Rhode Island has executed at total of 52 people during the years 1673-1845, but only 7 of those occured after it was admitted as a state,. Half of these were executions for piracy when 26 sailors were hanged on the same day in 1723.
Rhode Island abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 1852, becoming one of the first states to do so. The abolition lasted until 1873, when the General Assembly reinstated the death penalty for the crime of murder committed while serving a life sentence. In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia, Rhode Island rewrote its death penalty in 1973 to include a mandatory death sentence for murder committed while under confinement in a state penitentiary. However, the mandatory death sentence was declared unconstitutional by Rhode Island’s Supreme Court in 1979, and in 1984 the General Assembly removed the death penalty from the Rhode Island Penal Code. Several attempts have been made to reinstate the death penalty, although none have made much progress in the state legislature.