23 January 1963 – James Abner Bentley
The execution of James Abner Bentley kicked off an unofficial backlash against the death penalty in California.
Bentley was sent to the gas chamber on this day in 1963. But this was at a time when more liberal law makers, such as Governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown, were emerging, who were wholly against death as a sentence.
Right to life?
This life for a life sat uncomfortably amid this more humane climate and it sparked a spate of stays of execution. Death row inmates were effectively staving off their final days indeterminately, over a period that lasted four years.
Bentley’s case in itself was unremarkable. He was found guilty of killing an off licence owner in Fresno and, as the state dictated, that meant death. His execution led to an unofficial investigation in to the gas chamber as a means of penalty and paved the way for the real investigation at the end of the ’60s.