Official Blog of Author MICHAEL THOMAS BARRY.
A blog which discusses varied topics that are related to the authors many books. Michael is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.
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Thursday, August 23, 2012
Gunslinger John Wesley Hardin is Arrested for Murder (1877) & Sacco and Vanzetti are Executed (1927(
On this date in 1877, Texas Ranger John Armstrong arrests
gunslinger John Wesley Hardin in a Florida rail car, returning the outlaw to
Texas to stand trial for murder.
Three years earlier, Hardin had killed Deputy Sheriff
Charles Webb in a small town near Austin, Texas. Webb's murder was one in a
long series of killings committed by the famous outlaw-the 39th by Hardin's own
count. Killing a lawman, however, was an especially serious offense. The famous
Texas Rangers were determined to bring Hardin to justice. For three years,
Hardin was able to elude the Rangers. Moving between Florida and Alabama, he
adopted an alias and kept a low profile. Nonetheless, the Rangers eventually
unmasked his secret identity and dispatched John Armstrong to track him down in
Florida. On this day in 1877, Armstrong, acting on a tip, spotted Hardin in the
smoking car of a train stopped at the Pensacola station. Armstrong stationed
local deputies at both ends of the car, and the men burst in with guns drawn.
Caught by surprise, Hardin nonetheless reacted quickly and reached for the gun
holstered under his jacket. The pistol caught in Hardin's fancy suspenders,
giving the lawmen the crucial few seconds they needed and probably saving
Hardin's life--instead of shooting him, Armstrong clubbed Hardin with his
long-barreled .45 pistol. Technically, the Texas Rangers had no authority in
Florida, so they spirited Hardin back to Texas on the next train. Tried in
Austin, a jury found Hardin guilty of killing Sheriff Webb and sentenced him to
life in the Texas state prison at Huntsville. He served 15 years before the
governor pardoned him. Released in 1894, an El Paso policeman killed him the
On this date in 1927, anarchists Nicola Sacco and
Bartolomeo Vanzetti are executed for murder.
On April 15, 1920, a paymaster for a shoe company in
South Braintree, Massachusetts, was shot and killed along with his guard. The
murderers, who were described as two Italian men, escaped with more than
$15,000. After going to a garage to claim a car that police said was connected
with the crime, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged with the crime. Both
men carried guns and made false statements upon their arrest, neither had a
previous criminal record. On July 14, 1921, they were convicted and sentenced
to die. Anti-radical sentiment was running high in America at the time, and the
trial of Sacco and Vanzetti was regarded by many as unlawfully sensational.
Authorities had failed to come up with any evidence of the stolen money, and
much of the other evidence against them was later discredited. During the next
few years, sporadic protests were held in Massachusetts and around the world
calling for their release, especially after Celestino Madeiros, then under a
sentence for murder, confessed in 1925 that he had participated in the crime
with the Joe Morelli gang. The state Supreme Court refused to upset the
verdict, and Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller denied the men clemency. In
the days leading up to the execution, protests were held in cities around the
world, and bombs were set off in New York City and Philadelphia. On August 23,
Sacco and Vanzetti were electrocuted. In 1961, a test of Sacco's gun using
modern forensic techniques apparently proved it was his gun that killed the
guard, though little evidence has been found to substantiate Vanzetti's guilt.
In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation
vindicating Sacco and Vanzetti, stating that they had been treated unjustly and
that no stigma should be associated with their names.