this day in crime history: july 7, 1865

hanged

On this day in 1865, four people convicted of participating in the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln were executed by hanging. The conspirators were Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt. Surratt was the first woman executed by the US federal government.

Further reading:

Famous American Trials – Trial of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators

PBS – The Assassination of Abrahan Lincoln

Wikipedia – Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

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this day in crime history: july 2, 1881

On this date in 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot in the back and arm at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station in Washington, D.C. The wounds were not immediately fatal, and the president lingered until September 19th when he died of complications from his injuries. He was the second US president to be assassinated. Had he been shot 20 years later, medical science probably would have been able to save President Garfield, a point not lost on assassin Charles Guiteau. “The doctors killed Garfield, I just shot him,” Guiteau proclaimed at his trial. Be that as it may, Guiteau was convicted of murdering the president in January of 1882. He was executed on June 30, 1882.

Further reading:

The Assassination of James A. Garfield, By Robert Kingsbury

Wikipedia – Assassination of James A. Garfield

Last Words of Assassin Charles Guiteau

Nobody Move – This Day in Crime History: June 30, 1882

this day in crime history: june 30, 1882

On this date in 1882, Charles J. Guiteau was hanged in the District of Columbia for the assassination of President James A. Garfield. Guiteau had shot Garfield on July 2nd of the previous year. Garfield lingered for two months, finally dying on September 19, 1881. The motive for the shooting: Guiteau was angry at the president for failing to offer him an ambassadorship as a reward for a pro-Garfield speech Guiteau wrote which almost no one heard or read. In short, the guy was a nut.

If Guiteau’s motive for the assassination isn’t proof enough of his nuttiness, his conduct at the trial was sure to seal the deal. He gave testimony in the form of epic poetry. He passed notes with spectators, often asking them for legal advice. He even publicly bad-mouthed his defense team during the trial (Hint: you should really wait until after you’ve been convicted before you start tossing brickbats at the people who are trying to save your skin). Guiteau was convicted on January 25, 1882 and sentenced to die.

Further reading:

The Assassination of James A. Garfield, By Robert Kingsbury

Wikipedia – Assassination of James A. Garfield

Last Words of Assassin Charles Guiteau

this day in crime history: june 18, 1984

ABerg

On this date in 1984, radio talk show host Alan Berg was shot and killed outside his home in in Denver, CO. Berg, who frequently courted controversy on his radio show, was shot by members of a white nationalist group known as The Order. Eventually, two members of the group, David Lane and Bruce Pierce, were convicted of racketeering and civil rights violations in connection with Berg’s death. Lane was sentenced to 190 years in prison, Pierce to 252. Lane died in 2007, Pierce in 2010.

Further reading:

Denver PostThe murder of Alan Berg in Denver: 25 years later

Wikipedia – Alan Berg

Wikipedia – The Order

this day in crime history: june 5, 1968

RFK

On this date in 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was shot in Los Angeles, CA.

It was just after midnight when Kennedy finished addressing supporters at the Ambassador Hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom. His advisers decided it would be best to leave the hotel through the kitchen, so as to avoid reporters who were pushing for an impromptu press conference.

As the entourage moved through the kitchen, they were confronted by 24 year old Sirhan Sirhan, an immigrant with Jordanian citizenship. A Christian of Palestinian descent, Sirhan was angered by Kennedy’s support of Israel. He  produced a .22 caliber pistol and shot Kennedy repeatedly. Kennedy fell to the floor as his security detail, consisting of former FBI agent William Barry, decathlete Rafer Johnson, and pro-footballer Roosevelt Greer, wrestled Sirhan to the ground and subdued him. The gun discharged several times during the struggle and five people were injured. After being subdued, Sirhan managed to break loose and grab the gun again. He attempted to shoot it, but he had already used up all his ammo.

Senator Kennedy was taken to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for emergency surgery, but the prognosis was not good. At 2 AM the following morning, a spokesman announced that Kennedy had died.

Sirhan Sirhan was tried by the State of California for murder. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. His sentence was commuted to life by a California court in accordance with the People v. Anderson decision. He is currently incarcerated at California’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego and has been denied parole over a dozen times.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – The Murder of Robert Kennedy

About.com – Robert Kennedy Assassination

Wikipedia – Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

this day in crime history: may 29, 1979

On this date in 1979, federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. was assassinated outside his home in San Antonio, TX. Wood, who was nicknamed “Maximum John” due to the harsh sentences he handed out for drug offenses, was the first federal judge assassinated in the 20th century. An anonymous tip led police to ex-convict Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. Harrelson had been hired to kill Wood by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra, who was due to be appear before Judge Wood in a narcotics case. At trial, Harrelson claimed he hadn’t killed Judge Wood, but had taken credit for it in order to collect money from Chagra. The jury didn’t buy it, and Harrelson was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to two life terms and died of a heart attack in the federal supermax prison in Colorado in 2007. Chagra’s brother Joe received a 10 year sentence for his role in arranging the hit. Chagra’s wife also received a prison sentence for her role delivering the payout money. Jamiel Chagra, who was represented by attorney Oscar Goodman (who from 1999 to 2011, served as mayor of Las Vegas), was acquitted when his brother refused to testify against him. Chagra would later stipulate to his role in the murder in a plea bargain designed to get his wife, who was suffering from ovarian cancer, an early release from prison. His wife passed away before she could be released. Jamiel Chagra himself would eventually wind up in federal witness protection. He died of cancer in 2008, at the age of 63.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Charles Harrelson

Wikipedia – Jamiel Chagra

Denver PostHarrelson wrote of life at Supermax 

this day in crime history: april 4, 1968

On this day in 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN. The following June, a fugitive named James Earl Ray was arrested in London and extradited to the United States. Ray would eventually plead guilty to the murder. He later tried unsuccessfully to withdraw the plea. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison. Ray died in 1998 at the age of 70.

Further reading:

About.com – Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated

Wikipedia – Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.