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Notable Illinois Executions
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Thread: Notable Illinois Executions

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    Notable Illinois Executions

    Birger's execution was Illinois' last public one

    It has been written that as many as 5,000 people gathered on the courthouse square in downtown Benton, Ill., on April 19, 1928 to witness the execution of Charlie Birger, one of Southern Illinois' most notorious gangsters. Something tells me that if I had been alive back then and had the transportation, I would have been on the front row.

    Wishing I could have been there when Franklin County Sheriff Jim Pritchard used Phil Hanna's handcrafted noose to jerk Birger into eternity has nothing to do with supporting or opposing the death penalty. It has to do with witnessing history. Turns out Birger's execution was the last public hanging in Illinois.

    After public hangings were halted, executions in Illinois became a much more private affair — pretty much by invitation only.

    It was in May of 1994 that I received a letter from the Illinois Department of Corrections asking if I wanted to enter a lottery for the chance to be media witness at the execution of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

    Having never won a lottery before, I decided to throw my name in the hat. I saw it as a slim chance to witness history.

    For better or worse, I won the drawing. The "prize" was a seat in the death chamber at Statesville Prison just outside Joliet, Ill. to witness Gacy die from lethal injection. I joined a small group of victim's relatives, lawmen and prosecutors to witness the execution.

    I certainly got my money's worth. Walking from the chapel to the death chamber, I heard other inmates screaming — "Gacy's gonna' die twice tonight!"

    Turns out they were right. His execution was delayed when the IV tube clogged up after the first drug was injected. After drawing the curtains and reintroducing the IV, the execution was finally carried out, ending the killer clown's life.

    His last words to the warden were less than historic: "Tell everybody to kiss my ass."

    Years earlier, I accompanied a local sheriff as he dropped off an inmate at the Menard State Penitentiary at Chester, Ill. While there, I asked if I could see the death chamber.

    The electric chair known as "Old Sparky" was still there, even though the state had already switched to lethal injection as the preferred method of execution. I sat in "Old Sparky" for a minute or so, and that was enough for me.

    Earlier this year, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that ended the death penalty in Illinois. Those on death row had their sentences commuted to life in prison without parole.

    With Quinn's signature, Illinois' long history of capital punishment came to an end. The first execution was recorded in the Illinois Territory in 1779 when a slave was burned to death for witchcraft. It ended in 1999 with the execution of satanic killer Andrew Kokoraleis.

    Historians write that 360 murderers, rapists and at least one witch have been put to death in Illinois.

    I got to thinking about capital punishment in Illinois after learning that Rebecca Cocke of Benton won a five-year court battle this week to take possession of the noose that was used to hang Charlie Birger. It was her grandfather — Sheriff Jim Pritchard — who oversaw the hanging.

    As morbid as it may seem to some, I know why she wanted that noose. It was her link to history, and that's something I completely understand.


  2. #2
    Banned TheKindExecutioner's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Yeah, it's horrible. The Cook country prosecutor said he's against the death penalty ban.

    Maybe one day it can come back with a pro-DP governor again. There has to be some horrible homicides to wake people up again and those happen once in a while.

  3. #3
    Senior Member CnCP Legend
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Bucks County Pennsylvania
    County Keeps Electric Chair Next Door to Drew Peterson Trial Courthouse, No Plans Yet to Use it Again

    CHESTER, IL — Right next door to the courthouse where Drew Peterson is standing trial for allegedly plotting to have a prosecutor murdered, the county keeps an electric chair that was used to execute 17 men and one woman.

    Those 18 went from the death row at Menard Correctional Center — the same prison where Peterson now lives — to die in that chair between 1931 and 1938.

    The last two executions were carried out 10 minutes apart, according to the website Death Row Divas.

    First, there was 22-year-old Angelo Giancola. He was followed by Marie Porter, the 38-year-old woman who had hired him to murder her brother.

    “She had ordered the murder of her brother for $3,300 in life insurance,” Death Row Divas says. “He was killed on his wedding day, hours before his fiancée would have replaced Porter as beneficiary.”

    After Illinois moved on from the electric chair to lethal injection as its method for executing the condemned, Menard’s chair was taken from the prison and shipped to a Springfield warehouse, said Carl Welge, a volunteer at the Randolph County Museum in Chester.

    “It was just gathering dust up there and we were able to get it down here,” Welge said.

    The museum is housed in a stone building constructed during the Civil War. It was built to be an archive for the county’s vital records, Welge said, and was an annex to the old courthouse.

    Menard had one of only three electric chairs in Illinois, according to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The other two were at Stateville prison outside Joliet and the Cook County Jail in Chicago


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