The Story Behind Michigan's Death Penalty Ban

Jun 28, 2017

Michigan is the only state that includes a prohibition on the death penalty in its constitution. Eugene Wanger was a young Republican delegate to the constitutional convention in the early 1960’s, and he drafted the capital punishment clause approved by state voters in 1963.


The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and the Michigan Political History Society will host a program with Eugene Wanger tonight at 7 p.m. at the Library of Michigan.

"Most people, when they find out what the facts are, will be inclined to think that the death penalty is a bad idea." - Eugene Wanger

Wanger was motivated by Michigan's death penalty history. "Michigan earlier, 115 years before that constitutional convention, was the first government in the English-speaking world to abolish capital punishment for murder and lesser crimes," he explains. "It seemed to me that since we were writing a constitution, it was a good idea to put it in the constitution."

The death penalty clause was approved with only three dissenting votes at the convention, held on the Michigan State University campus and at the Lansing Civic Center.

There have been attepts to remove the prohibition, but they've never gotten enough petition signatures to put it on the ballot.