Capital punishment in Vermont

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Capital punishment was abolished in the state of Vermont in 1972.[1][2] The state last executed a prisoner in 1954, when Donald DeMag was put to death for a double robbery-murder he had committed after escaping while serving a life sentence for an earlier murder.

Although DeMag was the last person executed by Vermont, he was not the last person to be sentenced to death by a Vermont court. Lionel Goyet, a soldier who was Absent Without Leave for the fifth time, robbed and killed a farmhand, and was sentenced to death in 1957.[3] His sentence was commuted six months later,[4] and Goyet was conditionally pardoned in 1969.[5] He had no further problems with the law, and died in 1980.[6]

Vermont still has a pre-Furman statute providing death by electrocution for treason.[7]

In 2005, Donald Fell was sentenced to death after being convicted of carjacking with death resulting and kidnapping with death resulting by a federal jury in Vermont.[8] Fell's conviction was overturned in July 2014, owing to "egregious juror misconduct".[9] Fell later pleaded guilty to avoid another sentencing hearing and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in September, 2018.[10]


Vermont capital punishment summary
Total number of executions: 26 (25 as a state)
Date Method Name Offense
Date capital punishment was legally abolished 1965
Legal methods of execution 1778–1919 hanging (21)
1919–1972 electrocution (5)
First legal execution 06-11-1778 hanging David Redding treason
Most recent legal execution 12-08-1954 electrocution Donald DeMag murder

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Vermont: Death Penalty Information Centre". Death Penalty Information Centre. 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Vermont Capital Punishment Law". FindLaw. 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  3. ^ Associated Press, Newport Daily News, To Die in Chair, May 8, 1957
  4. ^ North Adams Transcript, Goyet's Death Term Commuted to Life, November 4, 1957
  5. ^ United Press International, Bennington Banner, Christmas Pardons for Three, December 16, 1969
  6. ^ Wilson Ring, Associated Press, Boston Globe, 50 Years Later, Vt. Revisits Executions, May 1, 2005
  7. ^ "Vermont Laws".
  8. ^ Pre-sentencing claims of psychiatric illness, toxicology issues, and matters relating to future dangerousness were initially raised and were subsequently addressed by expert forensic examination. Once pre-sentencing issues were resolved, Fell’s actions were found to meet the threshold as a capital eligible crime because the following aggravating factors applied: 1. Fell caused the death of King during the commission of the crime of kidnapping, §3592(c)(1); 2. Fell’s behavior was especially heinous, cruel or depraved in that it involved serious physical abuse to King, § 3592(c)(6); and 3. Fell intentionally killed or attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode, § 3592(c)(16).
  9. ^ "Judge orders new trial in Fell case". Burlington Free Press. 2014-07-24.
  10. ^


  • Hearn, Daniel Allen, Legal Executions in New England: A comprehensive reference, 1623–1960 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999).