Spenkelink, John

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Spenkelink, John Gender: M
John Arthur Spenkelink
born on 29 March 1949 at 18:00 (= 6:00 PM )
Place Le Mars, Iowa, 42n48, 96w10
Timezone CST h6w (is standard time)
Data source
Rectified from approx. time
Rodden Rating C
Collector: Scholfield
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_aricol.18.gif 08°58' s_mo.18.gif s_aricol.18.gif 12°57 Asc.s_libcol.18.gif 00°41'

John Spenkelink (Florida Department of Corrections mug shot)


American convicted murderer who was executed in 1979, the first convicted criminal to be executed in Florida after capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, and the second (after Gary Gilmore) in the United States.

Spenkelink was a drifter who was convicted in California for armed robbery and had been sentenced to five years-to-life. He had just escaped from the Slack Canyon Conservation Camp when he shot and killed a small-time criminal named Joseph Szymankiewicz in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1973. He claimed that he acted in self-defense—that Szymankiewicz had stolen his money, forced him to play Russian roulette, and sexually assaulted him. However, evidence and witness testimony from a co-defendant indicated that Spenkelink left their shared motel room, returned with a gun, and shot Szymankiewicz in the back. He turned down a plea bargain to second-degree murder that would have resulted in a life sentence. In 1973 he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. His co-defendant was acquitted.

In a 1972 court case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down death penalty schemes in all states, ruling that it had been applied unfairly. Florida and other states rushed to rewrite less-arbitrary laws.

Spenkelink appealed his sentence, but in 1977, Governor Reubin Askew of Florida signed Spenkelink's first death warrant. In 1979 Askew's successor, Governor Bob Graham, signed a second death warrant. Spenkelink continued to appeal, earning stays from both the U.S Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, but both stays were overturned, meaning that Spenkelink would be the first man put to death involuntarily (Gilmore had insisted he wanted to die) since executions were resumed in the U.S. in 1976.

Spenkelink's case became a national cause célèbre, encompassing both the broader debate over the morality of the death penalty and the narrower question of whether capital punishment fit Spenkelink's crime. His cause was taken up by former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, actor Alan Alda, and singer Joan Baez, among many others. Also at issue was whether capital punishment discriminated against the poor and underprivileged—Spenkelink often signed his prison correspondence with the epigram, "capital punishment means those without capital get the punishment."

Spenkelink's execution was finally carried out at 10:13 AM on 25 May 1979 in "Old Sparky", the Florida State Prison electric chair in Raiford. He was 30.

Link to Wikipedia biography



  • Death by Execution 25 May 1979 at 10:13 AM in Raiford (Electric chair, age 30)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Sy Scholfield quotes birth news, Sioux Center News (Sioux Center, Iowa), Thursday 31 March 1949, page 5: "Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Spenkelink are the happy parents of a son born to them at the LeMars hospital on Tuesday evening." A birth time of 6 PM is speculative.


  • Passions : Criminal Perpetrator : Homicide single
  • Passions : Criminal Perpetrator : Prison sentence
  • Passions : Criminal Perpetrator : Thief/ Financial crime (Armed robbery)
  • Personal : Death : Unusual (Executed)