granted a pardon is explained by the plot as the one time in her life that the universe was merciful to her.
  • Played For Laughs: Mary's executions fail in hilarious ways.
  • Played For Drama: Mary is a dangerous murderer. The story follows her executioners trying to make absolutely sure that her hanging goes according to plan, as even one slip-up could lead to her surviving and going free...

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