John A. Bennett
John Arthur Bennett
|Born||April 10, 1935|
|Died||April 13, 1961 (aged 26)|
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1953–1955|
John Arthur Bennett (April 10, 1935 – April 13, 1961) was an African-American United States Army soldier who was convicted and executed for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl. As of 2018[update], he is the last person to have been executed by the U.S. military after court-martial.
Bennett was born in Virginia to a family of black sharecroppers. He was epileptic, but managed to enlist in the U.S. Army when he was 18, after only completing a fourth grade education. He performed well there, despite being dropped from Ordnance School for academic deficiency. Eventually he came to be stationed in Austria.
Days before Christmas 1954, a heavily intoxicated Bennett left his base to find a brothel, and was seen wandering around, entering random homes asking for a girl (or according to some, for a woman) named Margaret or Margot. He even entered one home asking the occupants if they had chickens. Later that evening, he stumbled upon an 11 year old girl returning from an errand for her parents. According to his own confession, he disclosed "I walked part way into the field with her and then I carried her the rest of the way about 25 yards. She appeared as though she wanted to go with me. The reason I carried her was because we were too near the road and I wanted to go further into the field. I sat her down in the field . . . I laid down on top of her then and inserted my penis into her vagina. My penis was too big for her vagina and she started kicking. I put my hands under her buttocks and forced my penis into her vagina the rest of the way. I had intercourse with her for about 5 minutes. She screamed twice . . . I didn’t hit her, slap her or anything like that. After we started to have intercourse she tried to get up but she wasn’t strong enough . . . and I laid on top of her because I was enjoying the intercourse. I wish to state that I did not force her at all." Bennett repeatedly raped her, then strangled her and, finally, threw her into a nearby millstream. But she miraculously survived.
An American officer and his wife testified that a “little girl” came to their home pleading for help. She was in a disheveled state, wet and dirty, with blood on her leg. When asked what happened, she responded, “a Negro had choked me.” Later, while the victim was being cleaned up, she stated that the man had taken off her underwear and stuck something in her. Additionally, the prosecution presented the testimony of two doctors—one who examined the victim at the officer’s home, and another who did so later that day at the nearby hospital. Found at the base movie theater a few hours later, he was arrested, tried and convicted of First Degree Child Rape and Attempted First Degree Murder one month later and sentenced to death by a court-martial, which would be upheld four times President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Bennett's death warrant.
Days before Bennett's scheduled execution four years later, the victim and her parents wrote to President John F. Kennedy, asking that Bennett's life be spared. Kennedy took no action on the appeals and let his predecessor's death warrant stand. Bennett was hanged at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1961.
- Serrano, Richard A. (July 12, 1994). "Last Soldier to Die at Leavenworth Hanged in an April Storm". Los Angeles Times. p. 14. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
- Reid, Tim (April 30, 2005). "Private was hanged in 1961 for raping girl". The Times. London. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
Days before Christmas 1954, and very drunk, Bennett crossed a field searching for a brothel outside his army base. Instead he came to a group of private homes before finding an 11-year-old local girl, who was returning home from Christmas shopping.
- "United States v.Bennett, 21 C.M.R. 223, 228 (C.M.A. 1956)" (PDF).