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Thread: Montana Capital Punishment History

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Montana Capital Punishment History

    The death penalty in Montana history

    HELENA -- The modern debate over the death penalty in Montana boils down to this: Is it unusually cruel? Is it civilized?

    But in the earliest accounts of capital punishment in this state, execution was seen as precisely the opposite. It was a harbinger of civilized society.

    Back then, said Keith Edgerton, a Montana State University-Billings history professor and author of the book "Montana Justice," Montana was part of an enormous U.S. territory that also included Idaho.

    "Gold was discovered in 1862 and thousands of people rushed here to extract it," he said.

    The U.S. government didn't have the manpower to control such a vast chunk of ground and Montana's early mining camps were "outside the bounds of any organized law.

    "There was crime happening and there was no social stability whatsoever."

    Trials for these accused were "down and dirty," Edgerton said, and the preferred method of dispatching the condemned was quick and utilitarian: Hanging.

    Between December 1863 and January 1864, some 25 people were hanged in Montana by vigilante gangs.

    The prison was the first alternative to execution or letting criminals run free.

    But vigilantes weren't through with Montana, yet. The bloodiest run of vigilante justice in U.S. history happened in eastern Montana when a group that called itself Stewart's Stranglers rounded up and hanged some 35 suspected cattle rustlers in 1884.

    All executions -- vigilante and state-sanctioned -- were conducted by hanging until 1995, Edgerton said.

    So far, Montana has executed 72 men, according to state and historical figures. Until the 1940s, executions were handled by the counties, Edgerton said. The state maintained a traveling gallows and invitations were sometimes issued.

    "It was a means of social control," Edgerton said.

    The state's last hanging in Missoula in 1943 was also the state's last execution for 52 years. Montana didn't execute another inmate until 1995, when Duncan McKenzie was executed by lethal injection after spending 20 years on death row.

    Today, lethal injection is the only death sentence method allowed in the state.

    European settlement, of course, wasn't the beginning of Montana history. For centuries before, American Indians lived in the state. But there is little to suggest Montana's nine tribes used execution as a form of punishment.

    "We really had no kind of capital punishment," said Linwood Tall Bull, a cultural consultant for the Northern Cheyenne tribe.

    Sam Windy Boy, Jr., a cultural consultant for the Chippewa-Cree tribe, said the spiritual laws of the tribe uphold human life as a core belief.

    The most severe punishment meted by the Chippewa-Cree was banishment, he said, reserved for murderers. Under banishment, the guilty party was driven from the tribe, never again to have any help or contact with the tribe and considered dead thereafter.

    http://helenair.com/news/state-and-r...493b96125.html

  2. #2
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    What about Montana and when was it they last executed someone. Reason I ask is I'm wondering if they are ever going to execute the Canadian, Ronald Smith?

  3. #3
    Weidmann1939
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helen69 View Post
    What about Montana and when was it they last executed someone. Reason I ask is I'm wondering if they are ever going to execute the Canadian, Ronald Smith?
    Post Georgia Vs Furman/Wikipedia
    Executed person Race Date of execution Victims Under Governor
    1 Duncan McKenzie White May 10, 1995 Lana Harding Marc Racicot
    2 Terry Langford White February 24, 1998 Ned and Celene Blackwood Marc Racicot
    3 David Dawson White August 11, 2006 David, Monica, and Andrew Rodstein Brian Schweitzer

    Pre Georgia Vs Furman/From before the needles
    http://web.archive.org/web/200809131.../execution.htm

    MONTANA EXECUTIONS
    # NAME AGE RACE SEX OCCUPATION CRIME METHOD DATE MTPL COUNTY Last 10 Pre Furman Executions
    61 DANNER, SETH WHITE MALE MIGRANT FARM WKR MURDER-ROBBERY HANGING JUL 18 1924 GALLATIN
    62 WALSH, ROY 22 WHITE MALE MECHANIC MURDER-ROBBERY HANGING FEB 15 1925 JEFFERSON
    63 VETTERE, TONY WHITE MALE MINER MURDER HANGING JAN 1 1926 SILVER BOW
    64 SCHLAPS, FERDINAND 19 WHITE MALE RANCH HAND MURDER-ROBBERY HANGING MAY 20 1927 ROOSEVELT
    65 DAVISSON, ROLLIN 44 WHITE MALE LABORER MURDER HANGING NOV 6 1929 PARK
    66 HOFFMAN, GEORGE 45 WHITE MALE BARBER MURDER-ROBBERY HANGING AUG 29 1933 CHOUTEAU
    67 ZORN, HENRY 26 WHITE MALE EX CONVICT MURDER-BURGLARY HANGING APR 24 1935 CUSTER
    68 GRINER, GEORGE 38 BLACK MALE LABORER MURDER HANGING JAN 16 1935 CUSTER
    69 ROBIDEAU, FRANKLIN 49 WHITE MALE RANCH HAND MURDER-ROBBERY HANGING JAN 15 1938 STILLWATER
    70 SIMPSON, LEE 52 WHITE MALE FARMER MURDER HANGING DEC 30 1939 GOLDEN VALLEY
    71 COLEMAN, PHILLIP, JR. 24 BLACK MALE RAILROAD WORKER MURDER-ROBBERY HANGING SEP 10 1943 MISSOULA
    Last edited by Weidmann1939; 01-06-2014 at 03:50 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Inside Montana's death row, 1985

    http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townn...ize=1200%2C889

    (The story lists the guys, the order is left to right.)

    I spend a lot of time in The Gazette photo archives, searching for pictures that might be interesting to readers and fans of Billings and Montana history. Though much of what I find might interest only a small niche of readers, every so often I come across a photo or set of photos with a really interesting backstory that I think might appeal to a wider audience.

    The one who escaped from the jail

    Bernard James Fitzpatrick was on death row for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of 18-year-old Monte Dyckman, a Hardin grocery store clerk, on April 5, 1975.

    Fitzpatrick and his accomplices, Gary Radi, Travis Holliday, Paul Bad Horse Jr. and Edwin Bushman, were tried together. Radi, like Fitzpatrick, received a death sentence, and Holliday and Bad Horse were given 40 year sentences. Bushman was granted immunity in exchange for testimony against the other four.

    In October, 1977, two years after the trial ended, the Montana Supreme Court determined that the state had erred in trying all five defendants together. The convictions were reversed, and the men were tried separately. Fitzpatrick, who was determined to have shot Dyckman, was the only one to receive a death sentence on retrial. Radi was acquitted in his second trial.

    I was recently scanning some photos that our chief photographer, Larry Mayer, took during a visit to the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge in October, 1985. I figured we could use the photos if we ever had a story about the history of the prison.

    I knew there was some special feature story or package that these photographs accompanied in the paper, because it has always been rare for The Gazette to send photographers so far away for a story (Deer Lodge is 260 miles from Billings). But while I was looking at a photo from an envelope labeled "Death Row Inmates," Larry saw one and came over to my desk to see what I was working on.

    "That's a great photo," Larry said. He's a humble guy, so I knew he wasn't praising his own work. What he meant was that the photo had real historical significance.

    The photo, which shows three men in prison clothes walking through a narrow corridor enclosed by chain link fence, does, indeed, have an interesting backstory. Or, rather, three interesting backstories.

    The men depicted in the photo, shot through the chain link fence, are Bernard Fitzpatrick, Dewey Coleman and Duncan McKenzie. All three men were convicted in separate murder cases and sentenced to death.

    At the time, Montana had not executed any prisoners since the 1943 hanging of Philip J. Coleman. It would be nearly a decade before the next execution.

    While incarcerated, Fitzpatrick read a Gazette story about a Billings teenager who was in need of a kidney transplant. He offered to provide one of his kidneys, and suggested that officials transfer him to the Yellowstone County Jail, then located in an upper floor of the county courthouse, to carry out the procedure. The offer was declined.

    After a number of appeals, Fitzpatrick had his death sentence commuted in 1988.

    In March, 1990, Fitzpatrick was being temporarily held in the then-new Yellowstone County Detention Facility while he was being transferred to a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan. On March 30, 1990, he and six other inmates escaped from the jail by cutting a hole in the chain link fence of the jail's recreation yard.

    Fitzpatrick and another escapee broke into Billings Senior High School, and stole clothing and other items. The two were captured the following morning next to a house on O'Malley Drive. All of the other inmates were eventually captured.

    Following the escape, Fitzpatrick was handed sentences for the escape and burglary, and an additional 200 years as a persistent felony offender. He currently resides in Federal Correctional Institution, Sheridan, in Sheridan, Ore.

    The one who escaped from the gallows

    On July 4, 1974, 21-year-old Peggy Lee Harstad went missing. Her car was found the next day, abandoned just a few miles from her home in Rosebud. Her purse was found in a culvert a few more miles away.

    Harstad was driving between Rosebud and Harlowton when she offered a ride to two hitchhikers, later identified as Dewey Eugene Coleman and Robert Dennis Nank. Her body was discovered in late August on the north bank of the Yellowstone River near Forsyth.

    Nank and Coleman were arrested in October, 1974 in Boise. Nank confessed that he and Coleman had raped, beaten and drowned Harstad, while Coleman denied that he was involved. Both were charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping and sexual intercourse without consent.

    At the time, a conviction of aggravated kidnapping had a mandatory death sentence attached, but that law was repealed in 1977.

    Nank entered a plea agreement, allowing him to have the kidnapping charges dropped, and thus avoid the death penalty, in exchange for testifying against Coleman. Coleman was convicted on all three counts, and was sentenced to 100 years for the homicide and 40 years for the rape charge. For the kidnapping, he received the mandatory death sentence.

    Nank later escaped from the Nevada prison in which he was being held in 1981, along with three other convicted murderers. He was transferred to the prison from Deer Lodge out of fear of retribution for testifying against Coleman.

    Coleman appealed the sentence, and the Montana Supreme Court determined the mandatory death sentence to be unconstitutional. Coleman was again sentenced to death in 1978 under a new statute.

    The execution was scheduled for late November of 1981. Though no executions had been carried out in Montana for more than 39 years, the primary means of execution was still hanging. However, Montana State Prison Warden Hank Risley had the prison's gallows removed, stating that he didn't want his institution to carry out executions. Yellowstone County Sheriff Richard Shaffer took matters into his own hands, secretly constructing a gallows over a stairwell on the ninth floor of the Yellowstone County Courthouse.

    Just days before the hanging was to take place, Coleman was granted a stay of execution. The gallows were dismantled. Shaffer is said to have taken the gallows when he left office, and they haven't been seen since.

    Coleman later argued that his death sentence was handed down because he was black, and that Nank was given preferential treatment because he was white.

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Coleman in 1988, commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment.

    Coleman is eligible for parole this year, though his previous hearing with the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole in 2011 did not go in his favor. His inmate profile on the Montana Department of Corrections' Correctional Offender Network Search says that he is currently held at the Department of Corrections' Lewistown Infirmary.

    The one who couldn't escape

    The third man in the photo, Duncan Peder McKenzie Jr., was not as lucky as the other two in his attempts to avoid capital punishment.

    McKenzie was convicted of the January 21, 1974 kidnapping, rape and strangling death of Conrad teacher Lana Harding. He received the same mandatory death sentence for aggravated kidnapping that both Bernard Fitzpatrick and Dewey Coleman did. Just like those two men, Duncan McKenzie hoped to use the unconstitutional death sentence statute to argue that his sentence should be repealed.

    Eight stays of execution were granted to McKenzie, which drew his time on death row out to more than two decades. Ironically, McKenzie argued for a ninth stay of execution by saying that his lengthy stay on death row had constituted cruel and unusual punishment on the part of the state.

    The ninth stay was denied, and on May 10, 1995, McKenzie became the first inmate to be executed in Montana in nearly 52 years. He was also the first in Montana to ever be executed by lethal injection, and the first in U.S. history to spend more than 20 years on death row and not be exonerated, pardoned or have his sentence commuted.

    Stories about the execution noted that one of McKenzie's last requests, which was granted, was to be allowed to listen to a Marty Robbins album while he received his injection. His last meal consisted of a steak, French fries, a salad, orange sherbet and a glass of milk.

    More about the photo

    According to Larry, the photo was not planned. He and the reporter assigned to write the 1985 story that the photos were to accompany were on their way out of the prison when they saw the three men coming out of the maximum security area together.

    The story was part of a Sunday magazine package entitled "Inside the Montana State Prison," which ran on November 17, 1985.

    Duncan McKenzie saw the article and wrote a letter to Larry requesting three prints of the photo — one for each man. Larry obliged

    http://billingsgazette.com/news/crim...160a9f682.html
    Last edited by Mike; 01-27-2016 at 03:16 PM.
    Trying to get married before I turn 27.

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