Canada’s Last Executions: Arthur Lucas & Ronald Turpin

As a Canadian, I’ve grown up in a culture that – for the most part – condemns capital punishment.  So it came as a surprise to me to discover that the last person – actually, the last two people – were executed in Canada at 12:02 a.m. on December 11, 1962. Within my lifetime.  Barely. But still.

Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas didn’t have much in common, and their respective murder convictions were unrelated. At the Don Jail in Toronto at 12:02 a.m. on December 11, 1962 the men shared what would likely be the most intimate moment of anyone’s life. Death at the hands of a federally appointed hangman.

Arthur Lucas

Arthur Lucas

Lucas, a fifty-something black American from Georgia, had a reputation as a pimp who beat the prostitutes who worked for him. With an IQ of 63, this career criminal was deemed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to be  “unsalvageable”.

Ronald Turpin

Ronald Turpin

Turpin was a young, white man abandoned as a child by his abusive mother. He spent much of his young life in the Guelph reformatory for juveniles, before spiralling into an adult life of alcoholism and petty theft. On February 12, 1962 young Ronald Turpin killed police officer Frederick Nash, who pulled over Turpin’s truck on a routine traffic stop. Turpin, who had just stolen $631 of stuff from the nearby Red Rooster Inn, had an outstanding arrest warrant and panicked, pumping a single shot into the 31 year-old officer’s abdomen. Nash died at the scene, leaving behind a wife and four daughters.

Lucas, convicted of the double murder of police informant Therland Crater and his girlfriend Carolyn Ann Newman, maintained his innocence to the end, but conceded that his misspent life of crime was likely to have ended badly anyway. He is reported to have said to prison chaplain Cyrill Everitt,  “I’m telling you I didn’t do it, but I’m ready to go – I did some other things in my life”. Prison chaplain Cyril Everitt would later say that a miscalculation on the Lucas’s weight resulted in the near-decapitation of the convict.

Both men died with the knowledge that they would likely be the last prisoners to be executed in Canada. “Some consolation,” Lucas said in reference to word of this dubious historical achievement.

Capital punishment was removed from Canada’s criminal code in 1976.

You can read more about Lucas and Turpin in Robert J. Hoshowsky’s book, The Last to Die: Ronald Turpin, Arthur Lucas, and the End of Capital Punishment in Canada.

 

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Death Row Dining/An East London Dining Event

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No actual inmates were used in the shooting of this image.

Last week an East London restaurant with a novel concept in dining, was guillotined by social media. The event? Death Row Meals.

Diners – or inmates, as they were referred to for the purposes of this experience – were charged, sentenced, and frisked before being seated to a five-course death row feast modelled around the actual final requests of death row prisoners.

Accused on Twitter of “tasteless profiteering” and “being disgusting” the pop-up restaurant soon cancelled their Death Row Dinners, but not without issuing a statement that said, in part:

“On the back of the extreme reaction that has garnered the attention of media outlets around the world, after careful reflection we have decided to go ahead with Death Row Dinners.
The severity of the reaction is not at all surprising in the current world of instant outrage but cancelling the event only supports this short-termism currently infecting the population …

… All over the world there are attractions that have the potential to offend.

Some people go for a walk in the park, others go on a Jack The Ripper walk of London.
Some people go on a tour of the White House, others go to Jefferson state penitentiary for tours of the chamber where executions take place.
Some people stay in the Hilton while others stay in Karosta prison hotel, for that “authentic” prison feel.”

 What do you think? Too far?

Death Row Meals: San Quentin

Prison Food

Confession: Research is my favorite thing about writing. Why? Because I get sidetracked.

Today’s shiny bauble is San Quentin, or more specifically San Quentin reviews. With Tripadvisor-like lingo, Yelp reviewers (both prisoners and visitors) give bouquets and brickbats (mostly brickbats) to their prison surroundings. My favorite quote below:

 

Dylan D gives San Quentin 3 stars, justifying his average rating with these comments:

I really wanted to love this place.

<snip>

When I arrived there was a HUGE line for food, so my hopes got pretty high right off the bat.  Everyone seemed really excited for the food so I assumed I was in for a real treat.

<snip>

It was pretty busy, but I was able to find a table.  Again, I understand this is buffet style, but when I asked the gentleman by the front door near where I was sitting if I could sit further from the door he was SUPER RUDE about it.  He just motioned for me to sit back down, but at least the front door led to a hallway and not the outside, so although it was raining, I figured I’d be fine.

NOW THE FOOD.

With the reputation of this place, I thought I would be blown away, but honestly I found most of it to be really underwhelming.

<snip>

The beans were my favorite part.  They had a subtle smoky flavor and the texture was just right.  However, I did not like the viscosity of the broth they were in.  It was so runny it contaminated my other sides and then I wasn’t even sure what I was eating.  But when I focused on the beans I must admit, I did enjoy them.

There is no way that the brisket was grass fed, It was too stringy and when I asked the server what farm the meat was from, he just stared at me like I was crazy.  Way to train your staff, San Quentin.

I also had a side of carrots and peas.  I don’t really like carrots and peas but the colors were so vibrant I accepted when the server gestured with the ladle.  On the plate it looked like a wonderful heirloom salad bringing a nice aesthetic quality to the display.  I must say, again, I was underwhelmed.  The carrots were mushy and the peas were either not very ripe or undercooked, but they almost had a crunch to them.  What are these PEA NUTS?!  I did, however enjoy the cut of the carrot, the ends were rounded so it’s not too awkward of a mouthful.  But really, the peas and carrots’ best contribution was visual, and that is not making the cut.

It seems public tours of San Quentin have been discontinued, but this YouTube video gives you a peek into a cellmate’s lodgings:

Death Row Meals: Aileen Wuornos Prisoner 150924

Last Meal: 1 cup of coffee

Death by lethal injection

Executed: October 9, 2002 at 9:47 a.m.

State: Florida

Last words: “I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I’ll be back.”

Related Conspiracy Theory: In her last interview Wuornos stated that she was controlled by sonic pressure to make her appear insane.

150924_Florida Department of CorrectionsThe Florida Department of Corrections lists five women currently on death row, but readers will likely remember one of this state’s most prolific female serial killers: Aileen Carol Wuornos. Wuornos’s story became film fodder in the 2003 movie Monster starring Charlize Theoron.

Wuornos’s life is a litany of abuse and tough breaks, beginning before her conception. Her father was a convicted pedophile who married Diane Wuornos when she was only 14 years old. Diane divorced him nearly two years later, just a few months before the birth of Aileen Wuornos. Aileen and her older brother were adopted by their maternal grandparents after their mother deserted them.

Wuornos was trading sex for food and drugs by the age of 11, later claiming that her grandfather raped her. A sad life indeed. At 13, after being raped by a friend of her grandfather’s, she became pregnant and gave birth to child who would be placed for adoption. In the years before her eventual arrest for murder, Wuornos would often be arrested on a variety of charges: armed robbery, theft, attempting to pass forged checks, assault, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice.

On November 30, 1989, Wuornos would shoot and kill Richard Mallory, a convicted rapist, in what she claimed was an act of self-defense. Wuornos would go on to confess to six more murders.

On October 9, 2002, Aileen Carol Wuornos was put to death by lethal injection. There can be no doubt that she was the victim of a terrible life, and that she became a terrible person.

Death Row Meals: Victor Feguer Prisoner # 28105

It used to be my party ice-breaker question: If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you choose as your final meal?

As you might imagine, the question quickly thinned the crowd of people who wanted to hang around me for the evening. But it’s a question that death row inmates have had to consider time and again as an execution date draws closer.

This set of blog posts takes a look at their fascinating choices and speculates about the reasons surrounding those choices.
Victor FeguerFirst up is Victor Feguer. Executed by hanging on March 15, 1963 in Iowa, Feguer’s last meal request was a single olive. With the pit. He tucked the pit into the pocket of his suit the morning of his execution. I could find no information on the significance of the olive to Feguer.

Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Feguer had a long history of mental illness culminating in the kidnapping and murder of Dr Edward Bartels. The motive for the murder is unclear; it seems Feguer randomly selected Bartels name and number from a phone book. He lured Bartels to his apartment on a house call with a story about a wife in pain after a recent surgery. In fact, Feguer had no wife.

There are theories that Feguer simply wanted to get morphine or Demerol from the doctor, but whatever his motivation, it ended in the death of Bartels, a father of three and with his wife expecting a fourth child.

Captured when trying to sell Bartel’s 1959 Rambler, Feguel revealed the location of the doctor’s body but pinned the crime on a fictional “Alex Dupree”.

After Feguel’s death it would be 38 years before the next federal execution in Iowa – Timothy McVeigh.