|Died||June 18, 1885 (age 23)
Fort Smith, Arkansas
|Criminal penalty||Death by hanging|
|Conviction(s)||Robbery and murder|
James Arcene (ca. 1862 – June 18, 1885) was the youngest child sentenced to death, who was subsequently executed for his crime, in the United States. Arcene, a Cherokee man, was hanged by the U.S. federal government in Fort Smith, Arkansas for his role in a robbery and murder committed thirteen years earlier, when he was 10 years old.
He and a Cherokee adult named William Parchmeal noticed William Feigel, a Swedish national, making a purchase in a store. They followed him when he left, heading for Fort Gibson, and caught up with him about two miles outside of the fort. With robbery as a motive, they shot Fiegel six times before crushing his skull with a rock. Arcene and Parchmeal then divested Fiegel's corpse of its boots and money, totalling only 25 cents ($4.87 today).
Arcene was arrested and tried for the robbery and murder of his victim, but escaped and eluded capture until he was apprehended and executed at the age of 23. He and Parchmeal were ultimately brought to justice by Deputy Marshal Andrews, after the case had lain cold for more than ten years. "Hanging judge" Isaac Parker presided over the executions, which were held at Fort Smith.
It is difficult to verify James Arcene's age with complete certainty because there are few surviving census records for Indian Territory in the 1870s and 1880s. Primary documents confirm that, after he was captured, James Arcene claimed to have been a child in 1872 when the crime was committed. He did not revise that statement when it became clear that that status would not help him in sentencing (as he might have if he had been falsely claiming youth to avoid execution.)
Arcene's case is frequently brought up in discussions of the death penalty for children, and to a lesser degree in discussions of the unfair treatment Native Americans received from the United States government.
- Streib, Victor L. Death Penalty for Juveniles. Indiana University Press, 1987. p.72.
- Scott, Charles L., MD. "Roper v. Simmons: Can Juvenile Offenders be Executed?" Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 33:4:547-552 (2005).
- New York Times [www.nytimes.org], "Hanged on the Gallows". The New York Times. June 27, 1885. Accessed June 29, 2011.
- "Questions on the Death Penalty." Ask Amnesty. AmnestyUSA.org. November 4, 2003.
- James, Joy. States of Confinement: Policing, Detention and Prisons. Macmillan, 2000. ISBN 0-312-21777-3. p. 23.