The History of California's Death Penalty


1872
Capital punishment is authorized in Penal Code.


1891
California law is amended allowing for executions to take place inside state prisons only. Previous executions were conducted by county sheriffs.


March 3, 1893
Jose Gabriel is hanged at San Quentin State Prison in the first state-conducted execution. Hangings are carried out at both state prisons: San Quentin and Folsom.


August 27, 1937
Gas chamber replaces hanging as method of execution.


December 3, 1937
Ninety-second and last hanging at Folsom. All executions now take place at San Quentin.


December 2, 1938
Robert Lee Cannon and Albert Kessel are the first to be executed in the San Quentin gas chamber.


November 21, 1941
Ethel Leta Juanita Spinelli becomes the first woman executed in California.


May 1, 1942
215th and last hanging at San Quentin.


August 8, 1962
Elizabeth Ann Duncan becomes the fourth and most recent woman to be executed.


April 8, 1967
Aaron Mitchell becomes the 194th person executed in the gas chamber and the last executed until 1992.


February 18, 1972
California Supreme Court declares the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the state constitution. 107 inmates are taken off death row and resentenced. A similar decision is rendered in 1976 and 68 inmates are resentenced.


August 11, 1977
Legislature re-enacts the death penalty. Under the new statute, evidence in mitigation is permitted. The death penalty is reinstated as a possible punishment for first degree murder under certain conditions. These "special circumstances" include: murder for financial gain, murder by a person previously convicted of murder, murder of multiple victims, murder with torture, murder of a peace officer, murder of a witness to prevent testimony and several other murders under particular circumstances.


1977
In 1977, the Penal Code was revised to include the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. At that time, the punishment for kidnapping for ransom, extortion, or robbery was changed from death to life without parole. Treason, train derailing or wrecking, and securing the death of an innocent person through perjury became punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole.


November 7, 1978
Voters approve a broader death penalty law that replaces the 1977 statute.


April 21, 1992
California resumes executions with the execution of Robert Alton Harris.


August 27, 1992
Lethal injection is added as a method of execution. Inmates may now choose between injection and lethal gas.


August 24, 1993
David Mason is executed after he forfeited his appeals.


October 4, 1994
Gas chamber is ruled cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. Lethal injection is now sole the method of execution.


February 23, 1996
Willliam Bonin is the first executed by lethal injection.


May 3, 1996
Keith (Danny) Williams is executed.


July 14, 1998
Thomas Martin Thompson is executed, despite evidence of innocence.


Febuary 9, 1999
Jaturun Siripongs, a Thai national, becomes the sixth person to be executed by the state of California.


May 4, 1999
Manual Babbitt, a vietnam war veteran with a history of mental illness and post traumatic stress syndrome, is executed.


March 15, 2000
Darrell Young Elk Rich, the first Native American to be executed by the State of California since reinstatement of the death penalty, is executed. Young Elk's request for a sacred sweat lodge, a purification ceremony equivalent to a Catholic's last rites, was denied.


March 27, 2001
Robert Lee Massie was executed by the state of California. Massie had voluntarily ended his appeals process after nearly thirty years on death row.


January 29, 2002
Stephen Wayne Anderson is executed by the state of California.


January 19, 2005
Donald Jay Beardslee is executed by the State of California.


December 13, 2005
Stanley Tookie Williams is executed by the State of California.


January 17, 2006
Clarence Ray Allen is executed by the State of California.
 

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