Did you know the last state-sanctioned execution by hanging occurred in 1996 in Smyrna, Del.?
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 23:04
Death row inmate Billy Bailey stepped up to the gallows at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del. on Jan. 25, 1996. John Painter, public information officer for the Delaware Department of Corrections, says the state passed legislation to ban hanging as a means of execution in 1986, having already switched to using lethal injections. However, criminals sentenced to death prior to the ban could still choose the gallows. Bailey was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder in 1980 after he was accused of murdering an elderly couple in Cheswold, Del. His court appeals lasted until 1996, when he chose to die by hanging at the age of 49. He was the last death row inmate in the U.S. to have the option.
Bailey weighed 220 pounds at the time of his execution, and the gallows required extensive renovation to ensure that they were structurally sound. The gallows have since been dismantled. Painter says certain macabre collectors would pay a hefty sum for the gallows, but the ethical choice was to have them destroyed. He maintains that capital punishment is legally required in service to the state of Delaware.
Delaware currently has 19 prisoners on death row, all of them male. The First State is one of 34 in the U.S. with the death penalty since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Research shows the system has flaws, most surprisingly a high cost. In Texas, the average death penalty case costs $2.3 million, the equivalent of three life terms in prison. In a poll from the University of Colorado, 88 percent of academics from the country’s top criminology programs say the death penalty does not deter homicide.