Capital punishment in Michigan

Capital punishment has been illegal in the U.S. State of Michigan since 1846, making Michigan's death penalty history unusual in contrast to other States. Michigan was the first English-speaking government in the world to abolish totally the death penalty for ordinary crimes. The Michigan State Legislature voted to do so on May 18, 1846, and this has remained in law since. Although the death penalty was retained on the books for treason until 1963, Michigan has not executed any person since statehood.


With one exception, all executions in areas which are now part of the State of Michigan were performed before the state was admitted to the Union. Michigan became the 26th State on January 26, 1837.

Approximately a dozen people are known to have been executed from 1683 to 1836, although before 1783 the area of the state was outside U.S. jurisdiction (French, then British) and it was under de facto British jurisdiction until 1796. In this early period, there were a number of cases where persons who had committed a capital crime in Detroit were transported to Montreal for trial and execution.

The first person known to be executed in Michigan was a Native American named Folle-Avoine. The first person executed under U.S. jurisdiction was another Native American named Buhnah. Two females were put to death in Michigan - an unnamed slave (owned by a man named Clapham) in 1763, and an African American named Ann Wyley in 1777. By race, seven of 15 were Native Americans, another seven white and only one black.

Although Michigan had abolished the death penalty, one execution took place after Michigan's statehood, when Anthony Chebatoris was hanged in Milan in 1938, for a murder he had committed while robbing a bank in Midland. This was a federal execution, outside of the state's jurisdiction, and the last execution to be performed in Michigan.

The death penalty has been constitutionally prohibited in Michigan since the 1963 constitution became effective in 1964.


The legal method of executions in Michigan was hanging, although two people were executed by shooting, one was bludgeoned and the method of one more execution remains unknown.