Nevada Appeal at 150: April 5, 1951: Death penalty handed to atomic spies

Death Penalty handed to atomic spies

New York, April 5 — (IP) — The man and woman who stole America’s A-bomb secret for Soviet Russia and “altered the course of history” were sentenced today to death in the electric chair.

Federal Judge Irving R. Kaufman ruled that Julius Rosenberg, 32, an electrical engineer, and his tiny wife, Ethel, 35, would have to pay the supreme penalty for “a crime worse than murder” — that has already caused the Communist aggression in Korea.

He let their co-conspirator, Morton Sobell, 34, an electronic engineer, off with his life but imposed the maximum prison term permissible under the espionage law — 30 years. The Rosenbergs were the first persons ever sentenced to death for espionage by United States civil courts.

Under federal law, a death sentence imposed by a federal court is carried out in and by the mode of the state in which the court sat. This meant the Rosenbergs must die in the electric chair of New York’s Sing Sing prison — unless an appeal succeeds.


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