Defendants Executed
Before 1976

17 Cases

Marion County, AR

Charles Hudspeth


Charles Hudspeth was convicted of murder and hanged while his alleged victim was still alive. Hudspeth became romantically involved with Rebecca Watkins, and when the two were questioned on the disappearance of Rebecca's husband, George Watkins, Rebecca told authorities Hudspeth had killed him. Hudspeth was granted a retrial because testimony regarding Rebecca's alleged lack of good character was improperly barred. Hudspeth was convicted again and hanged on December 30, 1892. In June 1893, Hudspeth's lawyer located George Watkins alive and living in Kansas.  (CWC)  [7/05]

 Pueblo County, CO

Joe Arridy

Aug 15, 1936 (Pueblo)

On Aug. 15, 1936, Dorothy Drain, 15, and her sister Barbara, 12, were hit in the head with the blunt edge of a hatchet in their Pueblo home at 1536 Stone Ave. Their parents, Riley and Peggy Drain, returned after a night out to find Dorothy dying and Barbara in a coma. Dorothy had also been raped. The hatchet was found in the home of Frank Aguilar and he was arrested on Aug 20. Riley Drain had fired Aguilar from his job at a WPA project. Pueblo Police Chief J. Arthur Grady believed all evidence clearly revealed Aguilar was the murderer.
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 Broward County, FL

William Henry Anderson


William Henry Anderson was convicted of raping a white woman. The victim did not resist, scream, or use an available pistol in resisting Anderson's advances. According to a letter sent from Anderson's attorney to the governor, “There exists well founded belief ... that William Henry Anderson and the prosecutrix were intimate since August 1944. This belief is widespread among Negroes, but white people have been heard to express opinions likewise.” Anderson was sentenced to death and executed five months after his arrest on July 25, 1945.  (ISI) (MOJ)  [7/05]

Randolph County, GA 

Lena Baker

Apr 30, 1944 (Cuthbert)

Lena Baker, a black woman, was convicted of murdering Ernest B. Knight, a white grist mill owner. After Knight hired Baker to care for him while he nursed a broken leg, a sexual relationship developed between the two. Following Baker's attempts to break off the relationship, Knight found her and forced her to go with him. Baker managed to escape, but Knight found her again and locked her in a gristmill. Later, according to Baker, during a tussle between the two over a gun, the gun went off killing Knight. Baker was executed in the electric chair on March 5, 1945.

In 1998 while the director of a prisoner's rights group, John Cole Vodicka, was visiting the Randolph County Courthouse, the Court Clerk asked him if he wanted to look into Baker's case. The clerk gave him the court file, which included the 10-page trial transcript. Vodicka later came into contact with a great-nephew of Baker, and in 2003 helped in the filing of a pardon application for her with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Vodicka expressed confidence that “almost any lawyer could have pled Lena Baker not guilty by reason of self-defense.” The Board of Pardons and Paroles apparently agreed with him and granted Baker a posthumous pardon on Aug. 30, 2005. A 2001 book about the case was published entitled The Lena Baker Story.  (Justice: Denied)  [10/08]

 Cook County, IL

Haymarket Eight

May 4, 1886

Eight men were convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the death of police officer Mathias J. Degan. On May 1, 1886 there were general strikes throughout the United States in support of an 8-hour workday. On May 3 there was a rally of striking workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant in Chicago. This rally ended with police firing on the workers. Two workers died although some newspaper accounts reported six fatalities.
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Franklin County, MA 

John O'Neil

Jan 8, 1897

John “Yank” O'Neil was convicted of the rape and murder of Harriet “Hattie” McCloud. He was hanged on Jan. 7, 1898. A few months after O'Neil's hanging, a dying soldier who was fighting the Spaniards in Cuba confessed to the crime to ace newspaper reporter, Eddie Collins. The soldier originated from the area of the murder and died before his oral confession could be backed up by a written one.  (CIPM) (Trial of John O'Neil)  [11/05]

Hampden County, MA 

Daley & Halligan

Nov 9, 1805 (Wilbraham)

While traveling from Boston to New York, Dominic Daley, 34, and James Halligan, 27, both Irish immigrants, were arrested on Nov. 12, 1805 for the murder of farmer Marcus Lyon. Lyon's horse was found wandering three days earlier and his murdered body was found two days earlier in Wilbraham. Wilbraham was then located in Hampshire County. The defendants were incarcerated in Northampton while their captor received a $500 reward.

At trial, the main evidence against the defendants was the testimony of 13-year-old Laertes Fuller who said he saw the pair on the road, then saw them again minutes later with the victim's horse. It is not clear why the defendants would have the victim's horse as the horse was later seen wandering around freely. Legally, witnesses were required to be 14 years old to testify, but the judge overrode this rule in Fuller's case. Fuller's testimony suggested the defendants killed Lyon during the interval between his sightings of the defendants. However, Lyon had been shot and, when questioned, Fuller reported he did not hear a gunshot, even though he could not have been very far from the murder.

There appears to be reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendants because: (1) Fuller was at best marginally qualified to testify. (2) The details of his testimony contained nothing that compelled one to believe its accuracy. (3) The reward offered created an incentive for perjury. (4) Even if Fuller's testimony was true, it did not definitively establish that the defendants had murdered Lyon. Besides the lack of credible prosecution evidence, there was a lack of due process because the defendants were not allowed to testify in their own defense and were only assigned a lawyer two days before trial.

The defendants were convicted and sentenced to death. Both were hanged on June 5, 1806 in Northampton before a crowd of 15,000. It was alleged and widely accepted in the 20th century that Daley and Halligan were framed and convicted because they were Irish Catholics, but historical records do not support any overt prejudice. In 1984, Gov. Dukakis issued a proclamation exonerating the two. A 2005 book about the case was published entitled The Garden of Martyrs by Michael C. White.  (CIPM) (Resources)  [11/09]

Middlesex County, MA 

Charles Louis Tucker

Mar 31, 1904

Charles Louis Tucker was sentenced to death for the murder of Mabel Page. Page was stabbed in Weston. More than 100,000 Massachusetts residents signed petitions requesting clemency when a trial witness confessed to perjury. Nevertheless, Tucker was executed in the electric chair on June 12, 1906.  (NODP) (Official Report)  [11/05]

Norfolk County, MA 

Sacco & Vanzetti

Apr 15, 1920

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted of shooting two men to death while robbing a company of its $15,000 payroll. Both defendants were political anarchists and the case against them garnered international attention. The case against the two was weak, particularly against Vanzetti who had 44 alibi witnesses. However, both were convicted and the two were executed in the electric chair on Aug 23, 1927. On Aug 23, 1977, Gov. Dukakis declared Aug 23, “Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day,” and issued a proclamation exonerating the two.  (CIPM) (Famous Trials)  [11/05]

Gage County, NE 

William Jackson Marion

May 15, 1872

In 1883, a body was found in clothing that witnesses identified as John Cameron's. Cameron had disappeared 11 years before. William Jackson Marion was convicted of murdering him and hanged on Mar. 25, 1887. However, Cameron turned up alive in 1891 and explained that he had absconded to Mexico to avoid a shotgun wedding. Marion was granted a posthumous pardon on the 100th anniversary of his hanging.  (CWC) (Appeals: 1884, 1886)

Gage County, NE 

Robert Mead Shumway

Sept 3, 1907

Robert Mead Shumway, a farmhand, was convicted of murdering Sarah Martin, his employer's wife. The murder occurred near Adams, Nebraska. The conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. Shumway was sentenced to death. The one holdout juror for acquittal, who finally caved in, committed suicide before Shumway's execution from the grief of believing he had sent an innocent man to his death. Shumway was hanged in Lincoln at the Nebraska State Prison on Mar. 5, 1909. In 1910, Shumway's employer, Jacob Martin, confessed on his deathbed that he had murdered his wife.  [10/05]

Providence County, RI 

John Gordon

Dec 31, 1843 (Cranston)

John Gordon, an Irish immigrant, was hanged on Feb. 14, 1845 for the murder of Amasa Sprague, a Cranston textile factory owner and the brother of a U.S. Senator and a future Rhode Island Governor. Gordon's innocence is reportedly detailed in a 1993 book, Brotherly Love by Charles and Tess Hoffman.  (Info)  [7/05]

Davidson County, TN 

Frank Ewing

June 24, 1918

Frank Ewing, a black man, was convicted of raping a 25-year-old white woman after being brought to the victim and identified by her. The victim, A. F., was raped at her home on Stokes Lane, west of Hillsboro Pike, a few miles south of Nashville. A police officer testified that Ewing confessed to the crime. However, Ewing had a strong alibi that he was working 25 miles away at the time of the crime. The alibi was supported by multiple witnesses, none of whom had known Ewing long or had a plausible reason to lie. The alibi was also supported by written records.

At trial, however, Ewing's white employer, J. M. Summers, was his only alibi witness, and on the day of his testimony he had misplaced records of Ewing's employment. The rape had occurred on a Monday. Without his records, Summers mistakenly remembered that Ewing had left his employment after the rape at the end of the week. Ewing had actually left Summers employment on Wednesday. The prosecutor was able to bring out that Ewing had been working elsewhere at the end of the week and that consequently Summers' statement was wrong. On appeal, further alibi evidence was submitted including the written records, but appeals courts declined to reverse Ewing's conviction. Ewing was executed in the electric chair on May 31, 1919.  (Wrongly Convicted)  [7/08]

Knox County, TN 

Maurice Mays

Aug 30, 1919 (Knoxville)

Maurice F. Mays, a black man, was convicted of murdering Mrs. Bertie Linsey, a white woman. Mays was sentenced to death and executed in the electric chair on Mar. 15, 1922. Nevertheless, in 1926, Sadie Brown Mendil, a white woman, confessed to the crime in Virginia. She said she had dressed up as a black man to kill the woman with whom her husband was having an affair. Virginia authorities found the confession to be credible, although authorities in Tennessee dismissed it.

On a Saturday morning, a presumably black intruder shot Mrs. Linsey in her bed. The police arrested Mays that day and took him to the Knox County Jail after Ora Smyth, the only witness to the crime, had identified him as the man responsible.

Angry whites began to gather near the Knox County Jail. Some even entered the building to search for Mays, but he had been moved to a jail in Chattanooga for his own safety. In the evening, the mob outside the jail was about a thousand strong. They decided to storm the jail and lynch Mays. Using large timbers, guns, and dynamite, the mob entered the jail and freed the white prisoners.

The jailer quickly called Mayor McMillan who requested the assistance of the National Guard to break up the riot. The first 17 soldiers to arrive were stripped and beaten by the rioters. An hour later, about 150 more soldiers arrived but the storming of the jail continued. Around midnight, the National Guardsmen heard of several hold ups by a band of blacks in the black section of Knoxville, near Vine Avenue and Central Street. A platoon was sent to the scene and many civilians followed the soldiers.

The white mob then began raiding and looting many businesses, particularly pawn shops and hardware and furniture stores. There was only evidence of blacks breaking into a single establishment. Eventually snipers and the troops began to exchange fire. Hundreds were wounded in the fighting and seven people (only one of them white) were killed. After the riots, many blacks immediately started to leave Knoxville, bringing with them whatever possessions they could carry.  (TBJ) (Mays v. State)  [9/05]

Salt Lake County, UT 

Joe Hill

Jan 10, 1914

“Just before 10 pm on the night of 10 January, 1914, John Morrison, a Salt Lake City, Utah, grocer and a former policeman, was closing his store with his two sons, Arling and Merlin. Two men wearing red bandannas forced their way into the store. One of the intruders shouted 'we've got you now', levelled a handgun and shot Morrison. Arling Morrison grabbed his father's old service revolver and fired two shots at the masked men, who returned fire and fled the scene. Merlin, the younger child, stayed hidden in the back of the store.”
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Pierce County, WA 

Chief Leschi

Oct 31, 1855

Leschi, chief of the Nisqually Indian tribe, was convicted of murdering U.S. Army Colonel Abraham Benton Moses during an 1855-56 Indian war in a skirmish that occurred at Connell's Prairie, 6 miles west of Buckley.  His first trial ended in a hung jury because of the judge's instruction that killing of combatants during wartime did not constitute murder. His second trial contained no such instruction and he was convicted and sentenced to death. The territorial Supreme Court refused to consider new evidence by the U.S. Army that Leschi was miles away at the time of the skirmish. The Army refused to carry out the sentence of death, maintaining that he was a prisoner of war. The territorial legislature therefore passed a law authorizing Leschi's execution at the hands of civilian authorities and Leschi was hanged on Feb 19, 1858. A Historical Court of Inquiry appointed by the Washington legislature exonerated Leschi in 2004.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/05]


Perry Family

Aug 16, 1660

William Harrison, the manager of a wealthy estate, went out to collect rent money from tenants. When he did not return at his usual time, his servant, John Perry, was sent to look for him. Harrison's hat and comb were found and had been slashed. Harrison's collar band was also found with bloodstains. Harrison was presumed murdered and searches were made for his body, but it was never found.

For unknown reasons, John Perry confessed to the murder of Harrison and implicated his brother and mother. Perry later retracted his confession and his brother and mother professed their innocence, but all were convicted of the murder and hanged. Two years after the executions, Harrison turned up alive. He told a story of having been kidnapped and held as a slave in Turkey.  (CWP) (CW) (FJDB) (F)  [12/06]