John Charles, a Dallas bus conductor has survived the electric chair several times. His is a remarkable story which is told by Scott Mendes the reporter who covered it for Reuters.
"John Charles was born and raised in Dallas. His mother was a waitress, his father an alcoholic who seldom found employment. Abuse was an everyday occurence in the Charles household. Growing up in that envoirenment Charles seldom achieved academicaly or out on the sporting field."
"Aged 23 he joined the Dallas Municipal Bus Company as a conductor. A place he could finally call home. At first he was polite and friendly to all the passengers but the ghosts of non-stop child abuse do not rest easily."
"One morning in March 1996, while passengers were climbing on board, Charles rang the bell instructing the bus driver to pull off. When the driver obliged, 2 passengers who were still half off the bus were thrown and killed. John Charles was indicted on a charge of murder."
"At his trial he was convicted and despite his past, sentenced to death. He waived any appeal and was brought to the electric chair on the 8th of December 1996. Asked if he had any last wishes, he told the executioner, that he would like the green banana lying on the table. His wish granted, he ate the banana and was strapped into the chair. The executioner threw the lever but to everyone's amazement, Charles was untouched. He was released immediately".
"Charles returned to his previous employer and for awhile all went well. One fateful afternoon in August 1999 his past returned to haunt him. His father, who failed to recognise him, was among passengers getting on the bus. John rang for the driver to pull off and as a result a passenger, who had one foot on the bus, caught his leg and was dragged to his death".
"John Charles was once again indicted for murder and duly convicted. He was sentenced to return to the electric chair. Once more he waived appeal and was brought to the deach chamber on the 14th of February 2000. The executioner greeted him like a long lost friend and as before, he elected the green banana as his last wish. As before, and to everyone's amazement he survived the electric shock that had killed so many before him."
"Released again, he returned to the bus company vowing not to allow his past to destroy his future again. Once again things started well before disaster struck in January 2003. On a short run at the end of the day, John spied his former maths teacher who had often ridiculed him, climbing onto the bus. Once again he rang for the driver to proceed and a number of passengers were killed trying to scramble onto the bus."
"In August 2003 he was sentenced to death. Waiving appeal he arrived back in what was becoming his second home, the death chamber. The executioner gave him a hug and offered the green banana before being asked. As soon as John had finished he was strapped in and the switch was thrown. John Charles, incredibly and for a third time, was unscathed."
"The executioner was staggered. He told Charles that in all the thousands of executions he had done, not one person had survived. He asked John whether he believed that it was the green bananas that had spared his life".
"John Charles gave this much thought. 'I don't think it's the bananas' he said 'perhaps it's because I'm a bad conductor."