On this day: 17-year-old Walter Dubac becomes youngest to be executed in state history

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. — On April 12, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for inmate Conner Schierman, who was convicted in 2010 of murdering an entire family.

Washington’s death penalty has been seldom used in recent years. In 2014, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on capital punishment, suspending the practice for as long as he’s in office. The state’s last execution occurred in 2010 when Cal Coburn Brown, convicted for the 1991 rape and murder of 21-year-old Holly Washa, was put to death by lethal injection.

Following the decision to uphold the death penalty, KIRO 7 looked into the case of Walter Dubac, who in 1932 became the youngest person to be executed in state history.

The following is a recap of the event in a historylink.org essay by David Wilma

On April 15, 1932, Walter Dubuc, at age 17, the youngest person to be condemned to death in Washington, dies by hanging at the State Penitentiary at Walla Walla. His codefendant Harold Carpenter, age 35, is executed at the same time, making this the first double execution in state history.

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On July 11, 1931, Carpenter, Dubuc, and Ethel Willis robbed Thurston County farmer Peter Jacobsen, age 85, at his home on Chambers Prairie. According to statements given by the defendants later, Dubuc struck Jacobsen, then fled. Carpenter bludgeoned Jacobsen to death with the butt of a rifle. Carpenter was arrested two weeks later in Yakima with Jacobsen's pocket knife and $2. Some $3,000 in cash and $650 in gold that Jacobsen was known to own was never located. A Thurston County jury convicted all three of first-degree murder. In a separate verdict, the jury sentenced Carpenter and Dubuc to death and Willis, the mother of two children, to life imprisonment.

Dubuc was variously reported as being 16, 17, and 18 years of age at the time of the offense. He claimed that he was 16. An effort by E. V. Hawks of Seattle, a member of the National Prison Survey Association, collected 6,400 signatures on a petition to Governor Roland Hartley to commute Dubuc's sentence to life imprisonment. Hartley denied the request.

Both men signed a statement in their death row cells claiming that the intention was only to rob the victim and that his death was "all a mistake" (Times). Dubuc believed that his life would be spared and when he learned at midnight that the sentence would be carried out, he "broke" (Star). He was led by two guards to the specially built gallows "sobbing and moaning, 'Don't let them hang me' " (Star). His last words, "Oh Jesus save me. Oh Jesus..." were cut off as the black cap was dropped over his head. Carpenter walked unassisted to the gallows and remained emotionless. He even managed a sneer at the 50 witnesses positioned to watch the execution.

At 12:27 a.m., three guards pressed buttons, only one of which was connected to the traps. Carpenter was pronounced dead after 12 minutes and Dubuc after 14 minutes. The state's only other double execution was to come in 1953, when brothers Turman and Utah Wilson were put to death for the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Jo Ann Dewey of Battleground.

Click here to read the full essay on historylink.org

Sources: "Double Hanging at Walla Walla Set for Tonight," The Seattle Daily Times, April 14, 1932, p. 8; "Man, Youth Pay Penalty on Gallows for Murder," Ibid., April 15, 1932, p. 1; "State Hangs Man and Boy, 19," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 15, 1932, p. 1; "Two Stolidly Await Death at 12 Tonight," The Seattle Star, April 14, 1932, p. 1, 3; "Youth Pleads and Prays as He is Hanged," Ibid., April 15, 1932, p. 1, 8.

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