1996: Billy Bailey, the last American hanged

10 comments January 25th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1996, Billy Bailey was hanged for murdering an elderly couple in Delaware.

Bailey was condemned in 1980, which was before Texas debuted the lethal injection trend that would sweep the nation; therefore, he was sentenced to hang. When Delaware switched to injection in 1986, Bailey had the choice between his original hempen-necktie sentence or the newfangled gurney.

Authorities wanted him to get with the times. Warden Robert Snyder, who would also serve as hangman, told the press, “Our gallows is pretty primitive here. We’ve made some improvement, but hopefully this will be the last hanging in Delaware.”

Billy Bailey wasn’t interested.

“I’m not a dog,” he said to one visitor. “I’m not going to let them put me to sleep.”

For all the worry that a state out of practice with its gallows technique would botch the job, Delaware carried it off without embarrassment.

Though Bailey’s pretty certain to be the last man hanged in the Blue Hen State — Delaware has gone and dismantled that primitive gallows — he is no lock to keep his place as the last hanged anywhere in the U.S.

Washington state, which hanged two people in the early 1990’s and did some consulting on the procedure for Delaware officials, still allows the condemned a choice between lethal injection and hanging. Executions there aren’t common — it’s been over eight years as of this writing — but they’re not unheard-of. Between the prospect of a lethal injection botch and the morbid appeal of notching milestone status, it’s only a matter of time before someone else opts to hang.

(New Hampshire, which is even more out of practice with the art, also still retains hanging as a backup option.)

Part of the Daily Double: Throwback Executions.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Delaware,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,USA

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