Jerry Givens was an unlikely campaigner against the death penalty. A correctional officer at the Virginia State Penitentiary since the early 1970’s, Givens was also its resident executioner. Until going to prison himself in 1999 on perjury and money-laundering charges (charges he always denied) Givens rose through the ranks. At first supporting the death … Continue reading RIP Jerry Givens, former Virginia executioner-turned-abolitionist.
It’s quite unlikely that many people, even DC residents, remember cop-killer Robert Carter. Arrested for murdering police officer George Cassels on 11 July 1953, Carter was never likely to win clemency from the courts or from the President who had sole pardoning authority within the District of Columbia. On 27 April 1957 Carter … Continue reading On This Day in 1957 – Robert Eugene ‘Bobby’ Carter, last man executed in Washington D.C.
West Virginia has never been known as a hard-line death penalty State, abolishing capital punishment in 1965. After 1899 there were 104 hangings and, with a change in method, nine electrocutions. Elmer Brunner’s, on April 3, 1959 was the last.
Brunner wasn’t a notable murderer in himself. His crime, murdering homeowner Ruby Miller, was and remains all-too-typical. Miller had disturbed him while he was burgling her home in Huntington on on May 27, 1957. According to Brunner’s version, she’d disturbed him with a shotgun. Beating her to death with a claw hammer, he said, was an act of self-defence.
Not surprisingly, neither judge or jury bought that defence, especially not from an ex-convict. Arrested on the same day, Brunner’s trial began in the week of June 28, 1957. Before a packed courtroom he was convicted with no recommendation for mercy. His execution date was set for August 2, only a…
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At San Quentin 7 March 1952 dawned grey and cold, not unusual for the area. The prison’s inmates, then nearly two thousand strong, knew that day was unusual. Two of their number, Miller and Dusseldorf, were to die at 10am that morning for a robbery and murder committed in Alameda in 1949. As they sat … Continue reading San Quentin, Doil Miller and Alfred Dusseldorf – Justice? Or just law?
A free chapter from my book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York,' available now. Like many countries the US has an at times contradictory attitude to its death penalty, no more so than when a woman faces execution. Women account for fewer than 5% of death sentences in the US and less than 1% … Continue reading Martha Place – The first woman in the electric chair.
“Yes, they are killing me.” – Joe Arridy, when asked by Warden Roy Best if he understood why he was about to step into Colorado’s gas chamber. It’s rarer than it used to be that a case affects me as much as this one. If you cover true crime for a living then you learn … Continue reading Justice denied in Colorado; Joe Arridy visits ‘Roy’s Penthouse.’
In today’s more enlightened times there’s nothing unusual about women serving on juries, but it wasn’t always so. British courts didn’t see female jurors until 1920. They were still a novelty on 13 January 1921 when three women joined a jury at Aylesbury. The defendant was one George Bailey. The charge was capital murder. The penalty, should Bailey be convicted, was death by hanging.
Bailey was charged with poisoning his wife Kate at their home in late-September, 1920. An accompanying charge of trying to rape female lodge Lillian Marks on the night of September 29 was dropped. It was then standard practice that defendants facing multiple charges including murder would face only a single murder charge. The crime was so serious (and the penalty so severe) that it was considered unfair to inflict multiple charges on the same defendant. Besides, with a mandatory death sentence for murder lesser sentences were…
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They had started with the obvious: alcohol. That should have been a simple, effective means of their victim destroying himself rather than the Trust taking the additional risk of actually murdering him. Insurance fraud was not a capital offence then or now; first-degree murder no longer is in New York State, but in 1932, it certainly was. The 1920s and 1930s was the busiest period for New York’s electric chair, averaging around twenty executions every year. If choosing Malloy was a bad idea, then actually murdering him was even worse.
Double executions were no rarity at Sing Sing, especially in the 1920’s. The Jazz Age saw an unprecedented number of men (and a few women), 125, walk their last mile in the Empire State. That trend would peak in the 1930’s (153) before decreasing in the 1940’s (114), continuing to drop in the 1950’s (55). … Continue reading On This Day in 1927 – Paul Hilton, Antonio Paretti and the finale of the Mafia-Camorra War.
Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll was the archetypal wild, reckless, violent young gangster of the Prohibition era. Even at a time when crooks like Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger and Al Capone inflicted violence and death on a regular basis, Coll managed to stand out as being especially vicious. An aura of complete recklessness, seeming unconcern … Continue reading On This Day in 1932, Vincent ‘Mad Dog’ Coll is finally put to sleep.