Monday, September 21, 2009

This week in Michigan's history:
Criminal's execution is last one for state

The state executed its last criminal, Stephen Simmons, in Detroit on Sept. 24, 1830, before becoming the first government to abolish the death penalty.

The 50-year-old known drinker was convicted of beating his wife to death. Before he was strung up on gallows near Campus Martius, Simmons told the crowd that had gathered about the evils of alcohol and sang the hymn "Show Pity, Lord, O Lord, Forgive."

Wayne County Sheriff Thomas Knapp refused on humanitarian grounds to execute Simmons. The gruesome task went to hotelier Ben Woodworth, who volunteered.

The spectacle was one of the reasons why 17 years later, Michigan banned capital punishment.

A prisoner at the federal prison in Milan was executed in 1938, but he was convicted in federal court.

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