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Death Penalty: Yes
Indianapolis skyline. Public domain image.
The death penalty has been present in Indiana for much of the state's history. Death penalty laws were part of Indiana's legislation and culture even before Indiana was granted statehood in 1816. Hangings were fairly frequent in the 1800's, and in some cases public hangings resulted in violent mobs that killed the inmate even before they were hung. This changed with the introduction of the electric chair, which became the primary method of execution in 1913. The death penalty is still used, but executions have been limited in number since reinstatement in 1978, with less than 25 executions.
In 1978, Larry Hicks was sentenced to death for the stabbings of Norton Miller and Stephen Crosby at a neighbor's party. He was seen earlier threatening the two individuals with a knife. The Playboy Foundation became interested in Hicks' claim of innocence and granted Hicks money for a retrial after he passed a lie detector test. He was granted a retrial based on ineffective representation at his first trial, and the conviction was overturned once eyewitnesses recanted their testimonies and Hicks provided an alibi. He was released from death row in 1980 and cleared of charges.
Arthur Baird is an example of mental illness and the death penalty. Bairf stangled his wife, Nadine Baird, killing her and their unborn child in 1985. The next morning he went on to stab his parents, Arthur and Kathryn Baird. The unusual circumstances surrounding his case, including holding his dead wife for hours in front of a television and feeding his chickens and receiving a haircut before killing his parents, raised questions about Baird's sanity. Although the Board of Paroles denied his petition for clemency, Governor Mitch Daniels granted Baird clemency on August 9, 2009, the day before his scheduled execution.
Debra Denise Brown, along with Alton Coleman, was convicted for raping, robbing and murdering several victims throughout the summer of 1984. Both Brown and Coleman were sentenced to death in Indiana and Ohio. Brown's death sentence in Ohio was commuted to life without parole largely due to questions raised about her intellectual functioning and mental ability, as well as the dependency on Coleman to commit the crimes. Hesitations over her mental condition in Ohio raised questions over whether the death penalty would be appropriate in this situation, as mental conditions are an important factor in sentencing death row inmates. She is currently incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women but still faces the death penalty in Indiana. Her parter, Coleman, was executed in 2002.
Other interesting facts
Over time, Indiana has utilized three methods of execution. Until 1913, hanging was the primary method of execution for those convicted with the death penalty. Electrocution was then used until 1995, when lethal injection was first used. Lethal injection is the current primary method of execution in Indiana.
According to Indiana codes, the execution of a death row inmate must take place before sunrise on the execution day.
On July 1, 2002, Indiana shifted away from sentencing in death penalty cases with a judge towards sentencing with a jury. The judge is only to get involved should the jury not unanimously agree on the death sentence.