The Guillotine Falls

The cold steel blade, sandwiched between two upright wooden shafts, is quietly carted into the prison's exercise yard before dawn. The convict is aroused at 5:30 and offered a cigarette and a glass of rum. Then, bound and blindfolded, he is strapped, face down, neck bared, to the shoulder-high plank. A switch trips and the heavy, razor-sharp blade falls.

Ever since 1789 when Joseph-Ignace Guillotin advocated swift and painless decapitation as a way to put people to death, the guillotine, designed by others, has served as a uniquely French form of capital punishment....

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