This week in 1904
“No, I have nothing to say except that I am sorry and that I hope all my friends will profit by my experience. Good-bye friends, good-bye all. God bless you all.”
— James Martin, convicted of murder, hanging, Montana.
Executed February 23, 1904
Martin refused to tell the press his real name to keep his family from finding out that he was a murderer. Before his execution, Martin had his lawyer write a letter to his father that said that he was serving a brief sentence in jail but he was sick and not expected to survive. After the execution, it was revealed that Martin’s family had known for some time of his situation and that prison authorities had decided not to tell him so as to spare his feelings.
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?’ ”