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In 1911, the death penalty in Minnesota was abolished. Prior to abolition, however, executions were carried out both by the federal and state government in Minnesota. In Mankato in 1862, the federal government hanged thirty-eight Sioux Indians during the Dakota Conflict, reportedly the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Between 1860 and 1906, the state of Minnesota executed twenty-seven people by hanging. The last state execution, which occurred in 1906, was a botched hanging - the defendant did not die instantly from a broken neck, but instead was hung for over fourteen minutes until death by suffocation occurred. In response to the public outcry, the Minnesota legislature succeeded in abolishing the death penalty.  Minnesota remains one of the nation's twelve abolitionist states.    


Despite the memory of Minnesota's last execution, the past decade has seen several attempts to revive the death penalty. Legislators introduced bills to reinstate the death penalty in the 1991-1992, 1995-1996, 1999-2000 and 2001 sessions.  In May 2003, H.F. 1602 was introduced in response to a triple murder in Long Prairie, Minnesota. The proposed bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Tom Hackbarth of Cedar, would have amended the criminal code to impose the death penalty for first-degree murder. While H.F.1602 was introduced too late in the 2003 session for action, the bill was reintroduced in the 2004-05 legislative session.  A corresponding bill, S.F. 1860, also was introduced in the Senate during the 2004-05 session by Republican Sen. Mady Reiter of Shoreview.  In response, The Advocates and Minnesotans Against the Death Penalty (MNADP) worked to line up witnesses to testify against the reinstatement of the death penalty in Minnesota.  The witnesses who testified before the Senate Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee and the House Committee on Judiciary Policy and Finance included religious leaders, murder victims’ family members, lawyers, and an exoneree, Kirk Bloodsworth.  H.R. 1602 was tabled in the house committee, while S.F. 1860 was voted down 8-2 in the senate committee.

Read more about the 1995-96 legislative session