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Facts About Executions

Captain Kidd was hanged for murder, not piracy. He hit one of his seamen over the head with a bucket and killed him. The piracy charge was never proved.

View more facts about: Misconceptions

In Great Britain in the nineteenth century, suicide was a capital offense; if someone survived a suicide attempt, the state would finish the job. (source)

View more facts about: Laws and Customs

It was common in Europe and the British Isles during the Middle Ages and later in the New World to try and condemn animals for injuring or killing a human. For example, the French parliament, the highest court in the land, once ordered the execution of a cow. It was hanged, then burned at the stake.

View more facts about: Mediaeval England | Middle Ages

Margaret Dixon, a Scottish criminal, was hanged at Musselburgh in 1728. A few hours after the execution, however, she climbed out of her coffin. She was reprieved and given a free pardon; however, her husband was considered a widower because she was officially dead. So, to conform with Scottish laws, they had to marry again. (source)

View more facts about: Scotland

The last person to be publicly guillotined in France was Eugene Weidmann, who had been found guilty of strangling Jean De Koven, an American tourist. Although the execution was held at 4:50 on a Saturday morning (June 17, 1939), it attracted a large crowd. The guillotine was so efficient that few saw anything, but photographs that found their way to the front page of French newspapers so outraged the public that, the next week, a law was passed forbidding public executions. (source)

View more facts about: Lasts

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, at least 222 crimes were punishable by death in Great Britain, including impersonating a Chelsea pensioner, strong evidence of malice in a child 7 to 14 years of age, living with gypsies for a month, damaging Westminster Bridge, (unsuccessfully) attempting suicide, and stealing cheese. In 1861, the number of capital crimes was reduced to four: murder, piracy with violence, treason, and arson in a royal dockyard.

View more facts about: Laws and Customs

On February 13, 1746, a certain Jean Marie Dunbarry was hanged for murdering his father. On February 13, 1846, another Jean Marie Dunbarry, a great-grandson of the original criminal, was hanged for murdering his father. (source)

View more facts about: Coincidences

On February 23, 1885, 19-year-old John Lee was sent to the gallows for the murder of Ellen Keyse, a crime that Lee vehemently denied and one to which only circumstantial evidence tied him. When the lever that would release the trap door beneath his feet was pulled, nothing happened, even though the trap door had been tested before and had worked at that time. The equipment was tested again and found to be working, but when the hanging was attempted again, nothing happened. This happened a third time. The authorities, unable to explain what had happened, ascribed it to an act of God. Lee's sentence was commuted and he was sent to prison instead. He would be released after 22 years, emigrate to the United States, and live a long life.

In 1877, during the height of violent labour unrest in the United States, three men were found guilty of the murder of a foreman of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company and sentenced to hang. Two of them went stoically to their deaths, but the third, Alexander Campbell, swore that he was innocent. As he was being dragged from his cell to the gallows, Campbell rubbed his left hand in dust from the floor and pressed his palm against the plaster wall, and shouted repeatedly, "This handprint will remain here for all time as proof of my innocence." And so it did. In 1931, Carbon County Sheriff Robert L. Bowman undertook a renovation of the cell, removing the section of plaster wall containing the handprint and replacing it with a new section of fresh plaster. Nonetheless, the handprint came back, and still exists today. (source)

View more facts about: Crime | Strange But True | Unusual Ways to Die
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