Season 6 – Episode 5: The Last Hanging in Detroit

Season 6 – Episode 5: The Last Hanging in Detroit

On a fall day in 1830, convicted wife killer Stephen Simmons was hung in downtown Detroit. His execution was as public as anything could be. Bleachers were set up on three sides of the scaffold, as people came from miles around to witness the execution. Maybe they didn’t like what they saw, because Michigan soon became the first English-speaking government to outlaw the death penalty.

We speak with legal scholar David Chardavoyne, author of A Hanging In Detroit: Stephen Gifford Simmons and the Last Execution Under Michigan Law. Lawyer Eugene Wanger tells us how the ban on capital punishment went through when the state’s constitution was rewritten in the early 1960s. And historian Matthew Daley, of Grand Valley State University, explains why it never took hold in the state’s early days.