Sing Sing. The name alone implies bad conditions, violence, fear, poor food, hard labour, harder punishments, misery and death. Even the name itself suits a prison, coming from the Native American phrase ‘Sinck Sinck’ meaning ‘Stone upon stone.’ Movie fans may remember James Cagney’s ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’ where screen gangster ‘Rocky Sullivan’ (inspired by … Continue reading Sing Sing’s Death House – 1891 to 1963.
A free chapter from my latest book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California.' “Why waste good food on me? Give it to someone who can enjoy it.” – Barbara Graham on her last meal. The controversy around Barbara Graham’s case has long outlived Graham herself. Executed on June 3 1955 and California’s third … Continue reading On This Day in 1955 – Barbara ‘Bloody Babs’ Graham, John ‘Jack’ Santo and Emmett ‘The Weasel’ Perkins.
Not long ago the State of South Carolina chose to take a giant step backwards on the death penalty, reinstating the electric chair as a method and adding the firing squad as another alternative. A boycott on supplying drugs for lethal injection has seen several States try different drugs and different protocols to administer them. … Continue reading Where South Carolina goes, Arizona follows. The gas chamber is back.
Crowthorne, Bovingdon, Sheerness, St. Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Newport on the Isle of Wight. All small English towns in leafy, quiet places, all forever linked by the dark legacy of one man; Graham Young. One of the most notorious serial poisoners in English history and feared even by other convicts, Young’s trail of terror links them all.
At Denver’s Stapleton Airport, United Airlines Flight 629 bound for Alaska is cleared for take-off at 6:52 p.m. on November 1, 1955, 15 minutes after its scheduled departure time the “Mainliner” makes a perfectly normal take-off and disappears out of sight. Eleven minutes later it explodes near the town of Longmont and wreckage is strewn … Continue reading America’s First Trial by TV: The Bombing of Flight 629
Whether South Carolina, bastion of tobacco country, will allow the traditional last cigarette before a firing squad is open to question. The condemned will likely smoke either way.
Seldom has a condemned convict made the cover of Time magazine, an honour usually reserved for more famous and less notorious individuals, but Caryl Whittier Chessman was no ordinary convict. Whether he really was California's notorious 'Red Light Bandit' is still debated today, decades after he entered the gas chamber at San Quentin. What could … Continue reading On This Day in 1960 – Caryl Chessman, the ‘Red Light Bandit,’ enters San Quentin’s ‘smokehouse.’
The case of George Junius Stinney could easily be described as a stain on American justice, or the lack thereof. Stinney was executed in South Carolina’s electric chair in 1944 aged only 14, the youngest American to face execution in the 20th century. His confession was probably coerced, his trial a travesty of justice and his … Continue reading George Stinney, a stain on American justice.
Some are well-remembered, others long forgotten, but all have their own place in California's chronicles of crime.
“Death itself isn’t dreadful, but hanging seems an awkward way of ending the adventure…” – Gerald Chapman to his lawyers after being condemned to hang for murder in 1925. ‘Gerald Chapman’ was his favorite alias, but his real name was probably George Chartres. Given that records are sketchy and Chapman was always evasive about his youth, … Continue reading On This Day in 1926 – Gerald Chapman, America’s first ‘Public Enemy Number One.’