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…
The Broderick-Terry duel of 1859, the last notable duel in California.
The duel between US Senator David Broderick and David Terry, former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court is a rollicking tale of friendship-turned-feud; politics, pistols, slavery and slander. Their duel on 13 September 1859 would have made a terrific historical novel or movie and still might. Duels over political disagreements, personal enmity and often…
RIP Jerry Givens, former Virginia executioner-turned-abolitionist.
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…
Justice denied in Colorado; Joe Arridy visits ‘Roy’s Penthouse.’
“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…
A New Year’s Eve special – The President and the hangman.
Well, seeing as it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m feeling generous, here’s something especially unusual. It’s not often that a President and an executioner meet, especially on a professional basis. US President Grover Cleveland was a notable exception, although he performed his two hangings while Sheriff of Erie County long before entering the White House.…
On This Day in 1934, Ethel Lillie Major.
Normally this time of year would be cause for celebration, a time of Christmas cheer and goodwill to all men. That wasn’t the case for Ethel Major who stood condemned for the murder of her husband Arthur. For her the previous couple of days had been spent sobbing and incoherent as she pondered her imminent…
Aum Shinryko: Japan’s largest execution since World War II?
Japan, one of only two members of the G7 to retain capital punishment, the other is the US, has never liked publicity regarding its death penalty. Just as the British used to do until abolition, it’s shrouded in secrecy. Even the condemned don’t know until shortly beforehand that their time has come. The public don’t…
On This Day in 1689; Judge Jeffreys, who gave them enough rope.
The original ‘Hanging Judge’ his name became a byword for bias, ruthlessness, callousness and cruelty, Jeffreys would die as a prisoner himself.
Sparky’s Revenge; South Carolina considers reinstating the electric chair.
So, the State of South Carolina (previously responsible for executing then exonerating 14-year old George Stinney) is considering dusting off Old Sparky. Difficulties in obtaining lethal injection drugs have caused a backlog on Death Row. South Carolina has numerous condemned inmates, wants to start executing them, but can’t obtain the legally-approved means to do it.…
Albert Pierrepoint – Master Hangman.
.Public Executioner. It’s not what you’d call an everyday profession. Unusual? Certainly. Skilled? Absolutely. Dark and scary? Well, it depends on why you fancy the job, really. But it’s certainly not the sort of work that most people would consider a life’s ambition or the family business unless you happen to be Albert Pierrepoint. Albert…