1803: Jillis Bruggeman, the last executed for sodomy in the Netherlands

Add comment March 9th, 2019 Headsman

The last person executed in the Netherlands for homosexuality was Jillis Bruggeman, on March 9, 1803.

Bruggeman ‘s long career in “the horrible sin of sodomy” — for which he had been paying blackmail to one former partner for many years before a different confidante betrayed him — so shocked the court that the evidence of his activities was sequestered in a special pouch. He was flogged and hanged at the grand market of the southern city Schiedam.

There’s an annual Jillis Bruggeman Medal awarded to a someone who has made a signal contribution to defending LGBTQ people.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,Homosexuals,Milestones,Netherlands,Public Executions,Sex,Torture

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2016: Coy Wayne Westbrook

Add comment March 9th, 2018 Headsman

Going to his death on this date in 2016, Texas mass murderer Coy Wayne Westbrook was anything but.

I want to say that I’m sorry for the pain that I have caused you people. I’m sorry I can’t bring everybody back. I wish things could have been a lot different …

I can understand your outrage and why you are mad at me. God be with all of us.

He’d had a lot to say over the years about the incomprehensible quintuple shooting that brought him to that moment, a moment he claimed to be “looking forward to.”

Hoping to reconcile with his ex-wife, Gloria Jean Coons, Westbrook joined her at a small party at her Channelview, Texas, apartment. After several drinks, he says — and he’s the only witness remaining — he was incensed when Coons took two different men to the bedroom at which point Westbrook, to use the clinical term, flipped his shit.

“You hear all your life if you catch your old lady in bed with somebody, don’t just shoot her but shoot her lover too,” Wesbrook informed journos. “In her case, there was a bunch of lovers. I just took care of my business.” And also he had to shoot the other two people there when they came running at him for some reason.

The victims were Coons, 37; Diana Ruth Money, 43; Anthony Ray Rogers, 41; Antonio Cruz, 35; and Kelly Hazlip, 32. The state would argue that our man was being, well, coy about the degree of calculation in this rampage.

“As I saw her collapse and die, the spell was broken,” he said of Coons. “I could see her for what she was. I no longer found her attractive.”

In a different interview Westbrook said that he’d “regretted everything a trillion times.” But he struck a less penitent note in conversation with the television program 60 Minutes, saying that “I’m a victim in this as well as everybody else.”

The man’s already quite extensive roster of “everybody else” fortunately never came to include Westbrook’s first (pre-Coons) ex-wife, upon whom he allegedly tried to put out a hit while in jail.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Ripped from the Headlines,Texas,USA

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1705: William Pulman, Edward Fuller, and Elizabeth Herman

Add comment March 9th, 2017 Headsman

The Ordinary of Newgate his Account of the Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn on Friday the 9th of March, 1704/1705.

At the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old Bailey, on Wednesday the 28th of February last, and on Thursday and Friday the 1st and 2d Instant, 8 Persons, i. e. seven Men and one Woman, having been Try’d, and found Guilty of Death, received their Sentence accordingly. Of these 8 Persons, 5 being by her Majesty’s gracious Reprieve, respited from Execution, they who are now ordered for it, are only these 3, viz. William Pulman, Edward Fuller, and Elizabeth Herman.

On the Lord’s Day, the 4th Instant, I preach’d to them, both in the Forenoon and Afternorn, upon part of the second Lesson, appointed for that Morning-Service, viz. Luke Ch. 15. v. 18 & 19. I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinn’d against Heaven and before Thee; And am no more worthy to be call’d thy Son; Make me as One of thy hired Servants.

Having explain’d the Parable of the Prodigal Son, of which the Text is a part, I shew’d from thence how a Sinner must gradually proceed in his Repentance.

  1. He must take a firm Resolution to return to a better Life.
  2. He must confess his Guilt, not only to God, but where the Offence has given any publick Scandal, he must confess it to Man also.
  3. He must rather aggravate than palliate his Crime.
  4. He must be severe towards himself, if he will have God to be merciful to him.
  5. He must humble himself to the lowest degree, and look upon himself as unworthy of the least Favour, but worthy of the greatest Punishment, and incapable of returning to God without his Converting Grace, which he ought earnestly to implore.
  6. And Lastly, I shew’d how acceptable such a Repentance (attended with all these) was to God, and how beneficial therefore it would prove to them that should exert themselves therein.

These were the Principal Heads on which I then discours’d to my Auditory, both in the Morning and Afternoon; concluding with a twofold Exhortation; First, To the Strangers that were come to see the Condemned Persons, that they would put up hearty Prayers for them, and be thankful to God, who by his restraining Grace, had kept them from falling into their Sins, and under their Condemnation. And Secondly, To the Prisoners, and particularly those Condemned to die; That they would desire the Prayers of all good People, which they stood in so great need of; and stir up themselves to Prayer, and implore the Spirit of God to their assistance therein; That they would examine themselves, and take an exact Survey of all their past Sins, so far as they could remember, and seriously consider how they had lived before, and how they were now fit to die, and what would become of them after Death.

Yesterday being the Anniversary Day of the QUEEN‘s Accession to the Throne, I preach’d again both in the Morning and Afternoon, to the Prisoners in Newgate, and other Persons there present; and my Text was, Ps. 40. [1]3. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: Make haste, O Lord, to help me.

After I had open’d the Text, and by the by spoken something concerning the Solemnity of the Day; shewing how Men are in a double manner Guilty, who living in a Country where the Gospel shines in its full Brightness and Purity, and under a Government so just, so equal, and so easy as this is, are (nevertheless) wilfully ignorant of Christian Duties, and disobebient to God and their Superiours, and unjust, mischievous and oppressive to their Neighbours.

Then I proceeded to discourse on that Subject which I thought then most proper for my Auditory, which was to shew from the Text, How it concerns all Men (especially great Offenders) to be earnest in their Application to God for Deliverance, both From their Sins; And, From the Punishment due to them.

And in order thereto, consider,

  1. How they came to be prompted to, and by degrees hardened in Sin.
  2. How they might recover themselves by that sincere Repentance which is of absolute Necessity to their Pardon and Salvation; and which is the Work of God’s Spirit, for which they should pray with fervent Zeal and Perseverance.

In the Close of those my Discourses, I made particular Application to the Condemned Prisoners; who from the time of their receiving their Sentence, to that of their Execution, were brought up twice every Day, to the Chappel in Newgate; where I pray’d with them, and instructed them in the Word of God, and in the way to Salvation. And upon my discoursing them in private, and pressing them to make a free and open Confession of their Offences, and the Injuries they had done to the World, and to make what Reparation and Amends they could: They discover’d to me their former Lives and Conversations, and their present Disposition, as follows:

I. William Pulman, alias Norwich Will, Condemned for Robbing Mr. Joseph Edwards on the High-way, upon the 30th of December last, and taking from him a pair of Leather-Bags, a Shirt, 2 Neck-Cloths, 2 Pocket-Books, 25 Guineas, a half Guinea, a half broad Piece, and 4 l. in Silver. When I put him upon his Confession, both of this and other Facts he might be guilty of, he at first pretended (as he did at his Tryal) that he knew nothing of that Robbery committed upon Mr. Edwards. But when I shew’d him, not only how little available, but how mischievous such a Denial was to him, in case he was really Guilty of the Fact; he at last confess’d it, owning that he had 5 Guineas and 40 Shillings in Silver for his Share in that Robbery. He confess’d also, That he (with some others he named) had several times, for these 4 Years past, taken Bags, Trunks, Boxes, and such like Things, from behind Horses, Coaches, and Waggons; but he protested to me, that he never broke any House, nor stole any Goods out of Shops. He further said, That he did not know any of the Proprietors or Owners of the stol’n Goods in which he was concerned, save Mr. Edwards; and though he should know them, or could send to them, yet he could make them no Satisfaction; all being spent, and he left poor. So true it is, That Goods unlawfully gotten do not profit. He therefore pray’d God, and those he had wrong’d, to forgive him. Being ask’d, When and Where he was born, and how he had spent his Life, he gave me this further Account of himself, That he was about 26 Years of Age, born in the City of Norwich, of honest Parents, who brought him up well, and put him to a good Trade, viz. That of Barber and Perriwig-maker; to which he serv’d the full time of his Apprenticeship, and then set up for himself in that City. But getting into ill Company, he was presently debauch’d, and became a very lewd Person, breaking the Sabbath-day, and abandoning himself to Swearing, Drinking, Whoring, and all manner of Wickedness; saying, That he was guilty of all Sin but Murther. In this wicked Disposition, he came up to London about five years ago, where he had not been long but he was prest to Sea; and having served not above two Months on Board the Jersey, a Third Rate, commanded by Captain Stapleton, he was discharged. And being so, he went to work at his Trade for a few Months with one Mr. Wright a Perriwig-maker in Old-Bedlam. But keeping Company with ill People, by their Example and Perswasion (and particularly by the Sollicitation of a certain wicked Woman) became a Robber. He told me, That he had served 16 Months on Board the Triumph, a Second Rate Ship, Captain Greydon Commander, and that he was in that Ship in the late Expedition to Vigo. But he sorrowfully acknowledged he had been so stupid, as all the while to take no manner of notice of the great Dangers he was in, and from which the Providence of God had preserved him. When he was returned into England and discharged, then he went sauntering about to see what he could get; and finding himself in danger of being prest again, he enter’d himself into the Land-Service , viz. in the Second Regiment of Foot-Guards, in the Company of Captain Swan, under the Command of Colonel Marsham; in which Service he was, when in December last he was Try’d, Convicted, and Burnt in the Cheek for a Felony by him committed a little before that time; which Punishment he had received long before, viz. above three years ago, for a Felony he then was justly found guilty of. He mightily lamented his sinful Life past, and begg’d Pardon both of God and Man.

II. Edward Fuller, Condemned for Robbing Mrs. Eliz. Woodward of 5 s. and Mr. John Wright of a Silver Watch on the 3d of February last: Both which Facts he deny’d. But confess’d, that he had been an Ill-liver, and for these 3 or 4 Years last past concerned as a Partner with Pick-pockets. He said he never got much by that, nor could now make restitution to the Parties wrong’d, should he know them. He being asked whether he ever broke any House, or stole things out of any Shops, or Robbed on the High-way Abroad, on Horseback, or otherwise, he answer’d, no; saying, that he had never meddled with any Robberies, or Robbers of that kind. As for his Manners, he confess’d himself to have been a very Idle and Loose Person; neglecting the Business of his Calling, which was a Coach and Harnessmaker, to which he had served his Prenticeship in the Borough of Southwark, where he set up and work’d for himself a while after his time was out. He said he was about 30 Years old: An Age when he might have done most Good, but did most Evil; being perfectly sunk into Debauchery, and all manner of Uncleanness, and having abandon’d the Service of God, in which he was carefully brought up, and embraced the Sinful Lusts and Pleasures of the World. He much complain’d of the hardness of his Heart, and desired me to pray for him. He confess’d he had been in Newgate before now; but he was always either discharged, no body appearing; or acquitted, nothing being proved against him; tho’ not always Innocent of the Facts for which he was committed; But was so; when about 3 or 4 Months ago, being in the QUEENs Service under the Command of Captain Columbine in Brigadier Farindon’s Regiment, he was suspected to have deserted his Colours; but it appeared otherwise, and that his supposed Desertion was occasion’d by his being taken a Prisoner by the French, and by them carry’d into some Parts of the Spanish Netherlands; from whence making his Escape, and returning into England, he gave such satisfaction of this to his Officers, that they did not look upon him as a Deserter, but entertained him as before, in HER MAJESTIE’s Service; out of which he was afterwards discharged, upon his having broken one of his Arms by accident.

III. Elizabeth Harman, alias Bess Toogood; Condemned for Picking the Pocket of Mr. John Tredwell on the 30th of January last. She would fain have deny’d the Fact; but being press’d upon the matter, she confessed her self to have been concern’d in it, and to have had 5 s. of the Money which was then taken from Mr. Tredwell, not by her self, but by another Woman that was with her, as she said; but afterward confess’d she had done the Fact. She said, that (to her great Shame and Sorrow) she had lived to the Years of above 30 (which was now her Age) without having done any good; but on the contrary, much harm to the World, and to her own Soul: This particular account she gave me of her self, That she was born at Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire; and that about 14 Years ago she came up to London, and served at first at a Silk Dyers in Thames-street, and in several other Worthy Families in this City and in Westminster; but afterwards falling into ill Company, she soon became as Lewd and Debauch’d as any of them. She, upon my asking, declar’d, that she never drew any young Woman or other into her wicked Ways; and that those she was acquainted with, were ripe in Wickedness and Lewdness before she ever knew them. But she acknowledg’d, that she had been her self very wicked indeed; a great Swearer, Sabbath-breaker, and most filthy and impudent in her Conversation and Actions; and that for these several Years past, she had made it her constant Practice to pick up Men in the Streets, and while they were committing Lewdness with her, she pick’d their Pockets. She bitterly cry’d and lamented, that she had been such an Illliver, and thought her Sins to be so great and so many, that God would never forgive her; adding, that tho’ in her Retirement she read in the Bible and pray’d, yet she found no manner of comfort, nor could understand any thing of what she read; so dull and stupified, and sunk in Sin and Darkness, and so unaccustom’d to any thing of Religion and Piety she was, that those Spiritual Means, could hardly work any good upon her. In this desperate and despairing condition she was in, I gave her such Advice and Directions as were proper for her; and from the many tears she shed, and other the Tokens of Sorrow she express’d, I hope she was at last most sensible of the Folly and Mischievous Effects of a Sinful Life. She desired me and all good People to pray for her Soul, and all wicked Persons, (especially those of her Acquaintance) to take warning by her, and to reform and amend their Lives betimes; that they might prevent both their Temporal and Eternal Destruction. And she desired all young Women above all to take care of being deluded: For there are many young Creatures that come up to London with an honest intent, who are easily Debauched and Corrupted by wicked People that get acquainted with them. Therefore her Advice to them is, that they should avoid all ill Company; which if she had done she might have lived happy.

This Day of their Execution being come, they were all of them carry’d to Tyburn; where I met them: And after some Exhortation to them in general, That they would consider well, that now they were come to the very brink of Eternity, and therefore ought to clear their Consciences, &c. I then apply’d my self to each of them in particular; asking them, whether they had any thing to add to, or alter in the Confessions they had made to me: Upon which they answer’d they had not. Only Edward Fuller said, That it was not true what he had told me before, viz. That he was taken by the French; for now he owned he had really deserted his Colours, but he got himself discharged afterwards. He added, he was sorry he told me an untruth, for which (said he) I beg Pardon of God and you. But as to the 2 Facts for which he was Condemned to this shameful Death, he still persisted in the denial of them; saying, that he knew nothing of the 5 s. taken from Mrs. Woodward; and that for the Watch owned by Mr. Wright, he bought it of one Thompson, and pay’d him 3 l. 15 s. in Money for it, besides a Quart of Wine that cost him 20 pence. This was his last Declaration to me at the Tree; where I most strenuously press’d him before God upon the hope of Eternal Life, to speak the truth. He declared that he had no Animosity or Hatred against any one in the whole World, Man, Woman, or Child, and that he dy’d in Charity with all Mankind. And so did the other two. When this was over, I proceeded to exhort them to stir up their Hearts to God, to cry for his Mercy, and to beg the Assistance of his Holy Spirit in this time of need. Then I pray’d and Sung some Penitential Psalms with them; and made them rehearse the Apostle’s Creed, and repeat some Ejaculatory Expressions after me. I admonished them to warn both Young and Old against Sin; which they did; praying all Standers by and others to avoid all manner of Vice and Vicious Company, and never neglect the Service of God, as they had done to their Shame and Sorrow. Which they having said, I recommended them to God and the Direction of his Grace: And so left them to their private Devotions, for which they had some time allowed them. Then the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off; Calling upon God to have Mercy upon them, in these and the like Ejaculations, utter’d and often repeated by each of them. Lord have Mercy on me, a miserable Sinner! My Sins are innumerable, and my Soul is in anguish, Lord comfort me, and heal me! Lord into thy Hands I recommend my Spirit! Sweet Jesus, take me to thy self: Take me to thy Mercy! Open me thy Gates! Lord, I come, I come!

This is all the Account here to be given of these Dying Persons by PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary of Newgate. Friday March 9. 1705.

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THE Exemplary Life and Character of James Bonnell, Esq.; late Accomptant General of Ireland. To which is added the Sermon preach’d at his Funeral by Edward Lord Bishop of Killmore and Ardagh The Life by William Hamilton, A. M. Archdeacon of Armagh. Attested by Six of the most eminent Bishops in the Kingdom of Ireland.

THE Necessary Duty of Family-Prayer, and the deplorable Condition of Prayerless Families consider’d. In a Letter from a Minister to his Parishioners. With Prayers for their Use.

A Discourse concerning Sins of Infirmity and wilful Sins, with another of Restitution. By the Right Reverend Richard, late Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells. Price 3 d.

Ordinary of Newgate Paul Lorrain published this professional guide on ministry to the dying.

BOOKS set forth by Paul Lorrain. Ordinary of Newgate, viz.

THE last Words of the Lady Margaret De la Musse: And The Dying-Man’s Assistant, both printed for J. Lawrence at the Angel in the Poultry. And A Guide to Salvation, Sold at the Star in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.

Sold by Joseph Downing in Bartholomew-Close.

THE Christian Education of Children. In a Letter to a Friend. In which are contain’d the Fundamental Truths of Religion, and the Duties of a Christian Life. Profitable for all sorts of Persons; but especially recommended to Schools of Charity. Printed for R. Sympson at the Harp in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1704.

Rpbert Whitledge, Bookbinder, now living at the Bible in Creed-Lane, within Ludgate, where all Booksellers, and others, may be furnshied with the WELSH Bible, WELSH Common Prayer and WELSH Almanack, and with all sorts of other Bibles and Common-Prayers, large and small, with Cuts or without, Rul’d or Unrul’d, Bound in Turkey Leather, extraordnary or plain, or unbound. Also the Statutes at large, and Articles and Canons of the Church of England; Tate and Brady’s new Version of the Singing Psalms, the Common-Prayer in French, the new Book of Rates compleat; and also all Books neatly Bound.

London, Printed by J. Downing in Bartholomew-Close near West-Smithfield. 1705.

Part of the Themed Set: The Ordinary of Newgate.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1524: Klaus Hottinger, sausage radical

Add comment March 9th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1524, the first Reformation martyr of Switzerland was beheaded in Lucerne.

Klaus Hottinger (English Wikipedia entry | German), a cobbler by trade, was among Zurich’s early radical reformers — the folks impatient enough for ecclesiastical change to go looking for provocative transgressions.

On March 9, 1522 — two years to the day before his martyrdom — Hottinger was among several Zurich denizens who calculatedly broke the Lenten fast by gobbling sausages at a printer‘s home. History charmingly designates this event “the Affair of the Sausages”. It was scandalous precisely because Zwingli, a pastor, made no attempt to enforce the Church’s fasting edict on his fellows, and then defended the carnivores.

This sort of behavior marked an important cleavage with Luther, both tactically and theologically. Luther certainly agreed with Zwingli that meat was not forbidden Christians, and even that believers ought to assert this right forcefully when bullied:

you must in no wise allow yourself to be drawn away from the liberty in which God has placed you, but do just the contrary to spite him, and say: Because you forbid me to eat meat, and presume to turn my liberty into law, I will eat meat in spite of you. (Fourth Invocavit sermon)

But still, Luther — strenuously at work in this period to dissociate his own cause from rebellion — would have his followers pick their battles. Does going out of your way to beef over the meat thing help or hinder the cause?

There are some who are still weak in faith, who ought to be instructed, and who would gladly believe as we do. But their ignorance prevents them, and if this were faithfully preached to them, as it was to us, they would be one with us. Toward such well-meaning people we must assume an entirely different attitude from that which we assume toward the stubborn. We must bear patiently with them and not use our liberty, since it brings no peril or harm to body or soul, nay, rather is salutary, and we are doing our brothers and sisters a great service besides. But if we use our liberty without need, and deliberately cause offense to our neighbor, we drive away the very one who in time would come to our faith.

Hottinger wasn’t the bearing patiently type. As if the sausages weren’t enough, our enragee ratcheted up the deliberate offense in 1523 with an iconoclastic strike against a roadside crucifix.

This stunt got him exiled from Zurich and put his sacrilege show on the road. As it transpired, not every canton was as easygoing as Zurich.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,God,History,Martyrs,Milestones,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Switzerland

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1422: Jan Zelivsky, Hussite defenestrator

Add comment March 9th, 2015 Headsman

Radical Hussite Jan Želivský was beheaded on this date in 1422.


1952 memorial plaque of Zelivsky in Prague

Zelivsky (English Wikipedia entry | Czech), a priest, emerges in the 1410s as a fiery populist orator at Prague’s Church of Our Lady of the Snows.

After the treacherous capture and execution of Jan Hus, the Hussite movement split between radical and moderate factions. The firebrand Zelivsky became the chief voice of the lower-class, radical Hussites and led the dramatic Defenestration of Prague wherein a Hussite mob pitched several Catholic city ministers out the window of the Prague town hall — triggering a revolution and 15 years of war.

Over the ensuing year, Zelivsky came to dominate politics in Prague. But he had to struggle for his power against both the external threat of Hapsburg armies, and the internal rivalry of moderate Hussites — and these factions did not scruple to deploy the executioner for mastery of Prague.

Zelivsky in the summer of 1421 mounted a coup against moderate Hussites who were negotiating with the Catholic nobility, and even executed some of those movement apostates. But power was wrested away from him in the ensuing months and he was arrested by surprise at a town meeting and secretly put to death.

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Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Czechoslovakia,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Martyrs,Politicians,Power,Religious Figures,Revolutionaries,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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2001: Willie ‘Ervin’ Fisher, traveling man

4 comments March 9th, 2014 Headsman

(Thanks to John S. Carbone of Alienists Compendium. Dr. Carbone is also the Director of Mental Health Services and Chief of Forensic Psychiatry for the North Carolina prison system.)

On this date in 2001, Willie ‘Ervin’ Fisher, aged 39, was put to death by lethal injection at North Carolina’s Central Prison in Raleigh.

His was a forgettable if lamentable crime were it not for the changes to the state’s administrative code that his passing — nay, his post-mortem travels — effected.

Fisher at first invoked that time-tested excuse of addling by drugs and alcohol as exculpation for the slaying of April 2nd 1992.

He admitted from the time of arrest to the murder of Angela Johnson, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, during a domestic altercation that was witnessed by many as it spilled outside to a parking lot for its finale by knife and broken broomstick.

Interestingly, Fisher had no prior felony arrests, and when he was deemed able to have formed the specific intent necessary for first-degree murder, that other time-tested excuse — ineffective counsel — was raised with equal futility. Throughout, however, prison officials described him as a ‘model prisoner’ on death row, one who received nary a single disciplinary charge in the decade he was incarcerated. And though he later abandoned the pretense of chemical sway and accepted full personal responsibility in a videotaped appeal for clemency to the governor, his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Fisher gave a brief last statement on the evening of his demise, and was pronounced dead after 9:00 p.m. His earthly remains were then transported across town to the medical examiners’ office.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The decedent’s sister, Sally Fisher, was at that time the deputy registrar of vital records for the Forsyth County (NC) Health Department, and as such was familiar with then-existing rules pertaining to the handling and transportation of dead bodies. Ms Fisher later recounted that “I just got up that [next] morning and said, ‘we might as well [bring] Ervin home’…. I just wanted to be close to him for a while.”

So Ms Fisher, her sister, and her niece piled in the latter’s SUV and drove to Raleigh at 6:00 a.m. on the 10th to claim the corpse. At first, the medical examiner balked at releasing the body thusly, but Ms. Fisher was versed in statute and code, and after a number of frantic phone calls for guidance, the ME had no choice but to turn Fisher’s remains over to his family.

Then, with the help of an employee of the ME’s office, the four struggled to wedge Fisher’s by-then-stiff corpus into the back of the SUV. Fisher had to be placed recumbent as he wouldn’t sit up straight. Ms. Fisher and her sister got in the back seat and talked with the departed while the niece drove the 100 miles west on Interstate 40 to Winston-Salem and the family residence.

Though it was only early March, Fisher’s family turned on the air conditioning inside the SUV — to the highest setting.

En route, they stopped at least once for sodas and to make phone calls to family and friends to let them know that Fisher was headed home, and that everyone should come to visit upon his arrival. There was a brief and impromptu reunion of sorts held in the front yard when the travelers reached the family’s residence. This was followed by a meandering drive around town to visit old haunts (pun fully intended) before eventually reaching the funeral parlor.

Word traveled fast, and it wasn’t many hours before a local television station in Winston-Salem had called the warden at Central Prison for comment regarding the inmate of whom he had overseen the execution mere hours before who was nevertheless now cruising out west with crowds forming to wave at him.

Some said that the family fetched Fisher to save expenses. The Department of Correction, though, was authorized to provide up to $300 to indigents for burial costs if a letter were received from a funeral home … and no such letter had been received. Ms. Fisher herself later said that money had nothing to do with the decision. “To me, it was … closure. For ten years, I was talking to him through glass and couldn’t touch him. That was my brother. He was the baby…. Bringing him back home helped me out.”

And in what may be Ervin Fisher’s lasting legacy, it is now mandated by amended state administrative code that only a hearse from a licensed funeral home can take possession of the dead at the medical examiner’s office.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Guest Writers,Lethal Injection,Murder,North Carolina,Other Voices,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,USA

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1981: Steven T. Judy, Hoosier rapist

Add comment March 9th, 2013 Robert Elder

(Thanks to Robert Elder of Last Words of the Executed — the blog, and the book — for the guest post on the anniversary of what was then the first execution in Indiana for nearly 20 years. Fans of this here site are highly likely to enjoy following Elder’s own pithy, almanac-style collection of last words on the scaffold. -ed.)

“I don’t hold no grudges. I’m sorry it happened. I know what I’m doing.”

— Steven T. Judy, convicted of rape and murder, electric chair, Indiana.
Executed March 9, 1981

A serial rapist, Judy openly courted capital punishment. At his trial for killing a woman and her three children (ages five, four, and two), Judy told a jury to condemn him or else he might kill them, their children, and the judge. He showed no remorse for the murders, telling reporters, “I don’t lose sleep over it.” Judy asked for death. “I’ve lived my hell,” he said. “So [what waits for me] has to be better.”

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Indiana,Murder,Rape,USA,Volunteers

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1784: Anton Joseph Suter, Appenzell politician

Add comment March 9th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1784, 64-year-old former Landammann of Appenzell,** was beheaded in a nasty bout of local politics.

The amiable and fair-minded Suter (wee German bio), a tavernkeeper, won election to his position at the head of a popular party — in the process defeating a local aristocrat who expected the gig as his birthright and nursed a terrible grudge against Suter for the defeat.


The cantonal form of direct democracy by which Suter was elected, the Landsgemeinde, is still practiced in Appenzell. This (cc) image from Götz A. Primke shows the 2009 assembly in Appenzell, at which crotchety, longsword-bearing residents voted a ban on nude hiking.

This aggrieved aristocrat, Geiger by name, had to bide his time all through the 1760s and into the 1770s, until the political stars aligned against Suter.

It seems a neighboring town had been able to take possession of a lush alpine slope in Appenzell’s environs by dint of an unpaid mortgage, a terrible wound to Appenzell’s pride and no small inconvenience to its residents.

Suter pushed an attempt to force repurchase of this land in a suit at the Swiss Diet, a sort of United Nations of otherwise-autonomous Swiss cantons. But he lost the suit, and the Diet demanded that Appenzell cough up the court costs as well.

Accustomed as we are today to the suits and countersuits that constitute the very cogs of late capitalism, it’s a little hard to understand how the trifling matter of a court fee could suffice to topple a government — but it did. Geiger’s people prevailed upon the canton’s executive council to drop the suit (Suter pursued it on his own), and now persuaded it to drop Suter.

Well, persuaded. It’s more like, it did several days frantic retail politicking from the pulpits and in the streets, then showed up when the council met to shout down Suter and drag him out by force, not neglecting to disenfranchise Suter’s many supporters who fought them on the point. As Suter fled into exile, Appenzell pronounced him a rebel on the strength of some super-secret documents.

That really could have been that, but Suter’s foes were so intent on his head that they contrived a ruse to lure him back into the canton’s territory on the pretext of a secret meeting with his daughter — then arrested him, tortured him with thumbscrews and the rack, and finally sentenced him to death.

On the day appointed the scaffold was closely surrounded by troops. Suter, maimed and pale, was assisted to his place. Standing there a moment he addressed the people, declaring himself robbed and murdered by his country. He then knelt down and in clear tones thrice pronounced the Ave Maria. With the last word of the last repetition of the prayer the sword descended and his head fell …

The sight of the blood of the ex-Landamman filled the people with rage. They had looked for a reprieve to the very last; and now that all hope was gone, they fell upon such of the victim’s enemies as were to be found lingering in the streets and fought and struggled with them in their desperation … The enemies of Suter were found to form no exception to the rule that retribution pursues the murderer. No sooner was the ex-Landamman in his grave than the Furies took up their task … Geiger, who formerly had gone about demanding Suter’s life, now — a pitiable victim to remorse — went about acknowledging that for seven long years he had pursued him without a cause. It is related concerning the member of the Blood Court that they all ever afterwards were harassed by terrors of conscience, one to such an extent that he even became insane. The guilt of Suter’s murder settled upon Inner-Rhoden irretrievably … like the very brand of Cain. Time went by and changes occurred, but that remained. Finally in 1829, forty-five years after the execution, the Great Council met and, with a solemnity befitting he occasion, unanimously revrsed the findings of the court by which Suer had been banished, as also of that by which he had been sent to the block.

Another summary of Suter’s career and sad end can be found here.

* Thanks to the same public-domain source, we’ve visited Appenzell before.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Politicians,Posthumous Exonerations,Power,Public Executions,Switzerland,Torture,Wrongful Executions

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1816: Five Boers for the Slachter’s Nek Rebellion

Add comment March 9th, 2011 Headsman

“All those who know anything of the history of South Africa,” writes Ian Colvin, “have heard of Slachter’s Nek. (English Wikipedia entry | the more detailed Afrikaans)

“The very name has something of evil omen about it, and it is the gallows-tree on which the ravens of discord have sat and croaked ever since the five rebels were hanged in the memorable year of Waterloo.”

You’ve got to admit that a place like “Slachter’s Nek” (or Slagtersnek) definitely ought to be associated with a hanging. Luckily for this site, it is.

Though subsequently a grievance for the Dutch-descended Boers — a monument was erected in the hanged men’s honor on the centennial of their execution — this particular evil omen barely even registered when it came to British colonial disturbances.

A farmer, one Frederik Bezuidenhout, started the trouble by defying an order to appear in court for his maltreatment of a native; the Brits hunted him to a cave and killed him in a shootout.

This led to a very slightly wider spasm of resistance which one could very generously account “Quixotic”: a few dozen other Afrikaner farmers bent on driving out the “tyrants”, most of whom wisely threw in the towel when the tyrants’ military showed the colors. (With the literal boots-on-the-ground support of the colony’s preponderance of Dutch burghers.)

Thirty-nine stood trial, with a half-dozen death sentences meted out. In defiance of a widespread expectation of clemency, only one was spared.

Four of the five hanging ropes broke. Still no reprieve: fresh nooses were procured.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,South Africa

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1950: Timothy Evans, instead of John Christie

5 comments March 9th, 2010 Headsman

Sixty years ago today, Timothy Evans was hanged at Pentonville Prison still protesting his innocence of murdering his wife and daughter — three years before a neighboring tenant was revealed to be a serial killer.

A drunkard with a tempestuous marriage, Timothy Evans didn’t look like a compelling innocence case when he walked into a police station and confessed to killing his wife while attempting to administer an abortifacient.

Evans’s confession didn’t add up, and he kept changing it — to indicate the involvement of neighbor John Christie. The “botched abortion” angle got complicated when the Evans’s older, un-aborted daughter also turned up dead: like her mom, she’d been strangled.

“I didn’t do it, Mam,” he told his mother. “Christie done it.”

But the dim suspect’s iterative interpretations of how his family wound up throttled had left his credibility in tatters by the time he came to trial insisting that the confession was wrong. And you’d have to admit that the looming shadow of Executioner Pierrepoint presented a compelling reason to disbelieve his latest revisions.

The jurors disbelieved.

Evans swung.

Three years later, that very Christie who had so smoothly inculpated Timothy Evans, was arrested for a killing spree that turned out to have lodged at least six corpses hidden on the same premises at 10 Rillington Place.

That infamous address has its own web site — and book, and film, and Madame Tussaud’s exhibit.

And why not?

Here was a man desperately and (to the public) implausibly implicated by a convicted murderer recently hanged: that this man subsequently turned out to be a prolific serial killer did a job to undermine public confidence in the death penalty.

Christie himself hanged for his own crime spree in 1953. He admitted to murdering Beryl Evans, Timothy’s wife, though never to killing daughter Geraldine.

Little more than a decade after that, England’s gallows fell into disuse.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Innocent Bystanders,Murder,Popular Culture,Posthumous Exonerations,Wrongful Executions

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