Death Row History

The first execution to be carried out in Delaware was reportedly a hanging in September of 1662. Accounts of early executions are sketchy, but historical newspaper articles report that there were seven executions in Delaware from 1831-1902. Formal records were established in 1902, and those records show 25 people were executed, all by hanging, from 1902-1946.

1958: On April 2, Governor J. Caleb Boggs signed into law a bill abolishing the death penalty. Delaware became only the second state in the nation to abolish the death penalty. Missouri, in 1917, was the first state to do so.

1961: The Delaware Legislature passed a bill reinstating the death penalty, but Governor Elbert N. Carvel vetoed the bill on December 12. However, both the Senate and House overrode the veto, so on December 18 the death penalty was reinstated.

1986: Legislation was enacted that made lethal injection the mode of execution. The law also stipulated that persons sentenced to death prior to the new law's enactment would have the choice of choosing their mode of execution - either hanging or lethal injection. In response to the new law, the Department of Correction rebuilt the gallows and purchased a mobile lethal injection chamber.

1992: On March 14, Delaware carried out the execution of Steven Brian Pennell, the first execution in the state since 1946.

1994: On April 11, Governor Thomas Carper signed into law legislation that mandates an execution is to be carried out between the hours of 12:01-03:00 a.m.

1996: On January 25, Billy Bailey was the first person in nearly fifty years to be executed by hanging. Records indicate that the last previous execution by hanging took place in 1946.

2000: The Department of Correction constructed a new execution chamber on the grounds of the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC). The chamber was a permanent structure that replaced the previously used trailer. The execution of Dwayne L. Weeks on November 17 was the first carried out in the new chamber.

2003: The DOC dismantled its gallows because the last inmate eligible to be executed by hanging won a new trial and life sentence. This made the Delaware gallows obsolete, so the structure was dismantled and disposed.