|Birth: ||1815, Ireland|
|Death: ||Feb. 16, 1845|
Rhode Island, USA
John Gordon was the last person executed by Rhode Island. His execution has been ascribed by some researchers to anti-Roman Catholic and anti-Irish immigrant bias. His last words were: "I forgive them, I forgive all my prosecuters because they do not know what they were doing. I hope all good Christians pray for me"
In 1844, Gordon was tried and convicted for the December 31, 1843 beating murder of Amasa Sprague, a Cranston textile factory owner. Sprague was a member of a prominent Rhode Island family. His brother William was a United States senator. Six months before his murder, Amasa Sprague had used his family's political influence to have Cranston resident Nicholas Gordon's liquor license removed by the city council. (Sprague's employees were habitually getting drunk at Gordon's premises.) Nicholas Gordon and his brother John were Roman Catholic immigrants from Ireland. Nicholas, John and William Gordon (another brother) were all tried for murder, but only John was convicted, a conviction based on contradictory circumstantial evidence. William was found not guilty and in Nicholas's case, held after John's execution, the jury was hung. John Gordon was executed by hanging in the state jail in Providence. The court justices, which included Justice Job Durfee, that were involved in all three trials acted as both trial judges and the court of final appeal. Included in jury instructions, Durfee essentially told the jurors to "give greater weight to Yankee witnesses than Irish witnesses."
Seven years after Gordon's execution, Rhode Island abolished the death penalty. Although it was reintroduced in 1872, no executions took place before capital punishment was abolished again by the state in 1984. In the 1990s, when the Rhode Island General Assembly considered reinstating the death penalty, Gordon's case was used by those against reinstatement to demonstrate the dangers of capital punishment.
Old Saint Marys Cemetery
Rhode Island, USA
Created by: Richard Arthur Fenner
Record added: Nov 25, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 44786275