15 August 1963 – Eddie Mays
For every seven people executed in the US, one person is reprieved because they’re found to be innocent. That’s life according to the Death Penalty Information Center (sic) – and we know it’s hard to believe when you consider our site covers just a small fraction of the numbers who’ve had the death penalty.
Yet, faced with such damning odds, it is no surprise that New York was beginning to rethink its stance. So it executed its last death row inmate on this day in 1963. The dubious honour went to Eddie Lee Mays, who had a date with Sing Sing’s electric chair after he murdered a female customer while doing over a bar in Harlem. Mays was 34 at the time of his death.
State of affairs
Just two years later New York deemed the penalty unlawful. However in 1995, it strangely did a u-turn and reinstated the death sentence after the then governor, George E Pataki, a staunch supporter, authorised its reintroduction. It became law again on 1 September of that year.
According to the organisation New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, the State has since spent over $200 million fighting various claims from people contesting their death penalties. To date, no-one has been executed in New York since 1963.