Nicolas Jacques Pelletier
Nicolas Jacques Pelletier (d. April 25, 1792) was a French highwayman who was the first person to be executed by means of the guillotine. Pelletier routinely associated with a group of known criminals. On the night of 14 October 1791, with several unknown accomplices, he attacked a passerby in the rue Bourbon-Villeneuve in Paris and stole his wallet and several securities. During the robbery he also killed the man, though this is disputed in later literature as possibly just having been an assault and robbery or also an assault, robbery, and rape. He was apprehended and accused that same night, for the cries for help alerted the city, and a nearby guard arrested Pelletier. Judge Jacob Augustin Moreau, the District Judge of Sens, was to hear the case. A legal advisor was given to Pelletier, but despite his efforts and calls for a fairer court hearing, the judge ordered a death sentence for 31 December 1791. On 24 December 1791, the Second Criminal Court confirmed Judge Moreau's sentence. The execution was stayed, however, after the National Assembly made decapitation the only legal method of capital punishment.