Post 13 Trivia – Capital Punishment
John Young, Patrolman
The year 1973 was a banner year for law enforcement as 19 states restored capital punishment. Advocates predicted that eventually more than half the country would do so. Fear of crime and the public’s dissatisfaction with punishment meted out to murderers was the main reason why legislators and others were in favor of the death penalty.
A Supreme Court decision (June 29, 1972) invalidated the death penalty, but a Gallop Poll showed that 57% of the public favored it, the highest proportion in two decades. The last execution in New York State was in 1963, while prior to that high court decision, no one in America was executed since 1967.
Wikipedia lists executions since 1853 that confirm seven persons have been executed for killing law enforcement personnel within New York State. Three individuals were executed for killing an FBI agent (1954), a patrolman from Nassau County (1932), and another patrolman from Rochester (1920). Four men were executed for the murders of three New York City patrolmen.
On July 10, 1851, sailor Joseph Clark, struck Patrolman George Gillespie on the head with a cart-rung, while the officer was trying to break up a fight among a group of drunken sailors. Clark was arrested, tried and convicted. He was hanged in February 1853.
At about 8:00 AM, July 1, 1911, Patrolman Michael Lynch (22nd Pct.) was on foot-patrol and became attracted to the sound of shots being fired on the 2nd floor of 347 West 37th Street (now Midtown South). Without hesitation, Lynch entered the building to investigate. In response to a knock on the door of the room from which the shots were fired, a man identified as John Collins, a Florida Negro, appeared and without warning fired a shot at the cop, striking him in the head. Lynch was pronounced dead at the scene.
Collins had shot his own wife in their apartment and was just about to make good his escape, when Lynch arrived at the scene. Collins was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder and died in the electric chair on August 12, 1912. Collins and six Italians were executed the same day at Sing Sing Prison.
At about 12:35 PM, January 14, 1941, Patrolman Edward Maher (Traffic Pct. D) assigned to a traffic post on 34th Street & Madison Avenue, pursued two men armed with guns who were fleeing a hold-up (Code 10-30) at 6 East 34th Street. The Esposito brothers had shot and killed the paymaster at that location. During the chase Maher wounded one of the bandits (we called them “perps”), who had dropped a revolver as he fell prostrate on the ground. Upon the approach of the patrolman, the gunman drew another revolver which he had concealed and shot Maher, twice in the chest. The officer continued to try to disarm the assailant, but collapsed and died while enroute to the hospital. Both gunmen were apprehended after a running fight with police officers and civilians.
Anthony and William Esposito were arrested, tried and convicted of the murders of Alfred Klausman (paymaster) and Patrolman Maher. The bothers were executed on March 12. 1942. It should be noted that New York State is the third highest in the number of executions, behind Texas and Virginia.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has been an advocate to restore the death penalty since the early 1970’s. While governors and legislators were willing to give cops pension benefits, Rockefeller, Carey and Mario Cuomo vetoed several bills over the next 20 years. It was George Pataki, who reinstated the death penalty in 1995, but thanks to the courts it was once again found to be unconstitutional in 2004.
Governor David Patterson issued an executive order (2008) to remove all capital punishment equipment from Green Haven Prison.
Today, thirty-one red states have a death penalty, while seventeen blue states are without any capital punishment. Five governors have imposed a moratorium. It should be noted that since 1976, over 1400 individuals were put to death. It should be noted that the majority (55.4%) were white.
The NYPD is facing the same problems today that we faced four decades ago. Back then, it was the courts, politicians and the press that caused most of our problems on the street. Today cops face a social media where fiction becomes fact. Public protests in Ferguson, Missouri, lead to rioting and looting because a grand jury failed to indict a policeman. Baltimore suffered the same fate because an individual died in police custody.
Recent 2014 incidents caused Governor Andrew Cuomo to push for police reform in his inaugural address but nothing was said about the Ferguson protests that sparked the senseless killings of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. No need for the death penalty in this case, as the perpetrator killed himself.
Two other NYPD members were murdered this year by armed perpetrators. On May 4, 2015, Police Officer Raymond Moore was working anti-crime in the 105th Pct. when he and his partner made a car stop. As they approached the auto, shots were fired and Moore was shot in the head.
October 2015, Police Officer Randolph Holder was murdered in East Harlem (Housing Pct #5) by career criminal Tyrone Howard, who was being chased by Holder and his partner after a shooting in the project. Howard had fled on a bicycle and fired shots at the officers, one shot striking Holder in the head. The perpetrator was smart enough to throw the weapon into the Harlem River, but thanks to our Scuba Unit it was retrieved. A Bravo Zulu (Well done) to our NYPD Seal Team!
Sad to say, neither “cop killer” will face the death penalty. In all probability, the cops of today will be doing the same thing we are doing — signing a petition requesting a parole board not to release a cop killer.
Remember to fly the flag on Veteran’s Day (November 11th) at half-mast!