Jerry Givens was an unlikely campaigner against the death penalty. A correctional officer at the Virginia State Penitentiary since the early 1970’s, Givens was also its resident executioner. Until going to prison himself in 1999 on perjury and money-laundering charges (charges he always denied) Givens rose through the ranks. At first supporting the death … Continue reading RIP Jerry Givens, former Virginia executioner-turned-abolitionist.
In today’s more enlightened times there’s nothing unusual about women serving on juries, but it wasn’t always so. British courts didn’t see female jurors until 1920. They were still a novelty on 13 January 1921 when three women joined a jury at Aylesbury. The defendant was one George Bailey. The charge was capital murder. The … Continue reading On This Day in 1921, George Bailey -Convicted by Britain’s first female jurors in a capital case.
Robert Greene Elliott, ‘Agent of Death’ for six US States. Meet Robert Greene Elliott. Family man, devout Methodist, Sunday school superintendent, electrical contractor and pipe smoker. He also personally executed 387 people (including 5 women) working as a freelance executioner for six US States. Elliott was (and remains) the most experienced ‘State Electrician’ in penal … Continue reading On This Day in 1927 – Robert Greene Elliott executes six men in two US States on the same day
Well, seeing as it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m feeling generous, here’s something especially unusual. It’s not often that a President and an executioner meet, especially on a professional basis. US President Grover Cleveland was a notable exception, although he performed his two hangings while Sheriff of Erie County long before entering the White House. … Continue reading A New Year’s Eve special – The President and the hangman.
Normally this time of year would be cause for celebration, a time of Christmas cheer and goodwill to all men. That wasn’t the case for Ethel Major who stood condemned for the murder of her husband Arthur. For her the previous couple of days had been spent sobbing and incoherent as she pondered her imminent … Continue reading On This Day in 1934, Ethel Lillie Major.
I recently had a brief Twitter conversation with a fellow scribe at Crime Traveller and these gentlemen came up therein, so I thought their story might be interesting to look at in more detail. ‘The Executor of High Works’ was a grandiose title for so unrelentingly grim a profession, especially one traditionally inherited by people … Continue reading Les Bourreaux, France’s ‘Executors of High Works.’
Hangings weren’t unusual at London’s Newgate Prison. In Fact, in 1901 a British prisoner was hanged every few weeks on average. The execution of French Army deserter and murderer Maurice Faugeron, however, was a singular event in British penal history. It was the first time the name Pierrepoint drew attention Not Albert, nor Albert’s … Continue reading On This Day in 1901 – Marcel Faugeron at Newgate Prison, Henry Pierrepoint’s First Hanging.
It’s a fact that, for all their ruthlessness and guile, murderers can and do make the most idiotic mistakes. Louisa Merrifield was certainly one of them. Born in 1906, Merrifield was a liar, a fraudster, a cheat and ultimately a murderer. Today in 1953 her criminal career ended abruptly at the end of Albert Pierrepoint’s … Continue reading On This Day in 1953 – Louisa Merrifield, the Blackpool Poisoner.
September 10, 1977 dawned damp and grey for the citizens of Marseilles, especially those residing in Les Baumettes Prison. All the inmates (and some of the staff) were were in a dark mood as they contemplated the rising of the dawn and the falling of executioner Marcel Chevalier's blade. Inmates of 'Death Alley' were … Continue reading On This Day in 1977 – Hamida Djandoubi, last man to face a French guillotine.
"The Bagne is a charnel house, a mass grave, running from syphilis to tuberculosis, with all the tropical diseases one can imagine (carrying malaria, ankylosis, amoebic dysentery, leprosy, etc.), all destined to work hand in hand with an Administration whose task it is to diminish the number of prisoners consigned to its care. The fiercest … Continue reading On This Day in 1953 – France’s last inmates return from Devil’s Island.