South Carolina and the electric chair, a brief history.


With a shortage of lethal injection drugs and no lawful way to get them (using so-called 'compound pharmacists' is somewhat frowned on by the Food and Drug Administration), South Carolina has resorted to a choice between the firing squad and dusting off its electric chair. Still commonly called Old Sparky, the chair itself is over … Continue reading South Carolina and the electric chair, a brief history.

On This Day in 1917 – Dr. Arthur Warren Waite, the ‘Playboy Poisoner.’


To mark the release of my third book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California,' here's a criminal classic from my files. Look at the photograph and ask yourself ‘What kind of man was he?’ Handsome? Attractive? Smartly dressed? Perhaps very plausible to anyone who didn’t know him very well? Maybe he looks superficially charming … Continue reading On This Day in 1917 – Dr. Arthur Warren Waite, the ‘Playboy Poisoner.’

On This Day in 1893 – Morphine murderer Carlyle Harris, his last mile and his last laugh.


When Buchanan entered the condemned cells at Sing Sing he was probably a little embarrassed to finally meet the 'stupid amateur' and 'bungling fool' he'd so disastrously mocked. Buchanan had had the first laugh. Harris laughed last and longest, but had little time left to do it.

On This Day in 1908- Chester Gillette, an American tragedy.


A free chapter from my book ‘Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York,’ available now. Like it or not, some murders become an entity bigger and more lasting than themselves. Murderers have been seeking to rid themselves of inconvenient spouses, partners or ex-partners since murder existed, there’s nothing unusual about it. Seldom though does the murder of … Continue reading On This Day in 1908- Chester Gillette, an American tragedy.

On This Day in 1951, the Lonely Hearts Killers pay the price.


8 March 1951 was an historic day at Sing Sing Prison. The death house had six pre-execution cells nicknamed the ‘Dance Hall. At 11:30am four were occupied by John King, Richard Powers, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck. By 11:30pm those cells were empty. Their occupants were all dead in New York’s last quadruple execution.    … Continue reading On This Day in 1951, the Lonely Hearts Killers pay the price.

On This Day in 1908 and 1954 – Mary Rogers and Donald DeMag, Vermont’s First and Last 20th Century Executions.


Despite once being one of the most conservative states in the US, Vermont is seldom notable in the chronicles of crime. Unusually for so conservative a place it rarely used its death penalty before virtually abolishing it. To give readers some comparison Vermont had eight executions in the twentieth century while New York had 663 … Continue reading On This Day in 1908 and 1954 – Mary Rogers and Donald DeMag, Vermont’s First and Last 20th Century Executions.

1954, a mass break-out from Sing Sing’s Death House (almost) and Sing Sing’s last ‘triple-hitter.’


Rosario, believing he had done enough to catch the right eyes, awaited his clemency and heard nothing. There was no more ominous silence than when a Governor was considering clemency, it usually meant there wouldn't be any.

Thomas Tobin and Sing Sing’s Death House, the prison he built for himself.


If the worst prisons are those we make for ourselves Thomas Tobin couldn't have constructed anywhere more hideous.

On This Day in 1925 – John Hurlburt performs his last execution. ‘Yellow Charleston’ has his last dance.


A few years ago I covered the story of John Hurlburt, New York's second 'State Electrician.' Trained by predecessor Edwin Davis, Hurlburt executed 140 prisoners during his tenure. Hurlburt's official debut was executing George Coyer and Giuseppe DeGoia at Auburn Prison on August 31 1914. Unofficially he had already executed prisoners under Davis's supervision. As … Continue reading On This Day in 1925 – John Hurlburt performs his last execution. ‘Yellow Charleston’ has his last dance.

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?