RI House panel backs pardon of man hanged in 1845


A Rhode Island legislative committee has endorsed a bill that would ask the governor to pardon the last man executed in the state.

The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance legislation encouraging Gov. Lincoln Chafee to pardon John Gordon. The Irish immigrant was convicted of the 1843 killing of Amasa Sprague, a wealthy and politically-connected Rhode Island mill owner.

Gordon was hanged in 1845 at age 29.

Historians now say evidence of Gordon’s guilt was largely circumstantial, and that his trial was tainted by widespread bigotry against Irish Catholics.

Newport’s Democratic Rep. Peter Martin introduced the bill to clear Gordon’s name.

Chafee, an independent, says he supports the pardon. The House is expected to take up the legislation next week.

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