The Battle over Capital Punishment

Scott Christianson

in The Last Gasp

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780520255623
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945616 | DOI:
The Battle over Capital Punishment

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By the early 1960s, American capital punishment was being attacked on several fronts. Some churches and other religious organizations voiced their opposition, while numerous Western nations continued to pressure the United States to end its executions. On April 12, 1967, California carried out its first gassing in four years: the gas chamber execution of Aaron Mitchell, a thirty-seven-year-old black man convicted of slaying a Sacramento policeman during a robbery in 1963. Mitchell's execution set off waves of revulsion and exultation among death penalty opponents and supporters. Colorado's execution of Luis Monge in June of 1967 would turn out to be the last execution in the United States for a decade, and the last gas-chamber execution for twelve years. This gassing, and the others preceding it, as well as the thousands of capital punishments carried out by hanging and electrocution, were about to become a legal relic, at least for a while. Now increased attention was being focused on what the U.S. Supreme Court would rule about the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Keywords: United States; executions; California; gas chamber; capital punishment; death penalty; Aaron Mitchell; Supreme Court; Colorado; Luis Monge

Chapter.  4660 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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