John Rooney (murderer)

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John Rooney (1880 – 17 October 1905) was an American convicted murderer and was the last person executed by North Dakota.

On 26 August 1902, a farm worker named Harold Sweet was shot and killed during a robbery near the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad tracks on the west side of Fargo, North Dakota. Rooney was arrested and charged with first degree murder. In January 1903 Rooney was convicted by a jury and on 31 March 1903, he was sentenced to death by hanging.

Rooney's appeals went to the Supreme Court of the United States. Rooney argued that because on 9 March 1903, the North Dakota Legislature had changed the law to mandate that all executions should be conducted in a prison rather than in public, the application of his sentence was being applied ex post facto, since no such law existed at the time of the murder. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, holding that "the place of execution, when the punishment is death, within the limits of the state, is of no practical consequence to the criminal."[1]

Rooney was hanged at the Cass County prison on 17 October 1905. It was the first execution in North Dakota's history to be held in a prison as opposed to in public.

North Dakota abolished the death penalty in 1915. It was reinstated from 1939 to 1977, but no one was executed by North Dakota during that time, making Rooney the last person executed by North Dakota.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rooney v. North Dakota, 196 U.S. 319 (1905).