This week in 1692

“I had rather go to an Ale-house than to any Church. Pray Young People take warning by my shameful end: keep the Sabbath truly. . . . I have had great Oppression upon my Spirit since I was in this prison and I thought I should never repent or confess, until Almighty God softened my hard heart and gave me grace to repent. I beg all good people to joyn in prayers with me, I have great need of your prayers.”

— Thomas Lutherland, convicted of murder, hanging, colonial New Jersey.
Executed February 23, 1692

Lutherland, a carpenter, was hanged for strangling merchant John Clark, then stealing his goods. The undecided jury invoked the “law of the bier”: Lutherland was forced to touch Clark’s rotting corpse. It was believed that a corpse would bleed when touched by  its murderer, and Clark’s did not, but Lutherland broke down on the spot and confessed to his crime anyway. “When I touched the murdered Corpse of John Clark, I was afraid the Blood would have flown  n my face,” he said. It should be noted that another source claims that Lutherland was executed in Pennsylvania; yet another insists he was put to death in 1691.


This week in 1996

“That I feel the death penalty is not an answer to the problems at hand. That I feel it sends the wrong message to the youth of the country. Young people act as they see other people acting instead of as people tell them to act. And I would suggest that when a person has thought of doing anything against the law, that before they did, they should go to a quiet place and think about it seriously.”

— William George Bonin, convicted of murder, lethal injection, California.
Executed February 23, 1996

Bonin, dubbed “the Freeway Killer,” received California’s first lethal injection. He was convicted of killing fourteen young boys and men—ranging in age from twelve to nineteen—from 1979 to 1980. Bonin and his accomplice may have claimed as many as thirty-six victims. Their tortured and sexually abused bodies were found along southern California highways, and the wave of killings created a panic in the region. Earle Robitaille, a police chief in the area during the string of murders, later told the New York Times: “It was no longer ‘Is it going to happen again?’ but ‘Who’s going to be the next victim, and where will he be abducted and where will he be picked up?’ ”


This week in 1930

“The world loves a good sport and hates a bad loser.”

— Eva Dugan, convicted of murder, hanging, Arizona.
Executed February 21, 1930

Convicted of murdering A. J. Mathis, Dugan first tried to tie the crime to a mysterious figure named Jack. She then later claimed insanity, saying, “Anybody can look at me and see I’m bughouse.” Rejecting last-minute religious consolation, she said, “I’m going to die as I lived.” The quote above comes from an interview, when she responded to a question about her “iron will.”

What made her death most notable was its botched outcome: her head severed from her body as she plunged through the trapdoor.


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