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New York Capital Punishment History
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Thread: New York Capital Punishment History

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    New York Capital Punishment History

    A Man Who Knew About the Electric Chair

    A view to the execution chamber at Sing Sing, where Louis E. Lawes, the warden from 1920 to 1941, saw to 303 executions, even as he denounced capital punishment.

    Nobody killed more people, with more regret, than Lewis E. Lawes.

    The warden of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility for 21 years, Lawes supervised the executions of 303 prisoners, all the while condemning the practice of capital punishment as barbaric, inequitable and futile.

    As Hollywoods favorite fearless, fighting warden, with a soft heart for his boys, Lawes was in charge of the prison through two turbulent decades of the Jazz Age and the Great Depression to World War II.

    I shall ask for the abolition of the Penalty of Death, he wrote in 1923, quoting Lafayette, until I have the infallibility of human judgment demonstrated to me.

    Executions at the prison, in Ossining, left Lawes physically ill, his trove of papers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice shows. Once, when a condemned man named Patrick Murphy pleaded for a strictly prohibited last drink of spirits, Lawes broke the rules to deliver a medicinal dose of bourbon. Murphy accepted it gratefully and then offered it back to the stricken Lawes, saying, You need the shot more than I do, warden.

    But he was no pushover. Hell, he wrote in one of his many books, Invisible Stripes, the only law in Sing Sing is Lawes.

    So with the United States Supreme Court now reviewing the Alabama case of the death row inmate Cory Maples, whose appeal got waylaid in the mail, and weeks after a lethal injection ended the life of Troy Davis still protesting his innocence in the killing of a Georgia police officer, it would hardly be amiss to summon Lawes (who died in 1947 at 63) as an expert witness on the subject of state-ordered death.

    Barely one out of 80 killers actually paid with his life, Lawes liked to note. Where was the equity in that? And, he asked, Did you ever see a rich man go the whole route through to the Death House? I dont know of any.

    If the prospect of execution were a deterrent to killing, Lawes asked, how did Thomas Pallister, who helped build Sing Sings first death house, come to be convicted of murder and ordered to die there? (He cheated the chair by breaking out and escaping; he was later found dead with a bullet to the head.)

    It was under Lawes that the world got its most sensational image of capital punishment: Ruth Snyder and her lover, Henry Judd Gray, went to the chair in 1928 for the killing of Snyders husband. A photographer for The Chicago Tribune, shooting for The Daily News with a miniature camera strapped to his ankle snapped a grotesque shot of the hooded Snyder as the current shot through her.

    Lawes, a dandyish warden who was known to enjoy a pre-dinner Scotch throughout Prohibition, practiced the redemption he preached. He was shaved each morning by a convicted killer who had slit a mans throat, and he confidently put his 6-year-old daughter in the care of a convicted kidnapper. Of his household staff of 22, he assured his nervous wife, only two were murderers.

    The electric chair at Sing Sing.

    Born in 1883 in Elmira, N.Y., Lawes had worked as a guard at Clinton Prison in the Adirondack wilds of Dannemora, N.Y. His education as a penologist came at the feet of a wise old lifer who schooled him in the power of the club. Carry it as a badge of authority, he advised, but never use it.

    He was eventually named to run a new youth reformatory in Orange County, N.Y., where he tamed his wayward charges with camaraderie and trust. When a movie company came through to shoot a silent Western, Lawes had his boys serve as extras, putting them on horseback armed with rifles and pistols loaded with blanks. No one escaped.

    So he was the obvious choice in 1919 when a scandal-battered Sing Sing, founded farther north in 1825 at the old Indian site of Sint Sinck, or stone upon stone, sought a progressive new warden and Gov. Al Smith turned to the 36-year-old Lawes with the words, Its yours, son.

    The first prisoner whose execution was overseen by Lawes a week after he had taking charge of the prison in 1920 was a 30-year-old semiliterate man named Vincenzo Esposito, who, in a drunken stupor, had fatally shot a couple during a robbery. After his electrocution, the other death row inmates could hear the whine of the saw cutting through his skull for an autopsy.

    The more Lawes learned about capital punishment, the more it puzzled him. If the point was deterrence, why choose the relatively quick end of a sudden bolt of electricity instead of something more grisly? Why not stage executions in public? If criminals feared death, why did they have to be guarded against committing suicide? Why wasnt murder on a rampage in the 12 states that had abolished the death penalty?

    In a speech on the new medium of radio in 1923, Lawes explained his practical approach. Most prisoners were eventually set free, so what happened to them behind bars was crucial.

    He prescribed music and theater for prisoners, exposure to sunshine, and competitive sports, particularly football. Sing Sings team was, of course, the Black Sheep. Lawes brought the Yankees in for exhibition games; a homer Babe Ruth hammered over the wall and the New York Central Railroad tracks could have been his greatest swat ever, some 600 or 700 feet.

    Lawes clung to his opposition to executions through the fiendish case of Albert Henry Fish, a 65-year-old house painter sentenced to die for the 1928 abduction, murder and cannibalization of 10-year-old Grace Budd. Fish, who was found to have inserted 30 sewing needles into his abdomen, perhaps as self-punishment, was clearly out of his mind, Lawes thought, a pathetic creature whose death would solve nothing. Indeed, Fish went to the chair mumbling, I dont know why Im here and This is a sad day for me.

    Lawess principles underwent their severest test in 1941 when three inmates tunneled out, killing a guard and an Ossining police officer during their getaway. One of the escapees was shot dead and the other two were soon recaptured and beaten before being convicted and sentenced to death.

    Lawes submitted to a bristling inquisition and then announced his retirement.

    He was under no illusion that his cause to abolish capital punishment was easy, he had told the General Federation of Womens Clubs some years before, and he urged patience. Dont expect to do the impossible, he told them. It is slow work because civilization, if it is civilization we now have, is making very slow progress.


  2. #2
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    Old Sparkey Retired

    50 years ago, 1963: The mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder was abolished in New York State. The new law stated the penalty for premeditated murder was to be life imprisonment unless a jury unanimously agreed on the death penalty.


    Capital Punishment In New York

    Capital punishment in New York has not been practiced since 1963, when Eddie Mays was electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison. The state was the first to adopt the electric chair as a method of execution, which replaced hanging. The state is third in recorded number of executions since 1608, after Virginia and Texas.[1] Following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling declaring existing capital punishment statutes unconstitutional in Furman v. Georgia (1972), New York was without a death penalty until 1995, when then-Governor George Pataki signed a new statute into law, which provided for execution by lethal injection. In June 2004, the state's highest court ruled in People v. LaValle that the state's death penalty statute violated the state constitution, and New York has had an effective moratorium on capital punishment since then. Subsequent legislative attempts at fixing or replacing the statute have failed, and in 2008 then-Governor David Paterson issued an executive order disestablishing New York's death row.

    Temporary Abolition

    In 1860, the New York Legislature passed a bill which effectively, though unintentionally, abolished capital punishment in the state, by repealing hanging as a method of execution without prescribing an alternative method. The bill was signed by Governor Edwin D. Morgan in April 1860. The New York Court of Appeals ruled the statute unconstitutional. Governor Morgan signed legislation to restore the death penalty in 1861, and again in 1862 to fully repeal the earlier statute

    Introduction Of The Electric Chair

    In 1887, New York State established a committee to determine a new, more humane system of execution to replace hanging. Alfred P. Southwick, a member of the committee, developed the idea of putting electric current through a device such as a chair after hearing about how relatively painlessly and quickly a drunken man died due to touching exposed power lines. As Southwick was a dentist accustomed to performing procedures on subjects in chairs, his electrical device appeared in the form of a chair.

    The first individual to be executed in the electric chair was William Kemmler, on August 6, 1890. Current was passed through Kemmler for 17 seconds and he was declared dead, but witnesses noticed he was still breathing, and the current was turned back on. From start to finish, the execution took eight minutes. During the execution, blood vessels under the skin ruptured and bled, and some witness reported that Kemmler's body set on fire.


    In 1965, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a liberal Republican who supported capital punishment, signed legislation which abolished the death penalty except for cases involving the murder of a police officer.

    Furman v. Georgia

    In the July 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court declared all existing death penalty statutes across the United States unconstitutional. The moratorium lasted until 1976, when the Court ruled in Gregg v. Georgia that states could resume capital punishment under reworked statutes.

    Grasso Extradition and Execution

    On January 11, 1995, convicted killer Thomas J. Grasso, who had been sentenced to death by Oklahoma but was serving a sentence of 20 years to life in New York, was extradited from New York to Oklahoma to face execution. Grasso was transported to Buffalo International Airport and flown to Oklahoma. He was executed on March 20, 1995.


    In 1995, fulfilling a campaign promise, newly elected Governor George Pataki, a Republican, signed legislation reinstating the death penalty in New York, establishing lethal injection as the method of execution.

    Statute Declared Unconstitutional

    On June 24, 2004, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, held in People v. LaValle that the state's death penalty statute violated the New York Constitution. Governor Pataki criticized the ruling and promised a quick legislative fix.

    Last Death Sentence Commuted

    In 2007, the New York Court of Appeals heard arguments in People v. John Taylor, and, in rejecting the arguments of the Queens District Attorney, commuted the sentence to life without parole, leaving New York with an empty death row.

    Public Hearings

    Between December 2004 and February 2005, public hearings were held in Manhattan and Albany. New York Law School Professor and death penalty advocate Robert Blecker advocated strongly in favor of reinstatement, while Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau strongly opposed reinstatement.

    Political Significance In Manhattan District Attorney Election

    In the 2005 Democratic primary for Manhattan District Attorney, incumbent Robert Morgenthau's campaign produced television advertisements criticizing opponent Leslie Crocker Snyder, a prosecutor who had stated in her autobiography that in one case, she would have been willing to give a lethal injection to a defendant herself, saying Snyder was "Wrong on the Death Penalty, Wrong for Manhattan". The New York Times endorsed Snyder but expressed concern about her support for the death penalty. For the duration of Morgenthau's tenure as Manhattan District Attorney, he never once sought the death penalty in the period it was legal in New York.

    In the 2009 Democratic primary in which Morgenthau did not run, Snyder ran for District Attorney again, against Cyrus Vance, Jr. and Richard Aborn. Both opponents strongly opposed the death penalty, and criticized Snyder for her previous comments. Snyder accused Vance and Aborn of taking her comments out of context, and stated that her position on the death penalty had changed due to learning about wrongful convictions. Aborn said he would oppose attempts to restore it, and would "lead the effort against any attempt to revive it"

    Legislative Efforts To Reinstate The Death Penalty

    In 2005, supporters of the death penalty in the New York Legislature successfully passed a bill restoring New York's death penalty in the Republican-controlled State Senate, but the legislation was voted down by a legislative committee in the Democratic-controlled New York Assembly, and was not enacted into law.

    In 2008, the State Senate again passed legislation that would have established the death penalty for the murder of law enforcement officers, but the Assembly did not act on the legislation.

    Death Row Disestablished

    In 2008, Governor David Paterson, a Democrat, issued an executive order requiring the removal of the state's execution equipment.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  3. #3
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    The Story of the Only NYPD Officer Ever Sentenced to Death - 100 Years Ago Today

    A century ago today, Charles Becker became the first and only NYPD officer to be executed on death row. But was the cop framed for a famous gangland murder?

    When it came to scandal, the Tammany leader Big Tim Sullivan said, New York was a 9-day town. But in the case of the murder of his friend Herman "Beansie" Rosenthal, a gangster and gambling house proprietor, Sullivan's adage proved spectacularly untrue. Charles Becker, an NYPD lieutenant, was 1 of 5 men convicted of the murder, and he remains the only New York City police officer sent to the electric chair. Though the case was sensational and the conviction a travesty, Becker is little remembered today, and defended less. Both failures are all the more disgraceful because the prosecution was undertaken for a noble cause, that of political reform in general and police reform in particular.

    As with any criminal trial that is transformed into social allegory, the cause trumped the case; facts that contradicted it were held not as false but as heretical, demanding suppression instead of debate. Later generations seeking lessons from the past are likelier to dwell on episodes of clear-cut triumph or transgression. Who wants to commemorate a battle without heroes?

    In most tellings of the city's political history, the struggle between Tammany Hall and Reform is recounted in nearly Manichean terms. The gangsterism and graft of Tammany sometimes reached a stupendous scale, but the machine also represented the largest part of New York City, with all its immigrant energy, and its legacy includes the New Deal. For what it was worth, its lack of affectation was commensurate with its lack of principle, as when Alexander "Clubber" Williams, a police inspector, replied when asked why he failed to close the brothels in his district: "Because they were kind of fashionable at the time." In Tammany's case, a sense of humor was a not-quite-saving grace, but it pointed to the pragmatism that accounted for its durability and many decencies. By contrast, Jacob Riis lamented that every reform movement - a term broad enough to encompass opponents of 80-hour workweeks and naughty postcards - ought to be assigned an official humorist, to save them from conceit and worse.

    The late 19th century New York Times index shows more coverage of the topic of "Police Abuses" than "Politics" as a whole. In a sense, crime in the city has always been covered more like sports than news, as an intensely personal and symbolic contest. And if it seems like the rival teams of cops and crooks have gotten together to fix the game, the reaction of the fans can be truly fanatic. As Andy Logan, who wrote the definitive history of the Becker case, observed, "Sweat shops, child labor, yellow dog contracts, the political and industrial exploitation of the vast new immigration ... the open purchase of political office, gross corruption involving municipal contracts ... All these civic evils were properly deplored from time to time, but there were intervals when it seemed that the most hideous sin of all in the minds of Americans ... was the greasing of the palms of city policemen by prostitutes, gamblers, and small-time local criminals."

    In the Republican campaigns against Tammany, charges of police grafting were both pretextual and true, guaranteed to command headlines and periodically occasion a Republican or Fusion win at the polls. Reformers tended to be middle to upper-middle class, Protestant and Republican, and the subjects of reform were those who were not. Around the turn of the century, there were a series of investigations by the legislature and eminent citizens - the Lexow Committee, the Mazet Committee, the Committee of 9. John D. Rockefeller led a grand jury on the "white slave trade" in 1909. The press followed mostly because the copy could be wonderful - as when Reverend Parkhurst went undercover to play leapfrog with naked can-can dancers - and the more destructive graft of Tammany, in the awarding of municipal contracts, was too dull to sustain public interest.

    Becker was perfectly cast as a bad cop, arrogant, brutal and greedy. He was the protege of Clubber Williams, and modeled himself after his mentor in his physicality - both in his courage and the free use of his nightstick - and the vigor with which he fattened his assets and his arrest record. Once, he saved a man from drowning; another time, he locked up a woman for asking him for directions. A fellow cop remarked that Becker would lock up his own grandmother if it would make him look good downtown. When he was 1 of 3 lieutenants who ran gambling squads, it was known that only one of them would make captain, and so Becker stepped up both his raids and his payoffs.

    At the time, raids were sometimes carried out to settle a personal or political score, but for the most part, they were conducted as an elaborate dance between the police, the politicians, and the gambling establishment. Enforcement occurred more or less by appointment, so that the criminal justice system could show that it was taking action with the minimum inconvenience to criminals: "stiffs" were provided for arrest, in cases designed to fall apart long before trial. Becker pushed things, however, seeking to make a name for himself with heavy hands and grasping ones. A Hearst reporter warned him of a plot to frame him, not long after his appointment to the squad. Becker had even employed a press agent to keep his name in the papers. It would soon be unnecessary.

    Herman Rosenthal's pursuit of the media also led to his undoing. As Big Tim was fond of saying, "God and the people hate a chesty man," and Rosenthal redefined chestiness. He had been prosperous and well-connected until 1909, when the Legislature forbade racetrack betting, then his chief source of income. As his operations suffered, he decided to make the new reforms work for him by refusing to pay off a $5000 bet, welshing all the way up to the Court of Appeals, which held in his favor. When his fellow gamblers tried to prevail on him to honor the debt, loaning him money themselves, he stiffed them as well. At that point, anonymous letters began to find their way to the desks of Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo and District Attorney Charles Whitman, who ordered raids on his gambling houses until only one remained.

    Later that night, Rosenthal went to the Hotel Metropole, an establishment thick with hoodlums, including men who had tried to kill him before and whom he had tried to kill as well.

    Rosenthal then began to publicly denounce police corruption, which lost him whatever chance remained to regain a business-like footing with colleagues on both sides of the law. He waged war against the NYPD, under the table and over it, boasting that his connections were such that he would have any cop who interfered with him transferred, and, for a time, his relationship with the declining Big Tim meant that the threat wasn't an idle one. He attempted to swear out warrants against a captain and inspector who raided his establishments. Overall, the fight had a small-time and vaguely farcical quality - when a policeman was posted to his last premise, Rosenthal locked the poor man inside - though the joke was wearing dangerously thin.

    Rosenthal was steadily losing money, friends, and political cover, even after his claim that Becker was his silent partner received sensational treatment by a reporter named Herbert Bayard Swope at the World, 1 of the 2 papers in New York which inspired the phrase "yellow journalism." The day after the story appeared, DA Whitman agreed to meet with Rosenthal, but the gambler's charges failed to impress him. Later that night, Rosenthal went to the Hotel Metropole, an establishment thick with hoodlums, including men who had tried to kill him before and whom he had tried to kill as well. He seemed to revel in the attention, until an associate asked him to step outside, where he was gunned down in what may have been the 1st drive-by shooting in gangland history.

    The killers were a picturesque lot: the gunmen were Whitey Lewis, Lefty Louis, Dago Frank, and Gyp the Blood, who preferred bombs to guns "because I likes to hear da noise," and they were hired by a number of Rosenthal's former associates, led by the utterly hairless Bald Jack Rose. The murder was a predictable and routine matter of internal underworld discipline. No one was particularly surprised, though Commissioner Waldo exclaimed, "Ye Gods!" when he heard, realizing that the timing was awkward. Mayor Gaynor's reaction was more typical, remarking, "Got him, did they?" The previously underwhelmed Whitman now broadcast through Swope that the death was "a challenge to our very civilization."

    The reactions of the 3 officials were wholly in character. Waldo was a clueless but amiable gentleman amateur, whom the patrolmen thought well of because he'd redesigned their greatcoats so the pockets were larger. Once, when he received an anonymous complaint about Becker's grafting, he forwarded it to him for investigation. (Becker returned the letter, stating that it was inappropriate for him to pursue the matter.) Gaynor, who was known as "the most cantankerous man ever to sit in City Hall," had a temper that worsened when a deranged city employee shot him in the neck. Gaynor was the kind of figure that made Tammany difficult to pigeonhole; he was the candidate the machine put forward during a period of scandal, to show its best face, but his presence in the organization showed that there were men of probity among their ranks, who could rise and sometimes rule. His performance as mayor was widely admired, and reformers warmed to him, as did the press, which loved his habit of quoting Epictetus and Homer, when Tammany epigrams were more in the vein of Sullivan on chesty men. Gaynor and Whitman detested each other, though both liked Commissioner Waldo.

    Theodore Roosevelt once said of Charles Whitman, "The truth is not in him." Socially and politically ambitious, Whitman was a low-level Republican functionary whose 1st career break was winning the presidency of the Board of Magistrates after other factions deadlocked over their preferred candidates. After his election as district attorney, he stopped at a bar one night and noticed, upon finishing his drink, that the time was 23 minutes after the legal one a.m. closing. When he brought up his concern with the bartender, he was told not to worry, that the police wouldn't bother them. Whitman then proceeded on a sort of investigative pub-crawl, visiting several more saloons before going to a precinct to demand the arrest of all who had provided him hospitality. His sobriety and sense were both questioned, but his wishes were carried out, and subsequent outings were conducted with the press in tow so that the exploits of the "crusading D.A." received suitable fanfare.

    From that time, Whitman developed a relationship with Swope, whose career in journalism, in the early years, bore a closer resemblance to that of P.T. Barnum than Edward R. Murrow: He was a political ringmaster and an impresario of public spectacle. In exchange for exclusives, Swope made Whitman exactly the kind of hero he wanted to be - not only a fearless crimefighter, but one who would cut short a Newport vacation with the Vanderbilts to get the job done. Swope claimed, credibly, to dictate the D.A.'s press releases. His love of gambling led to his own underworld intimacies, particularly with Arnold Rothstein, who was later immortalized in The Great Gatsby as Meyer Wolfsheim, "the man who fixed the 1919 World Series." Swope was the best man at Rothstein's wedding, and frequently borrowed money from him. As it happened, Becker raided one of Rothstein's establishments in the months before the killing. With his Rosenthal story, Swope had a production that languished during rehearsals - even Whitman had to be bullied into a tepid expression of interest - until the murder gave him a Broadway smash.

    Becker himself was well-acquainted with controversy, after a conflict with the novelist Stephen Crane in 1896. Crane's The Red Badge of Courage had been published the year before, and the now-famous author had begun work on sketches of low life in the Tenderloin, in the vein of his earlier Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. It was also reported that Crane was writing about the police, not sympathetically, and his encounter with Becker would not improve his view. At 2 in the morning, Crane was walking with 2 women he had picked up when he met a 3rd, named Dora Clark, before being suddenly set upon by Becker, then a young patrolman, who announced that all 3 women were under arrest for prostitution. Crane saved one woman by insisting that she was his wife; in the end, Becker took only Clark in. Crane appeared in court with Clark to testify on her behalf. That he had written a favorable profile of the magistrate in the days before the hearing doubtless assisted in the swift dismissal of the charges. The reaction from police inspired Crane to leave the city to cover the Spanish American War. In reality, the incident wasn't simply ugly but complicatedly so: Dora Clark was a prostitute, and she'd been feuding with the local precinct since she'd spurned the advances of a somewhat dark-skinned patrolman named Rosenberg because she believed he was black, telling him, "How dare you speak to a decent white woman!"

    If nothing else, the incident lends a measure of irony to the ethnic politics of the Rosenthal murder. Jewish leaders took issue with Mayor Gaynor's denunciation of the "lawless foreigners" who were the principals in the case (all were Jewish, excepting Dago Frank, of course) and Swope flatly manufactured anti-Semitic statements which he attributed to Becker, a Protestant of German descent, in order to fan the flames. The cultural casting of the scandal, in which Jewish gangsters and Irish cops and ward-heelers were turning a great city into a cesspool of corruption, were essential to its fascination in the hinterlands and abroad.

    The story was national and international news, to a degree that is difficult to imagine today. For the foreign press, New York City was America, and it was often the only city that other regional papers covered on a regular basis. Laws were passed in Washington, but life, in its most vivid and meaningful form, took place in New York. (New Yorkers didn't disagree - at the turn of the century, a Tammany leader denied a young associate appointment to the position of county clerk in Manhattan, saying, "He's a good boy, but that job requires brains and experience. He'll have to be satisfied with going to Congress.") Even so, the reaction from otherwise sober parties was decidedly unhinged. One western paper editorialized that, in spite of its opposition to the death penalty, "In this case we would not raise the slightest protest if Becker and his gunmen were sent heavenward ... New York State has our permission to assemble the entire police force of New York and, in the presence of officers and men, blow Becker and his band of cutthroats to Jericho." Locally, the coverage was no less relentless or ridiculous - in Swope's paper, the Rosenthal murder was a crisis "infinitely worse than the one that confronted the nation at Gettysburg," and it made the front page 136 days out of 186.

    Becker's connection to Rosenthal was indeed tantalizing. While he was preparing a libel suit in response to Rosenthal's claim that they were business partners, he had a longstanding relationship with Bald Jack Rose, as fellow players in the vice game. Becker was driving through midtown at the time of the murder, and when he arrived home, reporters called to tell him about it. He then drove back downtown to the crime scene, an act that was portrayed as the gloating of a shameless killer. But the case against him simply wasn't there: it was a "murder by proxy, twice removed," as Logan puts it, in which Becker's interests and the overwhelming weight of the evidence showed him to be innocent of the charges against him, perhaps for the 1st time in his career. Becker came to believe that Rose may well have told Rosenthal that he was a silent partner in his business. Because Rosenthal had made so many complaints about so many cops over the years, Becker would have been among the few who might have considered offering protection. When Becker raided his house, wrecking it and arresting his nephew, Rosenthal's last story ignored all the other officers and officials with whom he'd been warring. Why Becker would wreck an establishment that he owned, and why he'd invest with a man who'd been losing money and fighting cops for years, were questions that were barely asked, let alone answered.

    Whitman was untroubled by the gaps in his story. Bald Jack Rose and several other conspirators were jailed in the Tombs until their testimony jibed with his theory. The lower floors of the Tombs were ankle-deep in water, and the cells measured 7 by 3 1/2 feet; they were without plumbing and virtually without ventilation, during a summer when the temperature was regularly in the 90s. These immediate discomforts paled before the prospect of the electric chair at Sing Sing, however, and when Whitman offered Rose and 2 other admitted killers outright freedom in exchange for testimony against Becker, there was little hesitation on their part. Other witnesses for the prosecution were paid generously, while witnesses for the defense were intimidated and worse; one reporter who provided an alibi for Becker was fired by his paper soon after.

    Whitman requested that the governor call an extraordinary session of the State Supreme Court to hear the cases, and he was further obliged when Judge John Goff was assigned. Goff had been chief counsel for the Lexow Committee, which had elicited Clubber Williams' memorable statement regarding the fashionability of brothels. For Williams to attend the trial every day was a gesture more impressive for its loyalty than its strategy. Becker's pregnant wife, Helen, was not permitted to sit in view of the jury. Goff granted virtually all of the prosecution's motions and denied those of the defense, seating a close friend of the prosecutor's as a juror. He ordered the trial to begin one week after the arraignment. In record-breaking heat, he ordered the fans shut off, the windows closed, the shades drawn, and permitted 15 minutes for lunch. He charged the jury as a prosecutor, repeating Whitman�s allegations as facts. The trial lasted just over 2 weeks, deliberations only a few hours.

    Becker's pregnant wife, Helen, was not permitted to sit in view of the jury.

    When Becker was convicted, public acclaim for Whitman was vast; he was discussed as a candidate for mayor, governor, even president. Becker underwent a less public transformation: on death row at Sing Sing, he became a quiet leader and counselor of other inmates, and won the respect of the warden. He converted to Catholicism. He maintained his innocence of the murder, but made little pretense about the other aspects of his career, and refused any overtures to implicate others in exchange for leniency. His wife lost her baby in childbirth, but the moment of public sympathy was brief when it was reported that the doctor had told her during delivery that he could save either her or the child, and she chose to live. In one paper, she was likened to Lady Macbeth.

    Helen Becker was, in fact, a figure of almost implausible decency and forbearance, a schoolteacher devoted to "backward pupils," who bore her embarrassment of misfortunes with great grace: "My husband was under sentence of death. I had lost my baby, our money was gone, my housekeeper had killed herself, my mother had died, my dog Bum had bitten a man and been shot, my pet canary bird had died. Then I thought: 'Well, anyway, I'm not blind.' The very next morning I woke up with a sore eye. That struck me as funny, and I wrote it to Charley in my next letter. I am glad I have a sense of humor. I think it has often saved me from suffering and it has made me see amusing things to put in my letters to my husband."

    When the Court of Appeals ordered a new trial, in a scathing and lengthy decision, there was widespread outrage, and muttered warnings to Whitman that his political viability was contingent on a conviction. Many of his own prosecutors were disgusted with him, and it was joked around the office that Whitman was lucky that he didn't have to submit the case to a jury of his own staff. At the new trial, Judge Samuel Seabury was more decorous than Goff had been, but no less biased in his rulings. Becker was again found guilty. By the time the appeals were filed, Seabury had been appointed to the Court of Appeals, and though he recused himself from the case, his new colleagues did not reverse him. A Democratic bill to ban capital punishment was not introduced for fear it might save Becker. Becker's last hope was for the commutation of his death sentence, but Whitman had realized his ambition to become governor then, and he would have sole discretion on any plea for clemency. On the eve of the execution, Whitman lashed out again, proclaiming Becker's guilt and strongly suggesting that he'd killed his 1st wife, though she'd died of tuberculosis. When Helen Becker went to the governor to plead for her husband's life, she found him too drunk to stand, unable to comprehend her.

    As he was led to the chamber, Becker said, rather cryptically, "I am sacrificed for my friends." All reports related that he faced death unflinchingly, aside from those of Swope, who portrayed him in a state of panic. Becker did receive a stay of execution of a momentary and grisly sort, when he survived his first 2 rides in the electric chair. His body spasmed wildly, and a jet of flame leapt from his temple, but when the current was shut off, the examining doctor found that his heart was beating. His funeral at the church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine in the Bronx was well-attended, mostly by police, and it was described by the Times as a "scandalous spectacle." Indignation surged when Helen Becker put a plaque on her husband's grave, in Woodlawn Cemetery, that read:



    There were calls for her to be fired from her job as a schoolteacher, but the moment passed. The police removed the plaque several weeks later.

    Helen Becker never married again, and lived quietly until the 1960's. Clubber Williams died in 1917, and he was buried near Becker in Woodlawn. In Whitman's campaign for reelection in 1918, he would become as ardent a Prohibitionist as he had been a drinker, but he was defeated by Tammany's man, Al Smith, who served 4 terms of lasting distinction and went on to become the 1st Catholic to run for president as the candidate of a major party. Herbert Bayard Swope would go on to win 3 Pulitzer Prizes for reporting. In the city, a new system was organized so that the police role as conduit between the politicians and the gangsters was much reduced. Cops like Becker were replaced by 1 man, Swope's great friend, Arnold Rothstein, who became organized crime's 1st great modernizer.

    Proponents of reform saw the Becker execution as a great act of purification. Opponents might not have minded it so much, either, seeing it as an opportunity to get back to business for another generation. Big Tim Sullivan might have been wrong in his 9-day estimate for the shelf life of a scandal, but it's hard to argue with his larger point about the fickle and fleeting nature of public concern, whether we forget from ordinary distraction or willful amnesia. He was committed to a sanatorium in 1912, the year Rosenthal was killed, suffering delusions as a result of tertiary syphilis. He wandered away the next year, and was hit by a train.

    (Source: The Daily Beast)
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  4. #4
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    Anna Aumller (pictured) was Schmidt's "secret lover" and described him to her friends as "holy-crazy."

    Hans B. Schmidt (pictured) was a German Roman Catholic priest convicted of murdering Anna Aumller in 1913.

    Joseph Faurot (pictured) was a detective in New York City who found a woman's trousseau, a butcher knife, a handsaw, and a trove of letters from Germany addressed to Anna Aumller.

    ‘Holy-crazy’ priest who dumped body parts in Hudson is only chaplain to get the chair in U.S.


    On Sept. 5, 1913, neatly bound bundles of body parts sawn with surgical precision began washing up on the New Jersey shore of the Hudson River.

    Over several days, authorities pieced together six fragments — minus the head, which never surfaced — into a single human being, a formerly robust young woman.

    The slightest clue enabled adroit cops to connect a name to the victim, raising the curtain on a scandalous crime story that stands apart even in New York’s illustrious record of you’ve-got-to-be-kidding murders.

    The tipoff was a maker’s label on a pillowcase used to package the upper torso. The tag led police to Robinson-Roders, a Newark bedding firm, where sales books pointed detectives to a store on Eighth Ave. in Harlem.

    Records there showed the pillowcase was part of a $12.68 delivery on Aug. 25 that went just around the corner, to 68 Bradhurst Ave.

    The building super said the flat had been rented two weeks earlier by Hans Schmidt, a handsome man with a throaty German accent. Oddly, the super said the place had been occupied not by Schmidt but by a statuesque German woman named Anna who had suddenly disappeared.

    Police Inspector Joseph Faurot, an early devotee of forensic science, could smell blood in the apartment. He noticed that dark spots on the walls and floors had been vigorously scrub-brushed.

    In a steamer trunk he found a woman’s trousseau, a butcher knife, a handsaw, and a trove of letters from Germany addressed to Anna Aumller.

    Faurot used the papers to knit together details of the raven-haired immigrant’s life — and death.

    She had arrived in New York in 1908, at age 16, and worked as a servant at several addresses found on the letters.

    Faurot sniffed out the next key clue at her last job, at St. Boniface Catholic Church, 47th St. and Second Ave. The Rev. John Braun said he had fired Aumller on Aug. 13, after eight months, because he was “not satisfied with her way of life.”

    Braun urged police to speak with Aumller’s spiritual guide, his former assistant pastor, the Rev. Hans Schmidt, the Harlem flat-renter.

    Braun said Schmidt, a 1907 Bavarian migr, was a square peg who refused to conform to Catholicism’s meticulously rounded holes. He altered the church’s ritual prayers to suit his eccentricities, and his ceremonies often were a mess of scriptural error. Worse, Schmidt had informed Pastor Braun’s sister that he believed in “free love.”

    Braun engineered a transfer for Schmidt the previous December. An eager Faurot roused him at midnight on Sept. 13 in the rectory at St. Joseph’s, 125th St/ and Morningside Ave. To the inspector’s astonishment, the priest blurted a weepy confession that he had “sacrificed” Aumller, his secret lover.

    “I killed her because I loved her,” said Schmidt. “I am guilty and ready to pay the penalty.”

    In a series of encyclopedic statements, Schmidt unfurled a shocking tale of his own psychopathy. Born in 1881 to a large Bavarian family, Schmidt was a faith-obsessed boy nicknamed “the little chaplain,” strutting about in a boy-sized cassock sewn by his mother.

    He was beguiled by blood, which he used in faux religious rituals, and he spent idle hours at slaughterhouses, where blood stimulated his earliest sexual arousal.

    He was packed away to seminary in Mainz, which he completed in about 1905. Schmidt sailed for the U.S. in a clerical collar two years later.

    There were whispers of mental problems as he bounced from one parish to another, but Schmidt was transferred, not confronted — forerunner of the church sex scandals a century later.

    Schmidt and Aumller initiated a sexual relationship at St. Boniface, and she soon found herself pregnant. The priest paid her passage to Austria for an abortion.

    She demanded a wedding ring after her return, so he gave it to her — and conducted the illegitimate ceremony himself in February 1913.

    Aumller, who described Schmidt to a friend as “holy-crazy,” said he had pledged to move to the country and start a new religion.

    Ultimately, he chose murder over renouncement of his holy orders.

    He slit Aumller’s throat in bed, then disassembled the body. He made seven ghoulish late-night crossings on the Fort Lee ferry, furtively dropping one chunk per trip off the stern.

    Schmidt revealed that his criminal habits ran deep. He and a partner were operating a $10 bill counterfeiting shop in Harlem. And he was plotting an insurance scam with a fake doctor, knocking off “cripples and paralytics” among his parishioners.

    “I would be fulfilling God’s will,” Schmidt insisted.

    His trial three months after the murder ended with jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of a murder conviction. The holdouts believed Schmidt crazy, disagreeing with four alienists who judged him sane.

    But Schmidt sealed his fate at the opening of the retrial, as his attorney told the jury he would prove the priest insane.

    Schmidt leaped to his feet and declared, “That is not true!”

    He was convicted and condemned to the electric chair on the second go-round, and his Sing Sing sendoff arrived at daybreak on Feb. 18, 1916.

    “I ask forgiveness of all those I have injured or scandalized,” Schmidt said.

    He bid auf wiedersehen to “my dear old mother,” and three jolts of juice terminated his misbegotten life — the first and only Catholic priest executed in the U.S.


  5. #5
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    August 12, 1912: the day that 7 people were executed in Sing Sing.

    November 6, 2011

    ‘The Six Italians’ executed for one murder

    The crime that provoked the most zealous use of capital punishment in New York history began with bunkhouse bunkum.

    And it ended with a queue of six men — all Italian immigrants — at the oaken foot of the Sing Sing electric chair.

    The events played out 100 years ago this week in the midst of aqueduct construction at Croton Lake in Westchester County.

    Thousands of poor laborers were working at Croton for two bucks a day as the reservoir was expanded and new water tunnels to New York were dug. They lived at close quarters, stacked like salted sardines in bunk towns like Bradley’s Camp, west of Yorktown Heights.

    After hours, they drank and grumbled about the money they were not earning.

    In the summer of 1911, bunkhouse chins wagged about the death of a local farmer, William Griffin.

    He was not particularly wealthy. His daughter, Anna, and a hired man ran a modest dairy farm near Turkey Mountain, not far from where the Taconic State Parkway now traverses the reservoir.

    They rented rooms to boarders from the Croton project. John Rae, an engineer, lived on the ground floor with his wife, Gertrude, and their two toddlers. Henry Hall, a pipe fitter, lived upstairs with wife Mary.

    Farmer Griffin was said to have left a $3,000 inheritance to his daughter, and the bunkhouse boys reckoned this fortune was lying around the farmhouse.

    The rumor inspired sandhog Lorenzo Cali, 27, a fresh immigrant from Italy. He took the information home to East Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he found five recruits for his Croton job.

    On the night of Nov. 8, 1911, Cali and his crew set out from a Brooklyn saloon and rode the midnight train 35 miles north to the old Croton station.

    They hid in the woods until the men of the Griffin house left for work, then knocked at a Dutch door where Anna Griffin sold milk and eggs.

    They bought a quart of milk. As Griffin was making change, ringleader Cali announced a stickup.

    Griffin gave them $4 in milk money and $13 from her purse. With a gun barrel at her back, she opened her safe and turned over its contents: $55. There was no fortune.

    Gertrude Rae, who overheard the robbery, fled outdoors, carrying her two children. She was chased down by Filippo DeMarco, a dwarf-sized man who menaced her with a pistol but did no harm.

    Two other men, Santo Zanza and Angelo Giusto, visited the room of Mary Hall. A few minutes later, they joined the others in a sprint over the hill.

    Rae returned to the farmhouse and found Mrs. Hall murdered — gagged with her apron and stabbed. She was killed for $20 worth of jewelry: a watch, a chain and a bracelet.

    THE WOMEN notified aqueduct police, who spread the news via a telephone chain and sent an automobile to prowl the lake road. Twenty minutes after the robbery, the mobile cop arrested DeMarco and another of the six, Vince Cona.

    A local grocer, George Purdy, apprehended Zanza and Giusta, the two men who had gone to Hall’s room. Her jewelry was later fished from the outhouse at Purdy’s store, which both men had used after their arrests.

    They fingered one another as the killer, but that point would prove moot.

    The two others, Sal DeMarco and ringleader Cali, slipped the Croton dragnet but were arrested in Brooklyn.

    The nationality of the killing crew prompted outrage in New York.

    Italian immigrants and their Black Hand crime fraternity were the subject of alarm a century ago. Many Americans demanded deportation of Italian convicts and a crackdown on the lax immigration laws that allowed them to come here.

    There were said to be 500,000 Italians in New York — including a “great aggregation of assassins, blackmailers and thieves,” one newspaper clucked.

    In the headlines, Cali and his minions became “the six Italians.”

    Westchester prosecutor Francis Winslow extracted confessions and fast-tracked the cases to court.

    Cona went on trial Nov. 27, just 18 days after the murder. Italians were barred from court based upon fears of Black Hand terrorism.

    Cona was convicted and condemned to die after a few hours of testimony and 10 minutes of jury deliberation. Cali and Filippo DeMarco met the same fate a day later, followed by Sal DeMarco, Zanza and Giusta — all marked for death.

    A paper praised DA Winslow for establishing “a new record in this state for quick action in homicide cases.” Meanwhile, the Italian embassy pleaded on behalf of the four who had no hand in the murder. But appeals failed based upon the law of equal culpability.

    And so the executions began. First to go was Santo Zanza, on July 12, 1912. The others got their fatal jolts on Aug. 12. Seven were killed in all that day, an electric chair record.

    A cop-killer and a wife-killer from New York were followed by Filippo DeMarco. When his body was cleared away, Cona — who had fainted — was carried to the chair, wired for electrocution and executed as he sat limp. The state then put to death Giusta, Cali and Sal DeMarco.

    It was another record for New York, unequaled since: six men executed for a single murder.


    Also here is another article in this but I won't post it.

    We all live in a clown world.

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