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Capital Punishment: Overview

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"Minnesota's John Day Smith Law and the Death Penalty Debate," by Michael Anderson.
In Minnesota History, vol. 58, no. 2 (summer 2002): pp. 84-91.
MNHS call number: View an electronic version of the article (PDF)

Legacy of Violence: Lynch Mobs and Executions in Minnesota, by John D. Bessler.
Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
MNHS call number: Reading Room HV6462 .M6 B47 2003
Office of the Governor, Execution Records (1888-1910).
Certified copies of minutes of conviction and sentence, and sometimes copies of other trial documents relating to convicts sentenced to death. 
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid
Ramsey County (Minn.) Sheriff: Expense Document Concerning William Williams' February 1906 Execution, 1905-1906.
Itemized and verified statement of expenses incurred in carrying out the execution of Williams, convicted in 1905 of homicide in Ramsey County. The itemized expenses include the lumber and labor for constructing the gallows, clothing for the condemned man, and the rope.
MNHS call number: 119.C.4.3B (User copy)


The State of Minnesota abolished capital punishment in 1911, making it one of twelve states and the District of Columbia where crimes are not punishable by death. Capital punishment is propounded by advocates as a deterrent to crime, while critics hold that claim to be unsupported by facts and crime statistics. Whether the state has a right to take life, whether taking life as punishment for crime is revenge or justice, whether the judicial system is unerring in its judgments, all are issues in the ongoing debate.

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