Anthony Chebatoris

On September 29, 1937, Anthony Chebatoris and Jack Gracey, who had met in the Michigan State Prison, attempted to rob the Chemical State Savings Bank in Midland, Michigan. The robbery went badly, resulting in the killing of Henry Porter, a bystander, and Gracey.

Chebatoris was arrested at the scene.

Though Chebatoris had not crossed state lines and though Michigan had abolished the death penalty in 1846, Chebatoris was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death under the recently-enacted Federal Bank Robbery Act of 1934. In an era of numerous high profile bank robberies, that statute applied federal jurisdiction to banks as federally-insured institutions.

It was the first death sentence imposed in Michigan since statehood more than a century earlier.

Lansing State Journal, November 3, 1937

Chebatoris attempted suicide soon after being convicted.

After President Roosevelt refused Michigan Governor Frank Murphy’s request to commute the sentence or move the execution out of respect for Michigan’s death penalty abolitionism, Anthony Chebatoris was hanged at the Federal Detention Farm near Milan, Michigan, on July 8, 1938.

Until 2020, Chebatoris was the only person in American history to have been executed by the federal government for a crime committed in a state that did not permit the death penalty.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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