Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Cruel & Unusual Punishment
The Breaking Wheel
The Breaking Wheel
This form of execution was used in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and into the 19th century. The condemned was tied to a large wooden wheel, which was rotated slowly while the executioner struck down on his limbs with an iron bar or hammer, breaking the bones. This was usually done in public places, and the victim's broken body was left out on display. Often, the breaking of bones did not kill the victim, and he would die days later of shock or dehydration. In some instances, the authority handing down the death sentence would request that the executioner deliver a blow of mercy, or coup de grace so that the condemned would die faster and suffer less. In America, the breaking wheel was used in the 18th century to kill revolting slaves, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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