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: 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 11, 2001

McVeigh

On this date in 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, IN. McVeigh was sentenced to death for the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, OK in which 168 people were killed. McVeigh declined to give a final statement in the execution chamber. His last meal included two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Further reading:

This Day in Crime History: April 19, 1995

Wikipedia – Timothy McVeigh

FOX News – Timothy McVeigh Put to Death for Oklahoma City Bombing

this day in crime history: march 20, 1933


On this date in 1933, would be presidential assassin Giuseppe Zangara was executed in the Florida electric chair. Forty-five days prior to his execution, Zangara had tried to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt. He missed Roosevelt, but managed to shoot several other people, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Cermak later died of his wounds.

The general consensus among historians is that Roosevelt was the intended target, and that Cermak was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But there is another school of thought: Cermak was the real target. As the story goes, Cermak was behind the attempted assassination of Chicago Outfit boss Frank Nitti. The designated hitters for that job were officers of the Chicago PD, who claimed that they shot Nitti in self defense. Nitti survived the shooting and stood trial for his supposed assault on the officers. The jury didn’t buy it, and Nitti was acquitted. The officers, on the other hand, were eventually charged with assault. One flipped on the other, and they were both convicted and fined $100 each.

As payback for the attempt on Nitti’s life, the Outfit supposedly contracted Sicilian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara to kill Cermak. The hit went down as planned, and Zanagara took the fall as a “crazed gunman.” Of course, there’s not much proof to support this theory, which is fairly standard for conspiracy theories. But it makes for an interesting story. Maybe Oliver Stone will make a movie about it someday.

Further reading:

Awesome Stories: Frank Nitti – The Enforcer

Chicago TribuneThe Shooting of Anton Cermak

Executed Today – 1933: Giuseppe Zangara, who is not on Sons of Italy posters

this day in crime history: march 4, 1944

On this date in 1944, it was the big adiós for Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and two of his henchmen. Lepke Buchalter and Albert “Mad Hatter” Anastasia ran the stable of killers that the media of the day tagged “Murder, Incorporated.” Buchalter, along with Murder, Inc. members Emanuel “Mendy” Weiss and Louis Capone (no relation to big Al), was convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Brooklyn candy store owner Joseph Rosen. All three men were executed within minutes of each other in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison.

Further reading:

AmericanMafia.com – The Last Days of Lepke Buchalter, et al

Wikipedia – Murder, Inc.

this day in crime history: january 24, 1989

TedBundy

On this date in 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison. His last words: “I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.”

Further reading:

Crime Museum: Ted Bundy

FBI: Ted Bundy

Famous Last Words–Ted Bundy

Wikipedia: Ted Bundy

this day in crime history: august 23, 1927

On this date in 1927, Ferdinando Nicola Sacco (above right) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (above left) were executed in the Massachusetts electric chair for an armed robbery that resulted in the deaths of a paymaster and a security guard. Controversy still rages to this day as to the guilt of the men, but their convictions have yet to be overturned.

Further reading:

The Sacco-Vanzetti Case

Wikipedia – Sacco and Vanzetti