Why Were Most U.S. Executions Held at Midnight?

When most people envision the moments leading up to an execution, they imagine last minute phone appeals waking judges from their slumber, family members of the victim(s) and the condemned arriving for closure in the black of night, and the faces of protestors illuminated by candles outside the prison.

At one time most executions were scheduled for 12:01 a.m. in the morning. One of the reasons for this seemingly odd hour was that it allowed the state ample time to deal with last-minute appeals and temporary stays of execution. In many states, death…