Book Review, 0614 RIBJ, 62 RI Bar J., No. 6, Pg. 33

AuthorMichael S. Pezzullo, Esq. Fay Law Associates, Inc.

Book Review

Vol. 62 No. 6. Pg. 33

Rhode Island Bar Journal

June, 2014

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0May, 2014

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0The Hanging and Redemption of John Gordon: The True Story of Rhode Island's Last Execution by Paul Caranci

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0 Michael S. Pezzullo, Esq. Fay Law Associates, Inc.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0A member of a prominent local family was found brutally murdered on December 31, 1843, near the String Bridge crossing the Pocasset River on the Cranston-Johnston line. Footsteps from the murder scene led near the door of the home of Nicholas Gordon, a small businessman recently emigrated from Ireland. At the time, anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant hysteria reigned supreme within Rhode Island. During the ensuing investigation, the cart was placed before the horse. Evidence was linked to predetermined suspects. Three show trials were conducted, and for one defendant, led to the worse possible scenario in American criminal justice: the conviction and execution of an innocent man. The man's name was John Gordon.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Many of us have heard John Gordon's name when we talk about why Rhode Island abolished capital punishment, and whenever legislation is introduced to re-institute same. The state executed an innocent man, for which there is no excuse. Finally, we have an opportunity to learn more about John and his story.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0The Hanging and Redemption of John Gordon: The True Story of Rhode Island's Last Execution, authored by local historian and scholar Paul F. Caranci, chronicles the events which led to this human tragedy and flagrant miscarriage of justice. Caranci story takes place in the historical setting of post-Dorr Rebellion, mid-nineteenth century Rhode Island. This was a time when anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiments ran high among the state's powerful white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, law and order, Yankee establishment. After 1830, Rhode Island remained the only state without a written constitution or bill of rights. Under its supreme law, the Royal Charter of 1663, only freemen (i.e., males who were free of debt and in servitude) could own property and therefore vote.

\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0\xA0Nicholas Gordon, John's brother, immigrated alone to the United States from Ireland in 1836. He first opened a general store in the Knights ville section of Cranston and later obtained a liquor license from the town council. Nicholas purchased a rifle and handgun for protection at his...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT