Capital punishment came to the United States along with the first colonists. The first recorded execution in colonial America was of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608. His crime, as an alleged spy for Spain, was treason. Though treason remains a capital offense in most jurisdictions, people were executed for all manner of crimes, including stealing grapes, trading with the Indians, “buggery” (Joseph Ross, December 20, 1785, Westmoreland County, Connecticut), “witchcraft” (“Manuel,” June 15, 1779), and “aiding a ...

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