Capital punishment has been illegal in Michigan since the state legislature abolished it in 1846. Michigan was the first English-speaking government in the world to completely abolish the death penalty for ordinary crimes. Although the penalty was retained on the books for treason until 1963, Michigan has not executed any person since statehood. With one exception, all executions in areas which are now part of Michigan were performed before the state was admitted to the Union. Approximately a dozen people are known to have been executed – all by hanging – from 1683 to 1836. At least one of those was determined to be the execution of an innocent man. Although Michigan had abolished the death penalty, the one execution which took place after statehood was granted was in 1938, but it was a federal execution, outside of the state’s jurisdiction, and also the last execution to be performed in Michigan.
Click here to listen to the Death Penalty Information Center’s podcast on the history of the death penalty in Michigan.