This week in 1942
In the electric chair:
“I got it coming.”
— Bernard Sawicki, convicted of murder, electric chair, Illinois.
Executed January 17, 1942
Sawicki shot a seventy-two-year-old farmer who he claimed had him put in a St. Charles juvenile correctional facility. He then went on a robbery and murder spree which claimed three more victims, including a policeman, Charles Speaker.
This week in 1977
“Let’s do it!”
— Gary Gilmore, convicted of murder, firing squad, Utah.
Executed January 17, 1977
With a hood over his head and a paper target attached to his chest, Gilmore became the first man executed in nearly ten years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the death penalty. Gilmore confessed to shooting motel clerk Bennie Bushnell, age twenty-five, twice in the head while he lay on the floor during a robbery. Gilmore’s troubled life was chronicled by Norman Mailer in his book “Executioner’s Song,” and he was portrayed by actor Tommy Lee Jones in the TV adaptation of the book.
This week in 1852
“Gentlemen, I ask your pardon for all my offenses, and
expect yours in return.”
— Chief Antonio Garra, convicted of murder, firing squad, California.
Executed January 16, 1852
A Native American educated at San Luis Rey mission near San Diego, Chief Garra of the Cupenos tribe attempted to unite Californian tribes to attack and drive out white settlers. Federal soldiers refused to preside over Garra’s trial but provided the ammunition for a citizens’ militia to carry out the execution. Garra was tried before a militia court-martial, found guilty, and shot. January 10 has alternately been reported as his execution date.