Belfast Telegraph

Pardon for hanged 19th Century man

Governor Lincoln Chafee has pardoned the last man executed in Rhode Island, an Irish immigrant who was hanged more than 150 years ago following what is believed to be a trial tainted by widespread bigotry against Irish Catholics.

John Gordon was convicted of killing Amasa Sprague, a wealthy mill owner and the brother of a US senator.

Gordon was hanged in 1845 at the age of 29. But law professors and historians now say the evidence against him was circumstantial and prejudice against Irish Catholics compromised his trial.

Mr Chafee signed the proclamation pardoning Gordon at the Old State House in Providence, where Gordon's trial took place.

The governor called Gordon's trial and execution a "dark spot" in Rhode Island history and said the pardon was long overdue.

The proclamation signed by the governor in the very room in which Gordon was believed to have been convicted says the Irishman was executed for a murder he did not commit.

Rhode Island's general assembly passed legislation urging Mr Chafee to grant the pardon.

The state politicians who sponsored the resolution in the Senate and House of Representatives, including Representative Peter Martin and Senator Michael McCaffrey attended the public ceremony.

"Justice has no statute of limitations," Mr Martin said.

The death penalty was abolished in Rhode Island in 1852 before being reintroduced two decades later. It was abolished again in 1984.


From Belfast Telegraph