Thomas Warrington, William Holmes, and Edward Rosewain

Warrington, Holmes, and Rosewain were crew aboard an Argentine-flagged privateer that captured a merchant ship transporting valuable cargo. Once captured, the three men were among those charged with sailing the captured ship back to Argentina.

The three men had other plans. Aboard ship on July 4, 1818, Warrington, Holmes, and Rosewain killed the other sailors on the seized ship, discharged the prisoners on land, and set sail for Baltimore, where they planned to sell the cargo.

However, they overshot their destination and sailed instead to Scituate, Massachusetts, where they were arrested.

New York Evening Post, January 8, 1819

They were convicted of piratical and felonious homicide on the high seas by the Circuit Court of Massachusetts in 1818 and sentenced to death. Their conviction was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the opening paragraph of its opinion, the Supreme Court clearly articulated the basis on which this and all other cases of piracy were treated as federal capital cases: “The courts of the United States have jurisdiction under the Act of 30 April, 1790, c. 36, of murder or robbery committed on the high seas, although not committed on board a vessel belonging to citizens of the United States, as if she had no national character, but was held by pirates or persons not lawfully sailing under the flag of any foreign nation.

Warrington, Holmes, and Rosewain were hanged in Boston on June 15, 1820.

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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