Library

HISTORY TOPICS

Capital Punishment

Interior of cellhouse, Minnesota State Prison, Bayport. Location no. Runk 1298 The State of Minnesota abolished capital punishment in 1911, making it one of twelve states and the District of Columbia where crimes are not punishable by death. Propounded by advocates as a deterrent to crime. Critics hold that claim to be unsupported by facts and crime statistics. Whether the state has a right to take life, whether taking life as punishment for crime is revenge or justice, whether the judicial system is unerring in its judgments, all are issues in the ongoing debate.

GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:

  • Abolition and Reinstatement of Capital Punishment During the Progressive Era and Early 20th Century, by John F. Galliher, Gregory Ray, and Brent Cook.
    [United States: s.n., 1992?]
    MHS call number: HV8699.U5 G34 1992.
  • And May God Have Mercy: The Case Against Capital Punishment, by Eugene B. Block.
    San Francisco: Fearon Pub., c1962.
    MHS call number: HV8698 .B5.
  • A History of Capital Punishment, by John Laurence; with a comment by Clarence Darrow.
    New York: Citadel Press, c1960.
    MHS call number: HV8694 .P7.
  • "Justice in Heaven: The Trial of Ann Bilansky," by Matthew Cecil.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 55, no. 8 (winter 1997-98): pp. 350-363.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 M66 v.55.8, or view an electronic version of the article (PDF).
  • "Minnesota's John Day Smith Law and the Death Penalty Debate," by Michael Anderson.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 58, no. 2 (summer 2002): pp. 84-91.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5 M66 v.58.2, or view an electronic version of the article (PDF).
  • Murder in Minnesota: A Collection of True Cases, by Walter N. Trenerry. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1962.
    MHS call number: Reference Desk HV6533.M6 T7.

PRIMARY RESOURCES:

  • Office of the Governor, Execution Records (1888-1910).
    Certified copies of minutes of conviction and sentence, and sometimes copies of other trial documents, relating to convicts sentenced to death. Usually also includes notations of date set for execution and date the execution warrant was issued.
    MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks — filed under Governor, Execution — for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 1½ boxes), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • Stillwater State Prison, Annual and Biennial Reports (1867-1952).
    MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks — filed under Stillwater State Prison — for a detailed list of boxes and locator numbers (there are 2 boxes).
  • Stillwater State Prison, Attorney General's Opinions (1887-1970).
    Primarily opinions of the attorney general's office regarding such prison related matters as prisoners' rights, convict labor, personnel, pardon and parole, prison finances and property, sentencing, jurisdiction, and prison industries. The files include correspondence, legislation, contracts, and related documents.
    MHS call number: See the black State Archives Notebooks — filed under Stillwater State Prison — for a detailed folder list and locator number (there are only 10 folders of material).
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.