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Death Penalty: Yes
Mississippi River. Photo by NSBP.
From 1804-1940, all executions in Mississippi were carried out by hanging. The first execution by electrocution took place on October 11, 1940. From then until 1952, the electric chair was moved from county to county for 75 executions. Inmates were executed by lethal gas from 1954-1989. In 1984, the Mississippi legislature amended the state's death penalty statute to provide for lethal injection for all individuals sentenced to death after the law went into effect. Inmates sentenced prior to the change were still executed by lethal gas. In 1998, lethal gas was removed as an option.
Sabrina Butler was 17 years old when her 9-month old son, who had a heart murmur, stopped breathing. After attempts to resuscitate her son, Butler rushed to the hospital, where the young child was pronounced dead. The following day Butler was arrested for child abuse due to the bruises left by her resuscitation attempts. She was interrogated by the police and then prosecuted. Then, in 1990, she was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.
Her conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1992. (Butler v. State, 608 So.2d 314 (Miss. 1992)). The court said that the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident. At re-trial, she was acquitted on Dec. 17, 1995 after a very brief jury deliberation. It is now believed that the baby may have died either of cystic kidney disease or from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Milestones in abolition/reinstatement
In 2011, a bill was introduced to impose a moratorium on executions. The bill did not pass the state legislature.
Other interesting facts
Mississippi was one of two states to use a portable electric chair, and the first state to do so.