2017-05-05 14:15:28 UTC
May 4, 1846: Michigan becomes 1st state to abolish death penalty
Michigan became the 1st state to abolish the death penalty on this day in 1846.
Furthermore, when Michigan abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes on
May 4, 1846 it wasn't just the 1st state to do so, "it became the 1st
English-speaking jurisdiction in the world to abolish the death penalty,"
according to a University of Pennsylvania law article.
Here's an excerpt from "Capital Punishment Abolished -- Advent of the
Telegraph," which describes how lawmakers in the relatively young state of
Michigan -- it joined the union less than 10 years earlier in 1837 -- came to
this decision 171 years ago:
Abolition of the death penalty (in Michigan) came about by indirection.
Michigan had adopted many laws of other states, most of them based upon the
Common Law of England. They had passed other laws which modified these. Some of
the statutes were contradictory because the conflicting laws had not been
repealed. The laws were published in the order of their passage, without
systematic arrangement, so a lawyer had to comb the entire code and often he
was still left in doubt and dependent upon the offhand ruling of a judge. Chief
Justice Fletcher revised the Michigan statutes in 1838, but his work was so
hastily done that it brought little improvement.
In 1845 Sanford M. Green, a very able lawyer of Oakland County, was a member of
the state senate and he was commissioned to make a thorough revision of the
laws of Michigan and to make recommendations to the legislature. When his
report was made the legislature made a few changes and adopted the report as a
single act, May 18, 1846. In this revised code the penalty for murder was
limited to imprisonment at hard labor for life. Immediately there was an
outburst of opposition to this reform and it was led by about 50 of the leading
citizens of Detroit. They fulminated against it in the press and enlisted the
pulpit in their cause. At the request of 41 citizens who signed a formal
petition, the Rev. George Duffield of the First Presbyterian Church preached a
powerful sermon against abolition of the death penalty as contrary to the laws
of God and civilized men. That sermon was printed and circulated all over the
state, but it brought no demand for restoration of the death penalty.
7 executions in Michigan while under US jurisdiction
Before Michigan got rid of the death penalty, 7 people were executed in the
state while it was under U.S. jurisdiction, beginning in 1819. The final
execution in Michigan was the hanging of Anthony Chebatoris in July 8, 1838.
Chebatoris' crime was murder. He was the only person to be executed during
Michigan's statehood. The other 6 were executed between 1819 and 1836, when
Michigan was still a U.S. territory. 4 of those people were Native Americans.
Other states follow Michigan
The state of Michigan's move to abolish capital punishment was soon followed by
Rhode Island in 1852 and Wisconsin in 1853.
Fast-forward to 2017 and there are now 18 states, and the District of Columbia,
without an enforceable death penalty statute:
Brief death penalty hiatus in US
The U.S. Supreme Court suspended capital punishment across the country from
1972 through 1976 due to the court's decision in U.S. 238 Furman V. Georgia.
However, capital punishment resumed in the U.S. in 1977.
From Project Gutenberg:
Executions resumed on January 17, 1977, when Gary Gilmore went before a firing
squad in Utah. But the pace was quite slow due to the use of litigation tactics
which involved filing repeated writs of habeas corpus, which succeeded for many
in delaying their actual execution for many years. Although hundreds of
individuals were sentenced to death in the United States during the 1970s and
early 1980s, only ten people besides Gilmore (who had waived all of his appeal
rights) were actually executed prior to 1984.
Recently, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled 8 executions in 11 days, the
most in the shortest amount of time since capital punishment returned to the
United States in the 1970s. The Supreme Court has taken issue with this.
Death row inmate freed with NU students' help misses deposition in suit arguing
he was real killer
Anthony Porter, a former death row inmate at the center of one of the most
controversial wrongful conviction cases in Illinois history, failed to show at
his scheduled deposition this week in a lawsuit alleging he was the real killer
all along, according to a court filing Thursday.
Porter was ordered to give sworn testimony Monday in the bombshell case brought
by Alstory Simon, who has accused Northwestern University, its former star
professor David Protess and others of conspiring to free Porter and convict
Simon for an infamous 1982 double murder
But Porter, who was served with a subpoena in April, was a no-show at the Loop
law office where the deposition was supposed to take place, attorney Terry Ekl,
who represents Simon, alleged in the court filing.
Ekl asked U.S. Magistrate Judge David Weisman to question Porter about the
failure to appear and possibly hold him in contempt if he does not have a good
According to court records, Porter has recently been staying at the Inner City
Youth-Adult Foundation in the 4500 block of South Michigan Avenue.
Maurice Perkins, one of the charity's co-founders, told the Tribune that Porter
missed his deposition because he'd been unable to secure a lawyer in time to
accompany him. Perkins said Porter has been making ends meet by sweeping up at
a nearby gas station.
"It's been hard for him, but Anthony is a survivor," Perkins said.
Porter was just one of several key players in the notorious case who have been
ordered by the judge to give sworn testimony.
Former Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine, who in the wake of Protess'
student-led investigation decided in 1999 to free Porter and prosecute Simon,
is scheduled to give a video recorded deposition later this month, Ekl said
Thomas Gainer, a former prosecutor under Devine who is now a criminal court
judge, had been scheduled to testify next week, but that deposition has been
postponed, Ekl said. Records show Gainer led the grand jury probe that ended in
an indictment against Simon.
Protess taught investigative reporting at Northwestern's prestigious journalism
school and founded the Medill Innocence Project, a key engine of the often
successful local movement to unearth injustices.
He left the school in 2011 amid controversy over tactics allegedly employed by
his students, including giving witnesses money for drugs, lying about their
identities and flirting with witnesses.
Simon's $40 million suit alleges Protess and private investigator Paul Ciolino
manufactured bogus evidence, coaxed false statements from witnesses and
intimidated Simon into confessing to the August 1982 murders of Jerry Hillard
and Marilyn Green in a South Side park.
Northwestern, Protess and Ciolino are all fighting the allegations.
Porter, who at one point had come within days of execution for the murders, was
still on death row at the time of the dramatic revelation that Simon had
confessed on video to Ciolino.
Confronted with the video, prosecutors quickly agreed to Porter's release.
Simon pleaded guilty to the slayings and tearfully apologized before a judge
sentenced him to 37 years in prison.
Porter's release helped spur then-Gov. George Ryan to halt executions, a step
toward the abolition of the death penalty in 2011.
But the case was again upended in 2014 when Cook County prosecutors agreed to
throw out Simon's conviction, citing questions about the methods used to obtain
In his lawsuit, Simon alleged Ciolino impersonated a police officer, showed him
a video of an actor falsely claiming to have seen Simon fire the fatal shots
and told Simon he could avoid the death penalty if he confessed to shooting the
victims in self-defense.
Ciolino also promised Simon legal representation and large sums of money from
book and movie deals if he gave a statement, the suit alleged.
Porter, meanwhile, was awarded about $150,000 by the state in 2000 for his
wrongful imprisonment and also was given a certificate of innocence. But his
$24 million lawsuit against the city and two Chicago police detectives fizzled
at trial when a Cook County jury sided with the police and awarded him no
According to the court filing Tuesday, the investigator serving the subpoena on
Porter found him April 11 "sweeping up the area in front of the gas station" at
47th Street and Michigan Avenue, two blocks from the foundation where he lives.
"He became very irate and refused to accept the subpoena," the investigator,
James Delorto, wrote in his proof of service form. "He yelled obscenities at me
and said he won't go to a deposition."
Ekl said Porter could be arrested if Weisman orders him to appear in court and
he fails to show up.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
The Future of Executions in Arkansas
Arkansas put 4 men to death in April, but the debate on whether it should
continue execution sentences carries on.
Prior to April, Arkansas hadn't executed a prisoner since 2005.
Now that the state's supply of midazolam, 1 of 3 drugs it uses in an approved
lethal injection cocktail, has expired, some question if and how the state will
move forward with the remaining death row inmates.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said there are 29 prisoners on death row, and
4 of them have exhausted appeals.
Rutledge said she expects to move forward with more executions in mid-to-late
May or early summer.
Changing the Lethal Injection Process
1 aspect of Arkansas' execution process that has been repeatedly questioned is
the use of the drug midazolam.
In 2015, the state's current 3-drug cocktail was passed into law by the
Legislature. That same law was later upheld by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
One of the challenges with changing any aspect of the execution process is it
opens up the potential for new lawsuits and court battles.
Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, said as long as the majority of Arkansans
support the death penalty, he and other legislators will keep fighting to make
sure the families of murder victims see justice.
He described the death penalty as a battle between the Legislature and
judiciary that'll continue until 1 side ceases fighting.
Collins said as obstacles to executing death row inmates arise, the Legislature
will make changes to current policy as necessary to move forward.
"We will make tweaks and adjustments for the executive branch to implement it,"
Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said he would be in favor of changing the
cocktail if it would prove more effective for those being put to death.
"If we're going to have the death penalty, I want it to be reliable," Leding
Dropping Lethal Injection
If, for some reason, the state couldn't continue with lethal injection,
electrocution would become the main method of execution, according to
Another alternative that has been suggested is a firing squad, but Gov. Asa
Hutchinson said he is opposed to that execution method. He said it "takes us
back" and is "not acceptable in today's world."
Leding said he doesn't support firing squads or electrocution as execution
Collins said he doesn't believe the Legislature would fall back on
electrocution as the main method of execution. Instead, he said lawmakers would
go "back to the drawing board" and examine the will of the people to see if
Arkansans still support capital punishment.
Abolishing the Death Penalty
Leding said, as a Catholic, he's personally opposed to capital punishment, and
a number of bills in the past have been filed to get rid of it in Arkansas.
1 of the most recent bills was filed in March by Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine
Bluff. It failed to become law.
Leding said he'd support bills like Flowers' that would end the death penalty.
"I would absolutely support a bill to abolish the death penalty," Leding said.
The Fayetteville Democrat also said he wants more transparency in the state's
current execution process.
Collins said executions in Arkansas will end when people stop killing other
people, and as long as his constituents continue to support the death penalty,
he'll fight for it.
8 Idaho death row inmates costing taxpayers millions----"It's very expensive"
Inside the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, you can tour the state's former death
"The Old Pen executed a total of 10 inmates, 1 was a federal execution and none
of them were state executions," Meghan Anderson, interpretive specialist for
the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, said.
Idaho only hanged 1 man in their gallows before a Supreme Court decision banned
executions in the country.
Raymond Allen Snowden was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering a
woman in Garden City in 1956.
"His body didn't drop with the proper weight, so he ended up having to
strangle, and it took him about 15 minutes to die," Anderson said.
Snowden only sat in his cell for about a year before his execution in 1957, a
stark contrast to the amount of time Idaho's 8 remaining death row inmates have
been awaiting their executions.
"The average length of time between a sentence and an execution is about 16
years," College of Western Idaho criminal justice professor Stephanie Breach
said. "However, there are some states that execute a lot more quickly, so they
throw the numbers off."
In Idaho, the last 2 executed inmates waited on death row for about 30 years
Richard Albert Leavitt was executed in 2012.
Leavitt is 1 of only 3 to be executed in the state since the death penalty was
officially reinstated in 1976. In comparison, in the time Idaho has put 3
people to death, Texas has executed more than 500.
"Since they are doing executions a lot, some of the research shows that they
are equipped to continually be doing executions," Breach said.
Keeping inmates on death row is more expensive than letting them serve out a
"It's 44 times more for the appeals on a death penalty case versus a life in
prison case," Breach said.
Taxpayers are footing the bill.
"Some studies show that, on average, it costs 3 million dollars for a death
penalty case from the time that the case starts until the time of execution,"
Nationwide, that adds up to $25 billion in taxpayer money spent on death row
cases since 1976.
Breach said that number does not include the court costs of those who die in
prison before their execution.
"We're paying those costs," Breach said. "Our taxes are paying the appeals.
We're paying the corrections budget... It's very expensive."
(source: KIVI TV news)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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