On This Day in 1881, Billy the Kid cheats the hangman.


John Wesley Hardin. Jesse James. Cole Younger. “Curly” Bill Brocius. Gunslingers, killers, thieves and icons of the Wild West. Of all the Western outlaws none has quite the notoriety of “Billy the Kid.” Questionably accused of killing 21 men (one for each year of his short and violent life), Billy is as much a Wild … Continue reading On This Day in 1881, Billy the Kid cheats the hangman.

Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California – due out on May 24.


Some are well-remembered, others long forgotten, but all have their own place in California's chronicles of crime.

On This Day in 1926 – Gerald Chapman, America’s first ‘Public Enemy Number One.’


“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.’

On This Day in 1936 – George ‘Diamond King’ Barrett, first to die for murdering a Federal agent.


Barrett is certainly a criminal curiosity. His life was one of crime and allegedly several murders. The murder for which he finally died gave him an unwilling place in the chronicles of American crime, though he was hardly appreciated becoming one of history’s footnotes. So why did he hang in a state which had long … Continue reading On This Day in 1936 – George ‘Diamond King’ Barrett, first to die for murdering a Federal agent.

On This Day in 1873 – John Gaffney hanged by future President Grover Cleveland.


A free chapter from 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York.' Grover Cleveland is seldom regarded as an exceptional US President. He wasn’t universally despised (although often deeply unpopular) but not universally admired either. In short, he was a safe and unspectacular pair of hands. He does have one singular attribute setting him apart from … Continue reading On This Day in 1873 – John Gaffney hanged by future President Grover Cleveland.

Virginia to abolish capital punishment.


On February 3 the Virginia State Senate voted 21 to 17 in favour of abolishing Virginia’s death penalty. Two days later the House of Delegates voted 57-41 to back repealing capital punishment in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam has also indicated he will back the decision, remarking that “The practice is fundamentally inequitable. … Continue reading Virginia to abolish capital punishment.

US Federal Executions, a worrying new trend?


The recent Federal executions of three prisoners are both a rarity and perhaps the start of a worrying trend. While individual states have long been executing convicts within their own jurisdictions the Federal Government has historically been far more restrained. Historically speaking Uncle Sam usually hands out long sentences but seldom executes. The most recent, … Continue reading US Federal Executions, a worrying new trend?

On This Day in 1913 – Jacob Oppenheimer, California’s ‘Human Tiger.’


“The sooner I can cash in my chips the better, as it will save me a lot of trouble and unhappiness.” Jacob Oppenheimer after receiving his death sentence. Caged tigers are solitary, predatory creatures. Constantly pacing their cages, they can inflict violence, disfigurement and death in a split second without as much as a second’s … Continue reading On This Day in 1913 – Jacob Oppenheimer, California’s ‘Human Tiger.’

On This Day in 1890 -Martha Place, the first woman in the electric chair.


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 On This Day in 1890 -Martha Place, the first woman in the electric chair.

On This Day in 1932, Michael Malloy – The Man Who Would Not Die


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.