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Capital Punishment Nevada Style: A History

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CaPiTal PUniShMenT nevaDa STyle
All photos in article courtesy of The Nevada Historical Society. BY PATTY CAFFERATA, ESq.
Since 1860, one woman and 74 men have been executed for committing murder in Nevada. the first legal executions were carried out by hanging, in the county where the murder occurred. After 1903, 10 murderers were sent to the gallows at the state prison in Carson City. the method of execution has evolved as the legislature sought more humane ways to put murderers to death. on rare occasions, when more than one killer was found guilty, they were both executed at the same time.
The first ga s chamber at the Nevada State Priso n in Carson C ity.
on and its of Nevada State Pris Nevada Lawyer June 2010
ficers, circa 1880.
Only wOMan
in nevaDa
The husband and wife team of Josiah (age 44) and Elizabeth (age 40) potts was hanged for the murder of Miles Faucett in Carlin, Elko County. In a carefully calculated plan, Elizabeth, who was already married to Josiah, married Faucett in California in March 1887. when her first marriage was discovered, Elizabeth The only woman executed in Nevada, fled back to Josiah. Obsessed, convicted murderer Elizabeth Potts Faucett followed her and died with her husband and partner lived in the potts’ barn for in crime. a few months. Sometime after January 1, 1888, after signing all his property over to the Josiah, Faucett mysteriously disappeared. In September, the potts Four train robbers were hanged at the state sold their house and moved to wyoming. penitentiary for the murder of Jack Welsh on a freight when the new owners found human bones in the cellar, the Elko County sheriff charged the potts train moving through Humboldt County. The murderers with Faucett’s murder. Josiah’s story was that, once included ex-cons and repeat offenders T. F. Gorman and John Sevener, 20-year-old Albert Lindeman, aka Frank confronted about his alleged attempt to molest William, and 17-year-old Fred Roberts. the potts’ daughter, Faucett killed himself. Alone, They took $1.25 from Welsh and then tried to push Josiah dragged the body to the cellar, set it on fire him off the train. Clinging to the side ladder, Welsh and later cut the body up. pled for his life. Sevener beat Welch with a revolver, The jury did not buy the story and the couple kicked him in the face and stomped on his hands. was sentenced to hang. Troubled by imposing a When Roberts riddled Welsh with bullets, Welsh fell death sentence on a woman, District Court Judge off the train. Incredibly, the next morning, Welsh Rensselaer biglow unsuccessfully argued on appeal was discovered alongside the tracks and taken to the that both sentences should be commuted because Winnemucca hospital, where he lived long enough to she was the guiltier of the two. describe the crime and to identify his assailants. witnesses watched as the murderers walked up Sevener, Gorman and Roberts were tried twice the 13 steps to the gallows platform in the Elko before they were convicted and sentenced to death. County jail yard. The couple sat quietly while the Lindeman was tried separately and convicted. Ironically, guards bound their hands with leather straps. Their before the trial, a lynch mob gathered outside the jail planning to string Lindeman up. The sheriff spirited shoes were removed, ropes slipped around their him to the state prison for safekeeping. Lindeman also necks and black hoods placed over their heads.
At 10:47 a.m. on June 20, 1890, the trap doors dropped. Elizabeth died minutes before Josiah, becoming the only woman executed in nevada history.
largeST nUMber Of MUrDererS exeCUTeD TOgeTher
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received a death sentence and the four were hanged in the second execution at the state prison on November 17, 1905. (The first inmate hanged at the prison was John Hancock on September 5, 1905.)
Only MUrDerer exeCUTeD by The firing SqUaD
After January 1, 1912, the legislature allowed the condemned to choose between the gallows or firing squad. Two murderers selected death by shooting, but only one was executed; the other’s sentence was commuted. On May 14, 1913, Serbian Andrija Mircovich was executed for the stabbing death of John Gregovich at the Tonopah & Goldfield Railway depot. Mircovich believed that Gregovich cheated him when handling the distribution of Andrija’s cousin Chris Mircovich’s estate. A recent arrival to the country, 33-year-old Andrija spoke little English and had little understanding of the probate system in Nevada. Mircovich preferred the firing squad to the noose, claiming it would be quicker. Warden George Cowing tried to talk Mircovich out of the firing squad but failed. This prompted Cowing to order a 1,000pound execution machine or “shooting gallery of steel.” The equipment included a steel cage with three Maxim silencers and three Model 1899 .30-.30 Savage rifles. After the machine arrived at the prison, Cowing wanted nothing more to do with the execution and resigned. Denver Dickerson, a former Lieutenant Governor and warden, was appointed warden. The three guards, selected by drawing names out of a hat, entered the firing chamber and then 12 witnesses were admitted to a roped-off area in the yard. At about 11:30 a.m., guards marched Mircovich to the yard, where he was strapped to the chair bolted to a platform. He refused a black cap or blindfold, stating he wanted to see. Prison Doctor McLean pinned a heart-shaped target on his chest. Mircovich kept his head up high as instructed. The guns were secured on stationary stands inside the firing chamber shed. Two rifles were loaded with soft-nosed ball cartridges and one gun was loaded with a blank. All the distances had been carefully measured and tested for accuracy. Each guard checked the aim on the rifle to be sighted on the defendant’s heart. The command to fire was given and the bullets met their mark. Doctor McLean declared the death instantaneous. The autopsy showed the two balls within 2/3 inches of each other in Mircovich’s heart. The design of the shooting cage prevented the witnesses from knowing who fired the fatal shots and the guards from seeing Mircovich die. The cage was never used again. Mircovich was the last murderer to be executed at the prison – until the gas chamber was installed.
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Sketch of the “shooting gallery of steel,” an automated firing squad machine used only once.
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me never recorded) and Joe Ibapah, a me mber of the Goshut e tribe, were executed together at the prison for the mu rder of Fred Foreman in Montello, Elko County in Dece mber 1905. After drinking Jama ican Ginger (a paten t medicine containing 70-80 pe rcent alcohol) all da y, the pair saw a light in a railroad tie house near the railr oad tracks. They discovered Fred Foreman, a white ma in there and demand n, sleeping ed he buy them some more liquor. He said he could no t because he had on ly one leg and walked with a crutch . Ibapah testified th at Johnny gave him a knife and said, “I’ll hold his hands an d you cut his throat.” Ibapah said he killed Foreman by cutting his throat from ear to ea r. After the brutal ki lling, they jabbed out Forman’s left ey e and broke his right arm, then rolled his body into the fir e and piled ties on to p of him. At trial, Antelope Jack, Chief of the Goshute tribe , testified that Ibapah was a good bo y, until his father ga ve him liquor when he was 12, an d added that Ibapah killed his father because he had cut an d hurt his mother ma ny times. Sentenced to death, they went to the ga llows at the state prison around noon on December 3, 1906.
Only DU al hangin g aT The STaT e PriSOn Shoshone “Indian Jo hnny” (last na
Nevada’s first gas chamber.
firST exeCUTiOn in a gaS ChaMber in The COUnTry
In March 1921, the Nevada Legislature sought again to provide a more humane method of execution, garnering national attention when it became the first state to use poisonous gas to execute a murderer. Three men were set for execution on February 8, 1924. Gee Jon was executed, but the other defendants’ sentences were commuted. Warden Denver Dickerson also presided over this first execution in the gas chamber. Twenty-nine-year-old Gee
Nevada Lawyer June 2010
Jon, a member of the famous Hop Sing Tong in San Francisco, was convicted of killing Tom Quong Kee in his Mina cabin in a “tong” war. Allegedly, Kee was a member of a rival tong. Hughie Sing and Jon hired Reno cabby George Pappas to drive them to Mina. The men sent Pappas to buy some beer while they walked to Kee’s cabin and murdered him. At trial, Sing testified they went to Mina to kill Kee and Jon fired the two shots that killed him. Using prison labor, the state constructed a squat, stone building lined with steel in the center of the yard. Observers watched through a window, standing behind a black line painted on the floor of the yard. Jon‘s thighs were strapped to the plain, unpainted pine chair with his arms linked to the thigh straps. Hydrocyanic (HCN) gas, smelling like almonds, was sprayed into the 10by-12-foot room; Jon’s movements ceased within six minutes. Although Hughie Sing was also sentenced to die in the gas chamber for Kee’s murder, his sentence was commuted. In the 1930s, the state built a new “gas house.” The chamber was described as having white walls and large windows for observation like a finely built surgery suite – almost cheery.
The State Bar of Nevada Board of Governors and the Access to Justice Commission extend a special thanks to the following attorneys who generously accepted cases in March 2010 through the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Washoe Legal Services, Nevada Legal Services and Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevadans.
Adriana Rincon Alicia Johnson Allison Joffee Amy B. Honodel Aneta Mackovski Arlene Casillas Barbara Torvinen Brenoch Writhlin Carol Kline Cheryl C. Bradford Christopher D. Carr Courtney L. Dolan Cuthbert Mack Damon K. Diaz Dan Bonneville Dan R. Waite Daniel Young Darcy Houghton David Mincin Dawn R. Throne Denise A. Pifer Denise Bradshaw Dorothy Nash-Holmes Elizabeth Zagajeski Elyse Tyrell Erika Pike Turner Gregory S. Mills Guinness I. Ohazuruike Ismael D. Santellan James Hales James J. Jimmerson James Kalicki Jeff Geen Jennifer H.W. Tsai Jennifer Lewkowski Jessica Prunty John Bartlett Kathleen Ja Sook Berquist Katie L. Fellows Kenneth Jordan Kristine Brewer Laura Deeter Lawrence Winking Lisa McClane Lisa S. Mathis Mario Fenu Marjorie A. Guymon Marta Presti Marvin L.P Simeon . Micah S. Echols Michael J. Harker Michael Terry Michelle Darquea Muriel Skelly Nancy Momcilovic Paola Armeni Patricia A. Palm Paul Edwards Paul H. Schofield Paul R. Kirst Preston P Rezaee . Rebecca Burton Shauna M. Hughes Shiv K. Kapoor Stephanie B. MacKeen Susan M. Sakio Susan Trautman Susan Williams Scann Thomas H. Fell Timothy S. Cory Travis Gerber Trevor Gross William J. Urtis
Only DUal exeCUTiOn in The gaS ChaMber
On July 15, 1954, the only dual execution in the gas chamber took place.
Ex-cons Frank Pedrini (age 47) and Leroy Linden (age 35) murdered Clarence Dodd. He picked them up hitchhiking in Winnemuca on Highway 40 (now Interstate 80). A carpenter, Dodd was returning home to California after visiting his mother. They forced Dodd off the highway near Mustang, holding him at gunpoint on the Truckee riverbank. Linden’s story was that he went to buy beer in the Mustang Station and came back to find Pedrini and Dodd on the ground. They told Dodd they were going to tie him up, leave him and drive his car to Reno. Linden claimed he walked away from them to watch the highway. Pedrini asked Dodd if he had any rope, and Dodd apparently said, “Yes, in the trunk.” Dodd retrieved a length of binder twine. Linden claimed he heard
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Beverly Salhanick Bill Kapalka Brian Blackham Bryce Earl Carol Kingman Chris Carr Christian Hale Clarke Walton Cuthbert Mack David Mann Dawn Throne Debbie Bensch Derek Jamison Ed Chanskey Gabrielle Jones Gene Kaufmann Jennifer Peterson John Krieger Kari Molnar Kimberly Cooper Lindsay Stadtlander Marilee Ryan Mario Fenu Mariteresa RiveraRogers Michael Bohn Michael Nue Nadia Jurani Nadia von Magdenko Nedda Ghandi Nik Nicki Nikki Dupree Rhonda Forsberg Richard Crane Robert Blau Sheryl Hatcher Soraya Veiga Susan Noyce Tera Hodge Trina Dahlin
BOLD honors multiple cases accepted and/or sessions conducted within the month. June 2010 Nevada Lawyer 11
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a shot and ran to where the men were. Pedrini said he did it because Dodd had seen his tattoo on his hand and would be able to identify him. Pedrini’s story differed from Linden’s. He claimed they both tugged on the 30-inch piece of binder twine to strangle Dodd. Then, they covered the body with rocks. Hunters found Dodd’s garroted body in December. In January 1954, Linden confessed, implicating Pedrini. The killers had extensive criminal records and allegedly met as cellmates in the Folsom State Prison in California. While Pedrini does not fit the description of a serial killer, he had served time for two previous murders. Washoe County District Attorney Jack Streeter and his deputy Dyer Jensen prosecuted the murderers, while Bruce Thompson and Leslie Gray defended them at trial. The jury found the men guilty and sentenced them to death. Pedrini got his last wish: he wanted to die with Linden and insisted they be executed together. They entered the gas chamber two minutes apart and were strapped in the metal chairs at 6:05 a.m. After the door was closed, the HCN gas was released at 6:10 a.m. Linden’s heart stopped by 6:18 a.m. Pedrini’s heart stopped by 6:19 a.m.
In Nevada’s fi rst 43 years executions w (1860 to 1903 ere carried ou ), 30 t by hanging. state executed Then, the one murdere r using a firi From 1924 th ng squad. rough 1979, 32 men died the lethal ga from inhaling s in the gas ch amber. Since 1985, le thal injection out a death se has been used ntence. Three to carry drugs are ad first to sedate ministered, , then to para lyze the mus breathing an cles and ceas d finally pota e ssium chloride deadly heart to cause a attack. From 1985 to 2006 have been pu , 12 murdere t to death by rs injection, all “voluntarily,” but one meaning they dropped thei did not oppose r appeals and their executio ns. Of the 80 men currently on Wilson has be death row, E en there the dward longest, sinc sentenced fo e 1979. He w r killing Ren as o Police Offic In the last 10 er Jimmy Hof 7 years (1903f. have been ex 2010), 45 mur ecuted in Nev derers ada. Since 18 number of ex 60, the total ecutions in N evada is 75.
PATTy CAFFeRATA is the former district attorney of Lincoln, Lander and Esmeralda counties. She wishes to thank the Nevada State Prison official who answered numerous questions on the statistics regarding capital punishment and Nevada Archivist II Chris Driggs for finding prison records and related documents.
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June 2010

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