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.