this day in crime history: november 26, 1933

On this date in 1933, the people of San Jose, CA decided to take the law into their own hands. Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes were being held in connection with the kidnapping and murder of 22 year old department store heir Brooke Hart. The townsfolk, already enraged by the nature of the crime, whipped themselves into a frenzy when rumor spread that the two men were going to try an insanity defense. On the night of November 26th, they stormed the jail, broke down the door, and took the two men. The crowd brought them to a nearby park, where they hung each man from a tree. No one was ever prosecuted for the lynching. In fact, California Governor James Rolph, who had refused the Sheriff’s request for National Guard troops to hold off the mob, praised the action and promised to pardon anyone charged with the lynching.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Brooke Hart

Crime Library: The Kidnapping and Murder of Brooke Hart

San Jose PBA: The Hart Murder and Lynching

4 thoughts on “this day in crime history: november 26, 1933

  1. John D.:
    Now see…there ‘ta go.
    Good old, down home, NATURAL JUSTICE (a Frank Castle would say)…
    Gotta love the law-enforcement’s take on this, too.
    Sometimes, the law IS inadequate.

    Good story.
    Stay safe out there.


    • In this case, I don’t think the justice system would have cut these guys a break. They’d have been on their way to a date with the executioner. But the mob had different thoughts on the matter.


  2. There is an old cliche that Americans during the Depression era glorified criminals. However, when something happened in their own backyard, they were known to take action, legally or otherwise. When Dillinger and his gang held up a bank in South Bend, at least one citizen shot at them and a high school student jumped on Baby Face Nelson’s back and tried to wrestle him to the ground.


    • I think the glorification wasn’t as widespread as the media portrayed it. And I think it usually took place in the context of viewing the outlaws as taking on the bankers, who were seen as greedy and corrupt.


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