The execution of Louis Lepke Buchalter

Louis “Lepke” Buchalter was a 1930s New York City racketeer. Authorities believed Albert Anastasia appointed him to run his Murder, Inc., enforcement squad. Crime buster Thomas Dewey will set his sights in Lepke as an example of Mob violence and will eventually prosecute him for murder and obtain a death sentence. Eventually, Lepke will appeal to the governor for a commutation from his execution and the person who denies that appeal is Thomas Dewey.

A New York City jury sentenced Louis Buchalter, Emanuel “Mendy” Weiss, and Louis Capone to death in 1936 for the murder of Joseph Rosen. The victim was a trucking contractor that had been forced out of business by Anastasia led rackets. Anastasia believed that Rosen, who was out of the trucking business and running a candy store, had agreed to testify for Manhattan Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey who was investigating mob influence in the trucking industry.

The FBI and other law enforcement believed that Buchalter had ordered as many as eighty murders in his underworld career by this time. During the trial, Lepke and his co-defendants insisted they were innocent of the killing of Rosen and they had been framed. After the jury found them guilty and they appealed, all state appeals were denied. It is claimed that some of the reviewing judges did claim the state’s evidence was not very strong against the three mob associates.

Buchalter, Weiss, and Capone had been able to use legal maneuvers to obtain several delays of their final execution date. The last delay was the most dramatic because the lawyers obtained this final postponement within an hour and a half of their scheduled appointment with the prison Death Chamber.

At 9:35 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, Governor Thomas Dewey ordered a 48-hour postponement and granted lawyers time to file a last-ditch appeal to federal courts. They argued that that U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle improperly released Buchalter from federal prison to be executed for his state conviction. Just like in the movies, the warden at Sing Sing, William E. Snyder, received a phone call from Governor Dewey and he sent word of the postponement to the prisoners through the prison chaplain, Father Bernard Martin.

The courts were not moved and Lepke, Capone, and Weiss were electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison, March 4, 1944. If they had lived until June 6, 1944, they would have heard about D-Day.

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