State of Washington conducts its last execution by hanging on May 27, 1994.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 9/26/2003
  • Essay 5555
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On May 27, 1994, the State of Washington conducts its last execution by hanging. Charles Rodman Campbell, age 39, is put to death for the 1982 murders of two women and a child. Campbell has a choice between hanging and lethal injection, but refuses to choose, so under existing state law hanging is used. A law passed in 1996 will make lethal injection the default for executing those condemned to death, unless the defendant chooses hanging, and three men will be executed by lethal injection between 1998 and 2010. In 2018 the Washington State Supreme Court will invalidate the state's death penalty.

Campbell was convicted of killing Renae Wicklund, her eight-year old daughter Shannah, and a neighbor, Barbara Hendrickson. In a previous rape case, Wicklund had testified that Campbell had attacked and sodomized her and held a knife to her baby's throat in a prosecution that sent him to prison. Upon his release, Campbell committed the murders. He appealed his conviction and sentence for 12 years.

Campbell refused to cooperate with the execution. He had to be moved from his cell using pepper spray and he was hanged strapped to a board. It took prison officials 90 seconds to place a hood on his head and to fix the noose before the trap was opened. Death was instantaneous.

In 1996, the legislature amended state law to make lethal injection the authorized method of execution unless the defendant chose hanging. Three men were executed by lethal injection -- Jeremy Sagastegui in 1998, James H. Elledge in 2001, and Cal Coburn Brown in 2010 -- bringing to 78 the number of people (all male, including a 17-year-old) executed by the State of Washington since the state, rather than counties, began conducting executions in 1904. Then on October 11, 2018, the state supreme court ruled unanimously that Washington's "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner" (State v. Gregory). As a result of that decision, the sentences of the eight men then on Washington's death row were converted to life in prison without possibility of parole.


Peyton Whitely, "Homemade Weapons Found by Guards in Campbell's Cell," The Seattle Times, May 28, 1994, p. A-11; William Miller and Eric Sorensen, "Charles Campbell Put to Death," Spokesman Review (Spokane), May 27, 1994, p. A-1; "Lethal-Injection Bill Passes," The Seattle Times, March 2, 1996, p. A-6; "Death Penalty -- How Executed," RCW 10.95.180; "Capital Punishment," Washington State Department of Corrections website accessed October 18, 2018 (;  "Persons Executed Since 1904 in Washington State," Washington State Department of Corrections website accessed October 18, 2018 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "State of Washington carries out its first execution on May 6, 1904" (by David Wilma and HistoryLink Staff), (accessed October 19, 2018); State v. Gregory, No. 88086-7, __ Wn.2d __, __ P.3d __ (2018).
Note: This essay was corrected on March 12, 2004, and updated and expanded on October 19, 2018.

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