Wisconsin's history in capital punishment was short-lived. Wisconsin's first and only execution was John McCaffary, an Irish immigrant living in Kenosha county who was convicted of drowning his wife in the backyard cistern. His wife, Bridget, died 23 May 1850. His trial ran from 6 May to 23 May 1851, when the jury convicted him. The judge sentenced him to death by hanging and the sentence was carried out 21 Aug 1851 at a tree in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse and Jail in the newly incorporated town of Kenosha.

Between 2000 and 3000 spectators watched as Mr McCaffary struggled on the end of the rope, since the initial hanging was unsuccessful. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Green Ridge Cemetery in Kenosha.

Public outrage over the unsuccessful attempt to execute him led to the abolishment of capital punishment on 12 Jul 1853, making Wisconsin the second state to abolish capital punishment.

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