Okay, hopefully this is all true, as far as I know it is. I love it when a story works out so neatly. I read this in a book one of my uncles got me for Christmas 🙂
In 1894 a young American farmer, Will Purvis, was sentence to be hanged on Feb 7 for the murder of a farm owner in Columbia, Mississippi. At the trial, when he was sentenced, he cried out to the jury “I will live to see every last one of you dies!”
He was secured on the gallows, read last rights, and dropped. The trap door opened and Purvis fell right through to the bottom, covered in dust but unharmed. Somehow the noose had become loose and slipped off, but nobody could ever say for sure how it happened.
They were going to re-hang him, but the crowd there began to get upset, saying he had been reprieved by the highest power of all, and threatened to riot if the hanging went ahead. So they delayed the hanging. Despite several attempts by his defence, a new date was set, December 12, 1895.
This time, however, Purvis managed to escape from jail and went into hiding. When a new governor for Mississippi was elected, who was sympathetic to Purvis’ plight, he surrendered himself to the police, and immediately had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment. By this time he was a state-wide hero in the eyes of the public, and thousands of letters came in demanding he be released. Eventually the governor agreed and in 1898 he was a free man.
Ah, but why is this a cool story? A murderer gets away with it? Thing is, he wasn’t a murderer. In 1917 a convict, Joseph Beard, announced on his deathbed that he was responsible for the murder, not Purvis. Other details were given that proved the story to be true, and Purvis was now fully exonerated.
As for his angry cry to the jury, “I will live to see every last one of you dies!” Well, he died peacefully in October 13, 1938.
The last of the jurors who had found him guilty had passed away three days earlier.