Archive for June 12th, 2011

1903: Ora Copenhaver and William Jackson, a double hanging

1 comment June 12th, 2011 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1903, there was a double hanging at the state prison in Michigan City, Indiana: William Jackson, a black man, and Ora E. Copenhaver, who was white.

According to the Indianapolis Star‘s history of capital punishment in Indiana, they were the seventh and eighth persons to be executed since Indiana adopted the death penalty in 1897. Ora (sometimes called “Orie” in press reports) was twenty-six years old at the time of his death; Jackson was forty-five. Copenhaver had murdered his wife (unnamed in the press reports) in Indianapolis on September 7 the previous year:

Shortly before their dinner hour on the day of the tragedy Copenhaver called his wife to the door and without a warning or giving her any inkling of his intent, drew a revolver from his pocket and fired four shots at her, three of which took effect […] Copenhaver, after shooting his wife, calmly walked to a neighboring store and telephoned to the police station, informing the desk sergeant that a murder had been committed. He then awaited the coming of the police and surrendered himself. Jealousy was ascribed as the motive for the deed.

Justice was swift and without mercy: Copenhaver was convicted by a jury of his peers on October 15, a mere 38 days after the shooting. He was formally sentenced on October 28, and the sentence was carried out seven and a half months after that. The Fort Wayne News called the murder “dastardly” and praised the death sentence. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, citing an unnamed “authentic source,” claimed that in the weeks before his death Copenhaver feigned insanity in an effort to evade his punishment. Yet he was calm and ready when the moment came.

Little information can be found about Jackson, described as “an Evansville Negro.”

On some unspecified date in 1902, he killed his coworker, a night watchman named Allan Blankenship, at a mill in Melrose, Indiana. He also robbed his victim of the princely sum of $3.90. Contemporary reports state Jackson seemed “wholly indifferent” about his sentence and spent most of the last day of his life reading the Bible. He had no last words.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,History,Indiana,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,USA

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