Posts Tagged ‘death penalty New York’

The last man executed by New York state

May 24, 2012

Eddie Lee Mays had no idea how history would remember him.

But the Harlem resident occupies a distinct place in corrections record books.

On August 15, 1963, he was the last person put to death by New York state.

By all accounts, Mays was a bad dude. He’d already served time for killing a man in North Carolina, his home state.

Some time after his release, the 32-year-old and two accomplices held up the Friendly Tavern, at 1403 Fifth Avenue in East Harlem (below, a bodega today), one early morning in March 1961.

“[Mays] demanded that the patrons put their wallets and purses on the bar,” the Daily News recalled in a 1998 article.

But a 31-year-old named Maria Marini was frozen in fear and didn’t move quickly enough. An enraged Mays pointed a gun to her temple and fired, killing her instantly.

After his arrest, trial, and conviction for first-degree murder, “Mays had said he would rather ‘fry’ than spend his life in prison,” reported the Daily News.

And that’s what happened in the death house at Sing Sing. He was the 695th person to be executed by the state since 1890. Two years later, the death penalty in New York was repealed.

It was restored in the 1990s, then deemed unconstitutional in 2005, with no executions carried out and no one on death row to execute.

A Brooklyn wife’s life ends in the electric chair

June 11, 2011

Three men had already been executed by the state of New York by the time it was Martha Place’s turn in March 1899.

As the first woman to be sentenced to death via electrocution, she received lots of media attention.

Place, 44, was living at 598 Hancock Street in Brooklyn with her husband, William, a widower who had a 17-year-old daughter, Ida.

When William came home one night in 1898, he was met by an ax-wielding Martha. Upstairs lay Ida’s body, with her eyes burned out. Later it was determined that Martha suffocated her after throwing acid in her face.

Martha was put on trial; every day she wore the same black dress. Convicted of Ida’s murder, she was sentenced to be electrocuted at Sing Sing within six weeks, reported The New York Times in July 1898.

“The indifferent, rather cynical look which was on her face throughout the trial had entirely disappeared,” the Times stated.

“She was pale, and wept as she entered the room. She trembled as she faced Judge Hurd, and seemed for the first time to realize the position in which her crime had placed her.”

Appeals for a new trial, plus a request by Governor Teddy Roosevelt to spare her life, didn’t work out.

On March 20, 1899, Place was strapped into the wooden chair; out of deference to her sex, electrodes were put on her ankles rather than a more intrusive spot on her body. She was buried in New Jersey.


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