Capital punishment in North Dakota

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Capital punishment was abolished in the U.S. state of North Dakota in 1973.[1] Historically, a total of eight people have been executed in North Dakota, including one execution prior to North Dakota attaining statehood.


According to the North Dakota Penal Code, the imposing of sentences was handed to a jury, with the suggested punishment for first-degree murder being death by hanging or life imprisonment. Until 1903 executions were carried out in public. The first private execution was that of John Rooney, who was hanged inside the Cass County prison on October 17, 1905. Rooney was the last person executed in North Dakota. In 1915, the death penalty was abolished for ordinary murder, commuting the death sentence of Joe Milo, who was convicted of double murder in course of a robbery.[2] It remained for treason and murder committed by an inmate already serving a life sentence, however, nobody was executed for these offenses until the death penalty was finally abolished in 1973.

No federal executions have ever taken place in North Dakota. On February 8, 2007, Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. was sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Dru Sjodin and is now the only person on federal death row for a crime committed in North Dakota.[3] Because Rodriguez took Sjodin's corpse across state lines, he was eligible for federal prosecution, and therefore for the death penalty.[4] U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson arranged that Rodriguez would be executed according to South Dakota rules.[5] Rodriguez was the first person in North Dakota to receive a death sentence in over a century.[6]

List of individuals executed in North Dakota[edit]

# Name Date of execution Method Victim(s) Governor
1 George Miller October 30, 1885 hanging Abbie Snell and her son Herbert Gilbert A. Pierce
2 Albert Bomberger January 19, 1894 Daniel Kreider, his wife Barbara and their children Bernice, Melby, Mary and David Eli C. D. Shortridge
3 James W. Cole March 24, 1899 Sophronia Ford Frederick B. Fancher
4 Hans Thorpe September 14, 1900 His wife Ida
5 Ira O. Jenkins September 14, 1900 August Stark
6 Jacob Bassanella February 20, 1903 Anton Heilinger Frank White
7 William R. Ross December 5, 1903 Thomas Walsh
8 John Rooney October 17, 1905 Harold Sweet Elmore Y. Sarles

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Death Penalty Information Center
  2. ^ North Dakota Supreme Court
  3. ^ Haga, Chuck and Pam Louwagie. "Rodriguez sentenced to die for killing Dru Sjodin." Minneapolis Star-Tribune. September 23, 2006. Retrieved on June 5, 2016.
  4. ^ Potter, Kyle. "Dru Sjodin’s killer drags out death row delays ." Associated Press at the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. March 22, 2014. Retrieved on June 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Wagner, Steve. "On death row, killer of UND student Dru Sjodin questions juror conduct in death penalty sentencing." The Bemidji Pioneer. August 6, 2015. Retrieved on June 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Lee, Steven J. "From death row, Rodriguez discusses murder of Dru Sjodin." Grand Forks Herald. November 13, 2013. Retrieved on June 5, 2016.

External links[edit]