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Wilkerson V. Utah 1879
Transcript of Wilkerson V. Utah 1879
by Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas in the case
Baze v. Rees Utah has been a capital punishment state since 1850; however, it was only given as a punishment for aggravated murder. Wallace Wilkerson was born in 1834 and died on May 16th, 1879 by firing squad due to his murder of William Baxter This case in reality happened over an accident during a game of cards, as during this time period it was common to carry pistols and unfortunately when another person thought someone else to be cheating, lead was occasionally exchanged. In the case of William Baxter, it was the story of
woe were the bartender tried to diffuse the situation, and was shot in the temple, leaving the original victim alive as Wilkerson ran after he realized what he had done. The only reason Wilkerson received the death penalty for his actions was because when the coroner examined Baxter, he was found to have been unarmed when killed, constituting murder. Wilkerson was indicted with premeditated murder on September 29th, 1877 and pleaded not guilty On November 22nd, 1877 the trial began, two days later, he was convicted by grand jury. On December 14th, 1877 Wilkerson chose
the firing line over other available executions at the time A stay of execution was granted when Wilkerson's attorneys made an appeal to the Utah State Supreme Court on the grounds of the firing squad being cruel and unusual. The Utah State Court denied the appeal and the US Supreme Court Stated that it was reasonable for the crime committed.
-Cruel and unusual punishments are forbidden by the Constitution, but the authorities referred to are quite sufficient to show that the punishment of shooting as a mode of executing the death penalty for the crime of murder in the first degree is not included in that category, within the meaning of the eighth amendment.
—U.S. Supreme Court, Wilkerson v. Utah (March 1879) On the related note of how the trial officially ended May 16th, 1879 when sharpshooters failed to end his life correctly as they missed the target and he bled to death. Ironically constituting as a possibly cruel and unusual end. Sources