Nothing Out of the Ordinary

A lawman assesses an infamous execution.

April 26, 1901. Train robber Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum is hanged in Clayton, New Mexico Territory. Officials botched things. It took two swings of a hatchet to cut the rope connected to the trap. And the weights were off, causing Ketchum to be decapitated.

Sheriff Salome Garcia, who oversaw the ghastly event, took a fairly rosy analysis of the proceedings. “Nothing out of the ordinary happened,” Sheriff Garcia declared. “No bungling whatever. Everything worked nicely and in perfect order.” It should be notes that it was the lawman’s first and only execution.

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