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.

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5 Responses to “15 August 1963 – Eddie Mays”

  1. You made a mistake on Eddie May’s execution date. You list it as June 15, 1963 when it was actually August 15, 1963. That’s a capital offense, but the Governor decided to pardon you.

  2. Thanks Guv’nor, I stand corrected.

    Sorry for bumping him off two months early. I took a punt on the wrong source.

    But thanks for letting us know.

    Hope you like the rest of the site.

  3. Thanks, Last Writes, I do like the site. But I wish you’d serve a last meal. I get hungry surfing through it. Anyway, I appreciate all the work you put in the site, so I’ll reward you with a true story which I suspect will be right up your alley.

    A police chief in New York City, name of Charles Becker, was collecting pay-offs from racketeers, circa 1910. One gambler named Herman Rosenthal refused to pay, so Becker arranged for four young hoodlums of his acquaintance (with names like Gyp the Blood; Dago Frank; Lefty Louie–they don’t make ’em like that anymore!) to rub Rosenthal out as a lesson to others who thought of not paying Becker.

    They shot him right outside a cafe in front of lots of people, then sped off. They ultimately got the chair (April 13, 1914), and there’s even an interesting story in that: someone damaged the dynamo for the chair just hours before the executions, and the authorities had to rush around frantically to fix it. They were determined that even though the four hoodlums would soon be “late,” their executions wouldn’t be. And they weren’t. (You can read all about it in Jonathan Root’s “One Night in July.”)

    But on to the story I intended for you before I got “short-circuited.”

    Becker was also sentenced to the chair and was executed July 30, 1915. I checked out the account of the execution in the New York Times, and there was an interesting side story:

    Back in 1903, as part of their graduation festivities, the Police Academy Class was given a tour of Sing Sing, including, of course, the death house. When they got to the electric chair, the guide invited anyone who cared to, to sit in it. All the graduates refused, except one. (No prizes for guessing who.) His comment at the time: “Hell, I’m not superstitious.”

    Hope you enjoyed this little stroll down Last Mile Lane.

  4. Cool story, thanks Seth.

    Glad you like the site. Will definitely see if we can rustle up some last meals. Although the historic figures may be a challenge. Watch this space.

  5. Jay Porter Says:

    ay what is the exact date that mays was sentenced to death can someone let me know i would be greatfully appreciated

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