Apparently, my plot suggestion did not go over well

Someone recently asked my advice regarding their (the generic their) historical novel in progress. Their hero was orphaned when his criminal parents were hanged. The aspiring author, who lives in a western state, asked me to let them know what crime would have been a hanging offense in Massachusetts in the mid to late 1800s.

Specifically, in 1865, could both the hero’s father and mother have been hanged for a crime that generally seems to warrant only several years of prison time in the twenty-first century? As an example that would be relevant today, let’s pretend the parents had conned the preacher’s widow out of her life savings.

Despite having grown up in Massachusetts, I  know very little about nineteenth-century justice in that state. However, I don’t think a man would have been hanged for theft then. And, as far as I know, Massachusetts hasn’t executed a woman since the days of the Salem witch trials.

I suggested that the author have the father kill the mother. I’m fairly certain that would have been a hanging offense in 1865, and it conveniently would have dispatched both Dad and Mom for plot purposes.

For some reason, the author didn’t seem too enthusiastic about my suggestion.

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About WestWordArizona

Writer, editor, originally from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, now living in North San Diego County, California.
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