Articles of Interest

The Pardon of John Gordon

by Peter Martin

John Gordon, a young Irish immigrant, was hanged in 1845 for a murder that many historians, and legal professionals, think he did not commit.

The story of John Gordon was told by way of a stage play, "The Murder Trial of John Gordon", which ran weekends from January 14th to January 27th 2011 at the Park Theatre in Cranston. The play was written by author and Newport resident, Ken Dooley. Attending this play, talking to many Rhode Island historians, and reading a lot of the background material has made many people very aware of the facts of the case.

Rhode Island historians: Patrick Conley, Scott Molloy, and Don Deignan; Legal experts: John Hardiman and Michael DiLauro from the RI Public Defenders office, Author Ken Dooley were all convinced that John Gordon had been the victim of a prejudiced trial.

In January of 2011, a resolution was submitted by Representative Peter Martin and referred to the House Judiciary Committee. On May 4, 2011, it was supported by the Committee on a 13 to 0 vote. On May 11, it was passed unanimously [70 to 0] by the full body of the House of Representatives and was transferred to the Rhode Island Senate.

On Wednesday, June 29, 2011, Governor Lincoln Chafee granted a pardon to John Gordon at a ceremony held in the same room that John Gordon was tried and found guilty in 1844.

There was a celebration at the St. Mary's Cemetery in Pawtucket on Saturday, October 8th. It was put on by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Pawtucket.

The following day, there was a dedication of a granite Flagstone in memory of John Gordon at a ceremony at the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial.

Representative Martin built a website,, to provide one consolidated source of information regarding the hanging of John Gordon, the legislation to exonerate him, the experts who have testified on his behalf, and the play which sparked this effort.

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