Michigan Has Enforced the Death Penalty a Remarkably Low Number of Times
Michigan is only responsible for one execution since becoming a state in 1873.
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about the Bryan Kohberger case in Idaho. Many outlets have reported that Kohberger, if convicted and sentenced to the death penalty, could face a firing squad. Kohberger is being charged with the murder of four University of Idaho students.
Currently, the death penalty is legal in 24 states and illegal in 23 states. In Pennsylvania, California, and Oregon the death penalty is still legal, but each has a governor-imposed moratorium on the punishment.
The recent news had me wondering about Michigan's history with the death penalty. This is where things get confusing. The remarkably low number of times as mentioned in the title is actually zero. Since becoming a state in 1837, only one person has been executed within the borders of Michigan, however, it was not under Michigan's jurisdiction.
Tony Chebatoris was a convicted murderer and bank robber. His trial took place in the United States District Court in Bay City, MI. Even though Michigan got rid of the death penalty for murder in 1847, Chebatoris was charged under the Federal Bank Robbery Act of 1934. This act basically turned his offenses into federal crimes, thus no longer under Michigan's jurisdiction.
After the trial, federal laws made it so that Chebatoris was required to be executed in Michigan. Then governor, Frank Murphy, tried to get his sentence commuted to life in prison by petitioning President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but Roosevelt refused due to lack of a legal basis to do that.
Chebatoris was executed by hanging on July 8th, 1938 in an institution near Milan, Michigan. The Federal Correctional Institution, Milan is located in Michigan but is not under Michigan's jurisdiction.
In fact, Michigan, Alaska, and Hawaii remain the only state to have never executed a criminal after they gained statehood in the United States of America.
On the other hand, 15 people have been executed in Michigan before 1873. Those executions took place under French or British jurisdiction or while Michigan was still a territory. You can see that list here.