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Irishman may be pardoned for conviction – 166 years after his execution

Rhode Island politician determined to clear name of Irishman put to death in 1845.

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who favours the pardon.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who favours the pardon.
Image: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

LAWMAKERS IN RHODE ISLAND in the US are considering legislation seeking a pardon for an Irish immigrant executed in 1845 for killing a wealthy local businessman.

John Gordon, 29, was the last person executed in the state on Valentine’s Day, 1845, according to the Phoenix.

He was convicted of killing wealthy mill owner Amasa Sprague, who had political connections.

Historians claim Gordon’s trial was heavily prejudiced by anti-Irish Catholic bigotry which was widespread at the time in the Catholic-minority town, and say that evidence of his guilt was largely circumstantial. Jury service would have been limited to a selection of property owners.

The bill, introduced with the intention of clearing Gordon’s name, would encourage the governor Lincoln Chafee to pardon the Irishman. Chafee has told the AP that he supports the pardon.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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