ET by me today: a perhaps unprecedented murder conviction

I posted an Executed Today entry today: William Pitman, who was hanged for murder in Virginia in 1775.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the only case of this kind in American history. Check out the entry to see what I mean.

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4 thoughts on “ET by me today: a perhaps unprecedented murder conviction

  1. Bridget May 12, 2017 / 10:56 pm

    Wow I just read the execution list 1786, Hannah was hung in New London CT. I grew up in Norwich (ne corner of CT)
    Never even knew that

  2. terromangerro May 13, 2017 / 3:04 am

    Wow! This definitely is an interesting case. The fact that the son and daughter testified against their own father (especially back at that time) says a lot. Not necessarily the testimony itself, but just the fact that they testified is unusual. Unlike some situations in modern times, his kids had no guarantee of protection from him if he had been acquitted. Not only did they lack protection, but depending on their personal financial situations, their testimony might have been their one way ticket to get ejected from the father’s will. Plus they could have been dependent on him at the time, like if he had a farm or other family business that they worked with him, and could have lost their livelihood due to testimony.

    Just their willingness to testify says to me that they had suffered extensive abuse at his hands (not a stretch if the crimes for which he was convicted did happen as the prosecution described). Not mild abuse, but severe. So much so that they’d risk literally everything (their stake in the family property, their expected inheritance, the severance of any relationships with siblings still sharing a roof with this man, their own lives if he was found not guilty) to share their experience in open court. It would be fascinating to be able to know more about what went on with this family prior to the trial, and afterwards as well.

    • Meaghan May 13, 2017 / 6:16 pm

      I think you could probably write a novel or a play or something about this case — it is interesting to speculate what motivated the kids to testify against their dad. Were they seeking revenge for past maltreatment? Anxious to inherit his property? Sympathetic to his slaves? Some combination thereof?

      I know that Virginia law allowed the state to confiscate the person’s property in case of capital convictions. There’s a good chance that Pitman’s family inherited nothing.

  3. Laurie May 13, 2017 / 5:34 pm

    This man who was executed must have been exceptionally cruel. Most white male peers would have exonerated a similar perptrator during that time, is my guess as you imply.

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