Wednesday, March 14, 2012

121 years ago: Eleven murdered

121 years ago today: The largest lynching in American history occurs at Orleans Parish Prison as eleven Italian-American men, suspected of Mafia membership and of involvement in the 1890 assassination of Police Chief David Hennessy, are murdered.

While the raid on Parish Prison is generally regarded as the work of a mob, in researching Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia, we found evidence that the mob was no more than a smokescreen. Political powers had determined in advance which of the prisoners would be slain and had handpicked teams of assassins to do the work. Thousands were present, but only those assassins actually gained access to the prison. Organizers claimed that the lynchings were intended to correct the jury verdict of the previous day. However, the list of those killed does not match the list of nine defendants in the Hennessy assassination trial. Most interesting, Charlie Matranga - regarded as the leader of the local Mafia - and his right-hand man, both unconvicted defendants in the trial, were spared.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

121 years ago: None convicted

121 years ago today: The trial of nine men accused of the assassination of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy concludes March 13, 1891, without a conviction. Much of the city is enraged as the jury acquits six defendants - Joseph P. Macheca, Charlie Matranga, Bastiano Incardona, Antonio Bagnetto, Antonio Marchesi and Asperi Marchesi - and announces a deadlock on the remaining three - Manuel Polizzi, Antonio Scaffidi and Pietro Monastero.
The defendants, all widely suspected of membership in the Mafia criminal society, are held at Orleans Parish Prison overnight on a legal technicality. Their release is expected the following day.
City political leaders hastily arrange for a morning gathering of New Orleans residents on Canal Street.