When 25 witnesses, mostly reporters, gathered in the basement death chamber at Illinois's Cook County Jail, they couldn't have known they were gathering there for the last time. Decades down the line Illinois hacks would gather again for the same reason, but in a different place and to see someone killed by a different method. … Continue reading On This Day in 1962: Illinois bids farewell to Old Sparky (and James Dukes).
"The Bagne is a charnel house, a mass grave, running from syphilis to tuberculosis, with all the tropical diseases one can imagine (carrying malaria, ankylosis, amoebic dysentery, leprosy, etc.), all destined to work hand in hand with an Administration whose task it is to diminish the number of prisoners consigned to its care. The fiercest … Continue reading On This Day in 1953 – France’s last inmates return from Devil’s Island.
If you're a fan of Clint Eastwood then 1974's 'Thunderbolt and Lightfoot' distributed by United Artists, is probably in your DVD collection. Not one of his better-known movies and perhaps not one of his best, but well worth watching all the same. The movie, made largely because Eastwood felt like doing a road movie, … Continue reading Joel Singer and Jack Franck, the original Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
August 15, 1963 was an historic day in New York's penal history, although nobody involved knew it at the time. New York's lawmakers didn't know it. the Warden of New York's infamous Sing Sing Prison (now the Ossining Correctional Facility) didn't know. Dow Hover, New York's last 'State Electrician', didn't know it. Eddie Lee Mays … Continue reading On This Day in 1963: New York State’s Last Execution, Eddie Lee Mays.
As regular readers are aware, I cover true crime here and the death penalty is a regular feature. Being an abolitionist, it's with some small satisfaction that we're going to look at Britain's last executions. To the minute, if you happen to be reading this at 8am. On August 13, 1964 Gwynne Evans and Peter … Continue reading On This Day in 1964 – The Last Executions In Britain.
b "We are looking forward to great things from Alcatraz." - Attorney-General Homer Cummings at the official opening in 1934. "Alcatraz was never no good for nobody." - Convict Frank Weatherman, Number AZ1576, the last convict admitted to The Rock, on its closure in 1963. Alcatraz is 85 years old today. At least it's 85 … Continue reading On This Day in 1934; Alcatraz officially opens.
Now here's a real criminal curiosity, the infamous Execution Bell from London's notorious Newgate Prison. Accounts of executions, themselves a grim British tradition until the 1960's, often relate stories of a black flag being raised and a prison bell tolling to announce a prisoner's death. These are true, at least after public executions ended with … Continue reading Newgate Prison: Ask not for whom the Bell tolls…