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[TIMELINE] Gee Jon - World's 1st Execution by Lethal Gas on Feb. 8, 1924

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  • madchinaman
    Gee Jon For more information see Example for the Nation : Nevada s Execution of Gee Jon, by Loren Chan, (Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Volume 18, No.2,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 27, 2006
      Gee Jon
      For more information see Example for the Nation : Nevada's Execution
      of Gee Jon, by Loren Chan, (Nevada Historical Society Quarterly,
      Volume 18, No.2, pgs 90-106, Summer 1975.)

      Gee Jon was the first person in the United States to be executed by
      lethal gas. He was executed at the Nevada State Prison on February
      8, 1924 for the crime of murder. Gee, along with Hughie Sing were
      convicted for killing Tom Quong Kee in Mina, Nevada on August 27,

      The murder was one of many in 1921 because of tong warfare in the
      West. There were also murders throughout California. Gee Jon was
      convicted of being the trigger man and Hughie Sing, because of his
      youth and the fact that Gee did the actual shooting, had his death
      sentence commuted to life in prison.

      Gee Jon was twenty-nine when he died. He was born in China, but had
      spent most of his life in San Francisco's Chinatown. He was a member
      of the Hop Sing Tong.


      Gee Jon
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      Gee Jon was the first person in the United States to be executed by
      lethal gas, at Nevada State Prison on February 8, 1924. He was born
      in China, but spent most of his life in San Francisco's Chinatown.
      He was 29 when he died.

      Both Hughie Sing and Gee were convicted for the murders of Tom Quong
      Kee in Mina, Nevada on August 27, 1921. The murder was linked to
      tong warfare in the American West (Gee was a member of the Hop Sing
      Tong). Sing's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.


      Roundup: Talking About History
      S. Evyn Rubin: The world's first execution of a human being by
      lethal gas
      [Ms. Rubin is a writer and holds a B.A. in History from the
      University of Southern California. She is the recipient of a Puffin
      Foundation grant.]


      The 1921 state legislature eliminated hanging and shooting as a
      method of execution, and provided for execution by lethal gas.
      Nevada was the first state in the US to use lethal gas as a method
      of execution.

      The first person in Nevada and the country to be executed by lethal
      gas was Gee Jon, a Chinese man, on February 8, 1924, for the
      shooting murder of a fellow countryman in a Tong war dispute in


      The world's first execution of a human being by lethal gas took
      place on February 8, 1924, at the Nevada State Prison, Carson City,
      Nevada. The name of the first person so executed was Gee Jon, a
      Chinese immigrant. Gee Jon had been convicted of the murder of Tom
      Quong Kee.

      The new "lethal chamber," as it was called, replaced a choice
      between hanging and shooting. The shooting had been done with a set
      up of mounted rifles triggered by the pulling of strings on a signal
      from a distance. The desire to technologize executions was
      nationwide and international. Originally, the Nevada legislators
      conceived a plan in which a convicted prisoner would be gassed at an
      unspecified time, while asleep, by a guard who would sneak up, or by
      fumes subtly pumped into the cell. This kind of fantasy of an
      undisturbed victim was typical of the mental process that ushered in
      lethal gassing technology.

      But practicality compromised their fantasy and their lethal chamber
      was built as a separate structure, into which the prisoner was
      marched, seated, strapped, and in the case of Gee Jon, gassed for
      six minutes before he was still.

      The Nevada Supreme Court overruled Gee Jon's appeal and declared
      lethal gassing to be neither cruel nor unusual, but "scientific"
      and "most humane." Although the Court acknowledged the horrors of
      gas warfare in the trenches of the recent First World War, it
      maintained that gassing should not be judged by that
      experience. "For many years," the Court said, "animals have been put
      to death painlessly by the administration of poison gas. Gas has
      been used for years by dental surgeons for the purpose of extracting
      teeth painlessly. . . ." The United States Supreme Court declined
      twice to review the case.

      Not everyone was dazzled by the prospect of gassing, however. More
      than five hundred Nevadans signed a petition to the governor to halt
      the gassings of Gee Jon and his co-defendant. The sentence of the co-
      defendant was in fact commuted to life. The newspaper in the town of
      Mina, where the murder had taken place, objected to the gassing,
      which it called a "freak method." Its editorial was headlined "Race
      Prejudice or Justice. Which?" Four guards at the Nevada State Prison
      turned in their resignations the day before the execution. Protests
      came from other parts of the country, too, including a telegram from
      the Women's Peace Union of New York City.

      At the time of Gee Jon's execution, Germany still used the
      guillotine to administer its death penalty, a method which
      modern "scientific criminologists" considered barbaric. Eight states
      in the U.S. had adopted lethal gassing for execution prior to the
      Nazis' first use of gas in 1939. In addition to Nevada, these states
      were California, Arizona, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Missouri, and
      North Carolina.


      The First Gas Chamber

      The ancient Eye for Eye Decree Christ has himself destroyed. Shall
      Shylocks, in their ghoulish glee Make his commandments void?

      Christ taught that we shell turn the other check to a blow, if you
      lean toward his teachings, and you are a true Christian, you would
      not kill another being. Guess what, not everyone is a Christian and
      we do not live by the golden rule. Somewhere back in time the people
      started to clan together to protect them selves from each other. The
      clan soon became know as Society, and society has created laws that
      must be followed, if not we all return to barbarians and the great
      teachings that removed us from this was wasted.

      Voltaire made the statement that law was created by the strong and
      mighty to be used against the weak and poor. Like the judge of
      England known as Bloody Jeffries, who could hang a man just for
      stealing a loaf of bread. Others, older than the rack, was the
      stake, here a person could be bound and burned slowly and tortuously
      as a form of execution. There was always to be found a new way to
      execute those who did not abide by the laws.

      As time progressed, humanity started to frown on the way we answered
      the statement, an eye for an eye. In court it was easy to say, if
      you take a life, you lose yours, but someone else will have to do
      it. In Nevada the counties use to take care of their own executions,
      by hanging or shooting, normally performed by the sheriff. But these
      ordeals became so gruesome from the lack of picking a bad tree or no
      one that could shoot straight, that the state finally took over the
      unwelcome task.

      It was Mr. H. L. Bartlett, one of Elko County assemblymen who first
      became disgusted with the way executions were being carried out. Not
      caring for the inhuman and brutal methods, he came up with a new
      method and proposed the use of gas. Now the gas was the better part
      of his idea, the rest was very impractical. His vision was for a
      guard to sneak up on a condemned man while he was asleep and perform
      the operation; kind of in the way a doctor would administer an
      anesthetic. His approach was never followed, but his activity did
      however give birth to the method of using gas as a logical way to
      legally kill, if kill we must.

      The first time use of gas as an execution for a capital sentence was
      on February 8, 1924. The building used was not fitted for such an
      ordeal being way to large. The gas was pumped into the chamber where
      the condemned man set in a chair. It turned out to be somewhat of a
      bungle some affair, but for those who were there to perform it, it
      was considered satisfactory. The second execution did not fair much

      In 1929 they started to define the operation by building the first
      gas chamber fit for the purpose. Then they simplified the use of the
      gas in order to cut the high cost founded in the earlier operation.
      The new idea was to use a cord ran through a copper tube under the
      floor to climb the left leg of the chair and across the seat. The
      cord supports a small nest of cyanide eggs contained in a bag. When
      the cord was released the bag was lowered down into a jar filled
      with sulphuric acid and water, and gas generation begins at once.
      The whole operation was done and over in less than ten minutes, and
      the subject was dead.

      With everything new that comes about, it always takes some getting
      use to. So was the new method of execution in Nevada. When the
      first, that of a Chinaman named, Gee Jon, was carried out, the whole
      United State went into a furor. The second one, Stanko Jukich, left
      this world with a smile on his face. Jukich crossed over the great
      divide in less than a minute and the smile he showed when he entered
      the chamber was still there after the final examination.

      While the newspapers wrote of Nevada's barbaric method and frowned,
      no one laughed when Arizona took the life of a women. It turned out
      to be the most revolting ever performed in the United States. By
      trying to hang the women slayer they jerked the head clean off the
      torso, this converted Arizona to the Lethal Gas Method. Again back
      east a man was taken to the gallows and dropped. The fall failed to
      snap his neck, and he strangled to death, while witnesses watched
      and gasped as he flopped back and forth before going into the death

      The third one to be executed was Bob White and this was broadcast as
      the feature of the day. This was the case that drew the most
      attention. White was convicted of murdering Louis Lavell, an Elko
      gambler. On June 2, 1930 he was executed in the Nevada Gas Chamber
      at the state prison. During the preliminary preparations, White
      laughed and conversed with the guards and showed not a trace of
      fear. Then at the last, when the warden approached him said:

      "Bob, is there anything I can do for you?" White with a smile on
      face looked up and said, "Yes Warden! Let me have a gas mask."

      Nevada was to lead the way having the first Gas Chamber at the State
      Prison in Carson. Soon there after the rest of the states followed
      suit. They also had the first prehistoric big foot print, also at
      the prison. Now that is another story to be told.


      Old execution chamber may never be used again
      Prison warden says rulings cloud future of penalty

      CARSON CITY -- The Nevada State Prison's death chamber, where 20
      condemned men have entered through a submarine-type door to die, may
      never be used again for executions.

      Warden Mike Budge says the half-century-old chamber is in a cramped
      corner of the prison that's "almost medieval." Besides, he says
      recent federal court rulings have raised uncertainty over the future
      of capital punishment.

      The 9-by-12-foot death chamber was last used in April 2001, when a
      screaming, sobbing Sebastian Bridges, 37, was executed by lethal
      injection for shooting another man and letting him bleed to death in
      the desert outside Las Vegas.

      "That might be the last one," Budge said, standing next to the death
      chamber's oval steel door. "We need something that's more clinical,
      and look at the overall picture because of the court decisions."

      Besides the death chamber, with its beige-painted walls, two bare
      light bulbs and a ventilation pump on the ceiling, there's a 13-by-
      20-foot viewing room and a closet-sized "executioners' room." From
      there, two prison employees, peering through a cracked, one-way
      mirror into the death room, pump a cocktail of lethal drugs into
      condemned inmates' veins.

      The entire area, which also includes two "last night" cells, is so
      small that "it's difficult for people to move around," Associate
      Warden Glen Whorton said.

      "Executions are a difficult activity to begin with," he said. "And
      with the added difficulty of the confined space, it's something we
      want to get away from."

      The prison system is preparing a request to turn a first-floor
      storage area into a new execution room, replacing the second-floor
      chamber that was put into service in 1950.

      Whorton said the cost hasn't been determined, but likely would be

      A final decision by state lawmakers can't be made until next year,
      when the Legislature convenes again in regular session.

      One of the 84 convicts, 83 men and one woman, now on death row could
      be executed before that. But the condemned man who's next in line to
      die is Thomas Nevius and his case may be affected by a recent U.S.
      Supreme Court ruling against executions of mentally retarded people.

      Lawyers for Nevius, convicted in a 1980 burglary and murder in Las
      Vegas, say he has the mental level of a 7-year-old. An independent
      evaluation suggests he suffers from mild mental retardation.

      If the death chamber is replaced, it won't be the first time. Two
      and possibly three other locations at Nevada State Prison were used
      previously for executions by lethal gas or injection.

      From the 1860s until 1912, 10 condemned prisoners were hanged at the
      prison. And in 1913, America Mircovich was executed by three rifles,
      mounted on an iron frame, that fired automatically.

      After that, there were no executions until February 1924, when
      Nevada pioneered the use of cyanide gas with the execution of Gee
      Jon, who had killed a man in Mineral County. Temporary arrangements
      were made for Jon's execution and also for Jukich Stanko's death by
      lethal gas a year later. Stanko's crime was killing a woman in White
      Pine County.

      A building designed for executions was built, using inmate labor, in
      1929 and was used 18 times. Eugene Gambetta was the last to die
      there, in 1949, after he killed his ex-wife in Reno.

      The current death chamber was used 20 times, first in 1950 when
      James Williams was executed for killing a co-worker in Elko. The
      last execution by lethal gas was in 1979. Jesse Bishop, who killed a
      man in an attempted Las Vegas casino robbery, deliberately took deep
      breaths to speed up the process. Since then, all executions have
      been by lethal injection.

      Bishop and seven other condemned men who followed him were "table
      jumpers," guard parlance for inmates who put up no resistance as
      they were led to the death chamber and strapped into a chair or onto
      the gurney that's now used.

      Bridges' execution was the most bizarre in recent years. Wearing his
      brown, double-breasted Pierre Cardin suit and shiny, new black
      shoes, he appeared calm at first, but then broke down, sobbing and
      yelling, "You want to kill me like a dog."

      Bridges screamed that prison officials should halt the execution,
      but finally said, "I will not stop it."

      Had he said he wanted to appeal, even at the last minute, the
      execution would have been called off.


      An Outline of Capital Punishment in Nevada
      by Guy Louis Rocha

      There have been at least 73 legal executions in Nevada and 1 in
      Carson City, Utah Territory.

      Prior to the creation of Nevada Territory, John Carr was executed by
      hanging on the west side of Carson City, Carson County, on November
      30, 1860 by order of the 2nd Judicial District of Utah Territory for
      the shooting murder of Bernhard Cherry in Carson City in late

      Between late 1861, when Nevada Territory was organized, and 1903,
      executions by hanging were conducted at the county seats in which
      the person was convicted.

      There has not been a comprehensive compilation of legal executions
      conducted in Nevada prior to 1903, however there are 20 known legal
      executions between 1861 and 1903:

      1863, January 9; Allen Milstead, Dayton
      1868, April 24; John Milleain (Millan, Millian, or Milliean),
      Virginia City
      1868, October 30; Rufus B. Anderson, Austin
      1870, December 16; Ah Fung, Unionville
      1870; December 16; Au Ung, Unionville
      1873, October 17; David M. Hall, Belmont
      1874, April 24; John Stewart, Aurora
      1874, December 29; John Murphy, Carson City (at the foot of Lone
      1877, January 19; Peter Larkin, Virginia City
      1877, October 30; Robert Crozier, Winnemucca
      1877, December 22; Sam Mills, Elko
      1878, February 19; J. W. Rover, Reno
      1880, April 6; Charles Wesley Hymer, Winnemucca
      1882, February 9; Charley Hing, Winnemucca
      1885, January 23; Indian Dave, Belmont
      1886, March 5; Clarence Gray, Winnemucca
      1886, December 31; Edward Crutchley, Hamilton
      1890, June 20; Elizabeth Potts, Elko
      1890, June 20; Josiah Potts, Elko
      1890, December 12; Hank Parish, Ely Aurora (1), Austin (1), Belmont
      (2), Carson City (1), Dayton (1), Elko (3), Ely (1), Hamilton (1),
      Reno (1), Unionville (2), Virginia City (2), Winnemucca (4)

      The earliest known legal execution in Nevada occurred on January 9,
      1863 when Allen Milstead was hanged outside Dayton for killing Lyon
      County Commissioner T. Varney at Ragtown (for judicial purposes,
      Churchill County was administered by Lyon County until 1864) on
      October 29, 1862.Some 700 people viewed the execution.

      On April 24, 1868, John Millian was hanged outside Virginia City for
      the strangulation murder of prostitute Julia Bulette. Mark Twain was
      among the estimated 4000 persons who witnessed the execution.

      On October 30, 1868, Rufus B. Anderson, age 20, hanged at Austin for
      the shooting murder of Noble T. Slocum. Anderson had to be dropped
      three times from the gallows before he died. Members of crowd tried
      to intervene after the first try, but was held back by militia

      The first Chinese legally executed in Nevada, Ah Fung and Ah Ung,
      were hanged in Unionville on December 16, 1870 for killing a fellow
      countryman. An estimated 300 persons watched the execution.

      On December 18,1874, Governor Lewis Rice Bradley granted a reprieve
      to John Murphy in Carson City in order that his sanity be determined.

      In 1875, the state legislature prohibited public executions without

      The first African-American legally executed in Nevada, Sam Mills,
      was hanged in Elko on December 22, 1877 for the shooting murder of
      James Finnerty at Halleck on April 8, 1877.

      On February 19, 1878, J. W. Rover was hanged at Reno for the murder
      of business partner I. N. Sharp on April 8, 1875 at Sulphur Springs,
      Humboldt County. The Supreme Court, on appeal from Humboldt County
      District Court, ordered a retrial. Conviction in second trial.
      Another appeal, another order for retrial. Change of venue to Washoe
      County, again convicted of murder in the first degree in third
      trial. Board of Pardons refused to commute death sentence. Rover
      protested his innocence to the end.

      Other business partner and accuser, F. J. McWorthy, allegedly made
      death bed confession in Arizona Territory in 1890s that he had
      killed Sharp and that Rover had been hanged for a crime he did not
      commit (see The Silver State (Winnemucca), July 22, 1899, 4:6; Reno
      Evening Gazette, July 24, 1899, 1:5; Humboldt Star (Winnemucca),
      February 21, 1928, 1:4-6).

      The first Native American legally executed in Nevada, Indian Dave, a
      Shoshone, was hanged at Belmont on January 23, 1885, for the murder
      of a Chinese man near Keyser's Springs and Lockes Ranch in Railroad

      The first and only woman ever executed, Elizabeth Potts, was hanged
      with her husband, Josiah Potts, in Elko using double gallows on June
      20, 1890, for the shooting murder and mutilation of Miles Faucett in

      The 1901 state legislature required that all executions be conducted
      at the State Prison in Carson City beginning in 1903.

      The first execution by hanging at the State Prison, John Hancock,
      was on September 8, 1905.

      The largest multiple execution in the history of Nevada occurred on
      November 17, 1905 when four men, Thomas F. Gorman, Al Linderman,
      Fred Reidt, and John P. Sevener, were executed using double gallows
      for the murder of a transient they threw off a moving train while
      they pilfered the box cars.

      Two Native Americans, Indian Johnny, a Shoshone, and Joe Ibapah, a
      Goshute, were executed using double gallows on December 7, 1906 for
      the murder of a transient.

      The 1911 state legislature provided that a death row inmate could
      elect to die by shooting or hanging.

      The first and only execution by shooting occurred on May 14, 1913,
      Andriza Mircovich, a Montenegrin, for the stabbing murder of a
      fellow countryman in Tonopah.

      Ten men were hanged at the State Prison before the law was changed.

      The 1921 state legislature eliminated hanging and shooting as a
      method of execution, and provided for execution by lethal gas.
      Nevada was the first state in the US to use lethal gas as a method
      of execution.

      The first person in Nevada and the country to be executed by lethal
      gas was Gee Jon, a Chinese man, on February 8, 1924, for the
      shooting murder of a fellow countryman in a Tong war dispute in

      Thirty-two men were executed in Nevada's three gas chambers between
      1924 and 1979.

      The oldest person ever executed at the State Prison was John Kramer,
      age 61, on August 28, 1942.

      The youngest person ever executed at the State Prison was Floyd
      Loveless, age 17, on September 29, 1944, for the shooting murder of
      a constable near Carlin when Loveless was 15.

      Governor Edward Peter Carville received an Attorney General's
      opinion on September 21, 1944 stating that the "Governor has no
      authority to grant reprieve when sixty days from time of conviction
      has expired."

      The only double execution using lethal gas occurred on July 15, 1954-
      -Linden Leroy and Frank Pedrini at their request.

      The last involuntary execution prior to the U.S. Supreme Court
      declaring capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972 was Thayne
      Archibald, on August 21, 1961, for the execution-style murder of a
      kidnap victim following a robbery in northern California (Bill
      Raggio, Washoe Co. D.A., prosecuted the case).

      The 1967 state legislature passed a law exempting persons under the
      age of 16 who commit a capital crime from being executed.

      In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that existing capital
      punishment laws were unconstitutional.

      Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death

      The 1977 state legislature adopted a new death penalty statute.

      Jesse Bishop was the last person to be executed in Nevada using
      lethal gas on October 22, 1979.

      The 1983 state legislature changed the method of execution to lethal

      December 6, 1985, Carroll Cole became the first person executed by
      lethal injection in Nevada,
      June 19, 1989; William Thompson, second, June 23, 1989; Sean
      Flanagan, third,
      June 3, 1990; Thomas Baal, fourth,
      March 31, 1996; Richard Moran, fifth (involuntary execution),
      October 5, 1998; Richard Abeyta, sixth,
      April 5, 1999; Alvaro Calambro, seventh,
      April 21, 2001, Sebastian S. Bridges, eighth,
      March 26, 2004, Lawrence Colwell, Jr., ninth,
      August 12, 2004, Terry Dennis, tenth.

      Since 1905, 53 men have been executed at the Ely State Prison in
      Carson City: 10 hanged, 1 shot, 32 by lethal gas, and 10 by lethal

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