History of the death penalty in Maine

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Death sentence

Also known as the death penalty, the death penalty is imposed when a person commits a crime and is subsequently sentenced to death.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, there are currently 5 methods of execution on the books in the United States; lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, hanging and firing squad. Going further back in history, methods such as hanging were much more common. According to KTRE, there has been no hanging in the United States since 1996. Of course, beheadings were a fairly common thing many years ago, but not here in the United States.

Death penalty in Maine

Maine was one of the first states in the country to abolish the death penalty, not one, but two. First in 1876, then he was reinstated in 1883 for murder and then disappeared for good in 1887, according to Maine.gov.

Now, that doesn’t mean that a Mainer cannot be sentenced to death as it can still be executed federally.

Mainers killed by capital punishment

There were 21 people executed here in Maine even before Maine was even established as a state, starting in 1644.

Death penalty United States lists all 21. 2 women and 19 men. All but one committed murder.

The was first a woman described as a housewife only known as Mrs. Cornish her crime? Murder. We don’t know what neighborhood she lived in.

There was 4 from Cumberland County.

York County 2 including a 23-year-old Native American for murder.

County Knox 3 including a man named Jeremiah Baum for treason.

There was only 1 in Lincoln County. His name was Edmund Fortis and he was listed as a runaway slave and his crime was listed as murder and rape.

Hancock County, Waldo County, and Kennebec County each had 1.

Sagadahoc County only had one, which was the last for Maine. It was a man named Daniel Wilkinson. His death prompted the movement to end the death penalty in Maine because his hanging went horribly wrong. According to the Information Center on the Death Penalty, Daniels’ noose was loosely tied, resulting in a slow and painful choke.

Androscoggin had 3, including a 20-year-old worker named Clifton Harris for murder, rape and theft.

Penobscot County had 2 who appear to have committed the crime of murder and theft together. Raffaele Capone and Carmine Santore were railway workers and were both put to death on April 17, 1885.

All those executed in Maine were killed by hanging.

Bring back the death penalty

While the death penalty is a thing of the past here in Maine, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been attempts to bring it back over the years.

According to Maine.gov, there have been efforts as recently as the early 2000s. In 2001, there was LD 1493: a law to restore the death penalty for the murder of children, and in 2005, LD 1501: a law to prevent domestic abuse by reinstating the death penalty for those who murder family or household members.

Do you think the death penalty should come back in Maine?

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