Historical Federal Executions The U.S. Marshal has been historically assigned the task of conducting
the death sentences on those condemned by federal courts. This stemmed
from “An Act for the Punishment of certain Crimes against the United
States” (April 30, 1790) and the
Judiciary Act of 1789.
The first known federal execution under this authority was conducted by
U.S. Marshal Henry Dearborn of Maine on June 25, 1790. He was ordered to
execute one Thomas Bird for murder on the high seas. In coordinating
this, Dearborn spent money on building a gallows and coffin.
Later, as U.S. Marshals saw more death sentences imposed, a few
districts resorted to more permanent equipment.
U.S. Marshal E.D. Nix of
Oklahoma had a portable scaffold that could be easily packed for travel
Convicted of President Lincoln's Assassination,
Surratt, David Herold, George Atzerodt and Paine were hanged on the grounds of present-day Fort McNair.
Most death sentences required use of the gallows until the mid Twentieth
Century. The famous “Hanging Judge,” the Honorable Isaac Parker of the
Western District of Arkansas, ordered 160 known executions, of which 79
were actually carried out after the appeals and commutation process.
Often hangings created a spectacle, so most crowds were kept at a
distance. The Western District resorted to tickets to distinguish
relatives and witnesses from the curious.
The most famous federal executions attended by the U.S. Marshals were
those of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in June 1953. U.S. Marshal William
A. Carroll of the Southern District of New York rented the electric
chair at the famous Sing Sing Prison and saw to his duties. On March 15,
1963, U.S. Marshal Covell Meek of the Northern District of Iowa oversaw
the execution by hanging of convicted murderer and kidnapper Victor
The latest federal executions were that of Louis
Jones, Jr., on March 18, 2003, and those of Timothy McVeigh and Juan
Raul Garza, on June 11 and 19, 2001, respectively. Jones kidnapped,
assaulted and killed Private Tracie Joy McBride. McVeigh was sentenced
to death for the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma
City. U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson of Northern Indiana attended both the
McVeigh and Garza executions at the Federal Penitentiary at Terre Haute.
Maledon, Deputy U.S. Marshal who was responsible for carrying
out executions for Judge Parker
Compiled by Dave Turk, Historian,
U.S. Marshals Service