Friday, December 29, 2006

The Last Public Execution in the US (1936)

The execution of Saddam Hussein got me thinking about spaces for public executions. I know his was not of that type, but there have been many through out history that have been. Most of my mental images of them are from movies, but I do remember standing outside the Tower of London and finding it a bit strange to know that people had been executed on that spot.

Anyhow, this train of thought led me to looking into the United State's last public execution back in 1936. It was in Owensboro, Kentucky where Tainey Bethea was hanged before a crowd of 20,000 mena, women and children. According to the post on Widipedia, "Bethea left the Daviess County Jail at 5:21 a.m. and walked with two deputies to the scaffold. Within two minutes, he was at the base of the scaffold. Removing his shoes, he put on a new pair of socks. He ascended the steps and stood on the large X as instructed. He made no final statement to the waiting crowd. After making his final confession to Father Lammers, of the Cathedral of the Assumption Church in Louisville, the black hood was placed over his head, and three large straps placed around his ankles, thighs and arms and chest..." Here are some images from a NPR story on the event.

This is an aerial image of former site of the Daviess County Old Jail (110 Saint Elizabeth Street). It was demolished in July of 2003. It looks like there's some sort of outdoor ampitheater that has been built right on the river nearby. I wonder what happens there? Do people think about that execution when they're watching Sunday concerts by the river?

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