Did You Know?
Capital Punishment in California
A total of 513 legal executions have taken place in California since 1893. Four of the executed were women.
1851 - Legislation authorizes executions under the Criminal Practices Act.
1872 - Capital punishment is authorized in the California Penal Code.
1891 - California law is amended allowing for executions to take place inside state prisons only. Previous executions were conducted by county sheriffs.
1893 - March 3. José Gabriel is hanged at San Quentin State Prison in the first state-conducted execution. Hangings are carried out at both state prisons, San Quentin and Folsom.
1937 - August 27. Gas chamber replaces hanging as method of execution.
1937 - December 3. The 92nd and last hanging at Folsom. All executions now take place at San Quentin.
1938 - December 2. Robert Lee Cannon and Albert Kessel are the first to be executed in the San Quentin gas chamber.
1941 - November 21. Eithel Leta Juanita Spinelli becomes the first woman executed in California.
1942 - May 1. The 215th and final hanging takes place at San Quentin.
1962 - August 8. Elizabeth Ann Duncan becomes the fourth and most recent woman to be executed in California.
1967 - April 12. Aaron Mitchell becomes the 194th person executed in the gas chamber, and the last executed until 1992.
1972 - The California Supreme Court declares the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the state constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 107 inmates are taken off of death row and resentenced.
1972 - November. Voters approve a constitutional amendment restoring the death penalty.
1976 - California Supreme Court rules that the death penalty law does not comply with the U.S. Supreme Court guidelines and is therefore unconstitutional.
1977 - California legislature re-enacts the death penalty statute.
1978 - California voters pass the Briggs Initiative, greatly expanding the number of crimes punishable by death. The broader death penalty law replaces the 1977 statute.
1986 - Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other liberal members of the California Supreme Court are voted out of office primarily for their votes reversing death penalty cases. They are replaced by conservative justices appointed by Governor George Deukmejian.
1992 - April 21. California executions resume with the execution of Robert Alton Harris.
1993 - January 1. California law changes to allow condemned inmates to choose lethal injection or lethal gas as a method of execution.
1993 - August 24. David Mason is the last to be executed in the gas chamber, as he failed to make a choice in method of execution and forfeited his appeals.
1995 - The gas chamber is ruled cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. Lethal injection is now the sole method of execution.
1996 - February 23. William George Bonin is the first California inmate executed by lethal injection.
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
This site gives information on the history of capital punishment in California, a list of the inmates executed since 1978, and information on lethal injection.
Last updated by teeterj on Oct. 26, 2010
While the Library has verified the information presented in these files in what it considers to be reliable and authoritative sources, it cannot take responsibility for nor guarantee the accuracy of the information presented.