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Petition to issue a stay of execution for John Gordon | State Archives Catalog

Petition to issue a stay of execution for John Gordon, 1845
Petition to issue a stay of execution for John Gordon, 1845 (JPEG Image, 1.03 MB)
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Petition to issue a stay of execution for John Gordon

The failed petition to the General Assembly to issue a stay of execution for John Gordon, 1845. John Gordon (died February 14, 1845) was the last person executed by Rhode Island. In 1844, Gordon was tried and convicted for the December 31, 1843 beating murder of Amasa Sprague, a Cranston textile factory owner. The murder occurred within the village of Knightsville. John Gordon was executed by hanging in the state jail in Providence. Seven years after Gordon's execution, Rhode Island abolished the death penalty. Although it was reintroduced in 1872, no executions took place before capital punishment was abolished again by the state in 1984. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee pardoned Gordon on June 29, 2011, following passage of legislation by the state's General Assembly urging such action. Chafee signed the proclamation of pardon at the Old State House, where Gordon's trial took place more than 150 years prior.


To the Honorable General Assembly now is session at Providence. The undersigned, citizens of the State of Rhode-Island, would call the attention of your Hon- ors to the case of JOHN GORDON, now confined in the Jail of the county of Providence, await- ing execution. He is sentenced to be hanged on the 14th of February next, and unless your hon- orable body interfere, will then pay the penalty which the law inflicts upon those found guilty of the crime of murder. The undersigned, without expressing any opinion as to the guilt of said John Gordon, would respectfully ask the Honorable Assembly, if the public interest can be injur- ed by a postponement of the execution of said sentence? The circumstances of the case are well known to you. He is convicted as principal, and upon the ground that he was instigated to com- mit the murder by his brother, Nicholas S. Gordon. The brother is yet to be tried. Will pub- lic justice suffer, if the execution of John Gordon is postponed until after that period? If your Honors, in an honest and conscientious discharge of your duty, can believe with us, that it will not-that a few months sooner or later, will make no difference-you will grant the prayer of our petition-which is, that this wretched man may have a postponement of execution until the trial of his brother-who, if either is guilty, is the main projector and originator of the murder. We would ask nothing unreasonable, and leave the whole matter to your sense of duty, and the mer- cy which we all feel disposed to exert in favor of human life. And as in duty bound will ever pray.

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