Crime all the Time

By Katie Koth

Crime in Government.

There is A LOT of corruption in the government. These two readings highlight this point. Throughout this course, we have mainly focused on terrible crimes such as murders, rapes, and robberies. But by studying all of these crimes, we seem to forget about other crimes, such as the ones that go on in the government. Maybe the people in the Ames story forgot about government crime too, since they kept giving him another chance in the mayor’s office. This article really did not sit well with me. Throwing your wife off a balcony? Not cool. People in authority really should step up and set a good example.
The comic was light-hearted and great. We learned about the Ohio Gang, who was present during the Harding administration. This comic proves that you shouldn’t trust everyone. The Ohio Gang was smuggling money right under people’s noses. It caused many suicides and depression, and the entire situation did not end well for anyone. However, I prefer this ending over the ending in the Minnesota Legal History story.

Pay attention to Detail

My favorite reading of the three assigned was by far Ambrose Bierce. Right off the bat, it gets you thinking!
The first part of the reading submerges you into a world where murder is ok, and mutilation, even better. The author uses vivid adjectives and verbs to describe the standards of their society, which is part of what makes this reading more captivating. He describes the smell of blood to be appetizing, and the sight of reeking corpses to be exhilarating. Talk about a twisted world.
But the descriptions don’t stop in that section. Later in the reading, a man was found dead. The author describes what the deceased was doing two hours before his untimely death. Not only does it captivate the reader, but it kind of tugs at your heartstrings a little knowing the man was relaxing and enjoying his pipe just a few hours before his death.
The detail in this reading also can be humorous. If the reading had just stated that Senor Felipe Carillo had murdered his mother, we would have just accepted it and moved on. But the fact that it stated the murder weapon, which in fact was a pumpkin pie, is fantastic.
All in all, I wish more readings had as much detail as this one did. Detail makes a difference.

Real.

I know we had a lot more reading than what this blog will discuss, but I felt compelled to write about the small notes that Richard Barrack left to his family and friends.
Throughout this course so far, we have read multiple stories about thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. Each one of the criminals we have discussed was put to death. Often when we hear about these executions frequently, we become numb to the fact that they are actually happening. We begin to lose compassion for the criminal, and we treat each execution story the same.
When I was reading the story of Richard Barrack, I had the same response that I normally have while doing my true crime homework. He was a thief who stole from many people. He then confessed, and is getting what he deserves. However, after his confession, he writes to his father and mother, his friends and neighbors, and his wife. This is what really hit me. Even though he used a majority of his life for evil, he is still a person waiting to die. He has a wife who loves him, and a mother and father who raised him. These short letters made me step back and evaluate the situation once more. Each of these criminals is just like us, with family and friends that love us. These notes that Barrack wrote made this whole idea of execution real for me. These criminals are dying, for stupid crimes that they committed when they were young. Their families will never get them back, and that’s not something to be passive about, despite how much we talk about it in this class.

Going with the Crowd

In “The Vial poured out on the Sea”, the reader hears a true tale of thieving and murderous pirates. These pirates spend their lives living in crime, stealing and killing as they sailed the oceans. However, their crimes eventually caught up to them, and they were executed for their misdoings.

It was a typical execution. The spectacle took place in public, and the pirates had the opportunity to confess their sins. Two of them took full advantage of the opportunity, even praying to God that the people watching would learn from the mistakes they made. However, one pirate refused to do so. Then, they were executed in front of the crowd.

In the article about Joseph Mountain, we hear a story about a man who took part in a life of thieving. He met two musicians in London who robbed many citizens at night. These two men found Mountain worthy of the thieving life, and that’s when things went downhill. Eventually, Mountain joined a gang of highway men, and was eventually caught, convicted, and put to death.

It intrigues me that in these two stories, there were three pirates, and three robbers. All of the pirates committed the same crimes the same way, just as all of the robbers committed the same crimes the same way. Maybe the people you choose to surround yourself with is a bigger decision than we realize.

We then hear about Thomas Powers, a negro who, on his own, dedicated his life to stealing and raping women. He as well was caught and imprisoned, and was eventually killed.

All three stories involve thieving, and all the members involved in these stories were executed for their stealing sprees. In today’s society, however, stealing does not usually merit death, unless the object stolen is of great importance. Just an observation.

No Rest for the Tortured.

First of all, let me start off by saying OUCH. I cannot even begin to address the gruesome details in this reading. It’s not enough to just execute the patient. Instead, they burn his flesh, tie his limbs to horses, cut his flesh, and then burn the remains until they are ash. Talk about harsh.  Thank goodness public punishment began to decrease in the 1800s.

In chapter one, the rules that Leon Faucher creates for criminals are listed. I find this “schedule” very interesting. For example, the criminals go to a class and practice their reading, writing, and arithmetic. Shortly after, however, they are executed. The whole schedule itself does not seem harsh at all. So what is the point of this day where they are fed and taught, if they are just going to be executed moments later?

Reading about the torture that used to take place in the 1700s evokes many questions. In chapter 2, it is explained that it is perfectly acceptable to “torture” the criminal as long as it follows the guidelines that are set by the specific country that they are in.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that watching someone be tortured for a crime will certainly ensure that you won’t do the same one.  However, I guess I’m still curious as to why such harsh measures were used for these people. It almost seems boarder-line sick. In fact, many of these people are being tortured for murder. So why is it ok for their executioners to burn their skin and tie their limbs to horses? The punishment seems so much worse than the crime.

As for the confession of Levi Ames, I don’t have much to address. His confession seems sincere.  He gave up his hopes of escaping from prison when he found salvation.  He knew why he was going to die, and accepted it in his heart. Not much to say there.

No Way Out

When reading about Esther Rodgers and Patience Boston, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for them.  I know that feeling empathy towards criminals isn’t exactly a normal response, but there’s something about these two women that makes me think a little bit.

Both women, though raised in religions families, rebelled in their younger years and became pregnant. Obviously, both Rodgers and Boston panicked, fearing that they were not ready to raise a child.  They both took matters into their own hands, and murdered the infants after they were born.  As a result, both women were convicted and sentenced to death.  However, they both confessed to the crime and repented of their sins.

Obviously, killing infants is not something that we should be doing. However, it is important to understand the circumstances before judging these women too harshly.  Murder is a very serious thing, and I believe they should be punished for their actions.  But perhaps these women thought there was no way out.  Both situations happened when birth control was not an option. Both women were young and naive, and unsure what to do. Therefore, killing the child to solve their problems seemed like the only way to go on with their lives.  Now, I’m not trying to advocate for abortion or prove any political point. I think murder is serious, I just can understand the emotions behind both situations. I don’t believe either woman is a cold blooded killer, I just think they were desperate for a way out.

Public Hangings may have lasted longer than we thought!

After yesterday’s class, I was curious to see how long public hangings were practiced in America.  As it turns out, the last public hanging was done in 1936, which seems very recent to me…Here is an article I found on the subject: The Last Public Execution in America

In the beginning…crime was entertaining.

Crime is fascinating.  I think everyone in the world can agree on that.  As mentioned in previous posts, society today spends a majority of their time being perplexed and entertained by crime.  Apparently, it was the exact same way a few centuries ago.  The Pillars of Salt introduction opens with the story of James Morgan, who was publicly executed for his misdoings.  Hundreds of people came to hear his death sermons and his final words.  Then, they all watched as this man came face to face with death.  Clearly, the people centuries ago were as fascinated by crime and punishment as we are today.  However, they got to see it displayed in the middle of town.  But the entertainment did not stop after his death.  The sermons were published, and several narratives were written about this man and his crime.

A large part of why these executions were done in public was to make the people aware of God. The religious aspect of public hangings can be summed up in the following quote: “Readers were drawn into the reader’s spiritual crisis, encouraged to identify themselves with the individual who dangled before them. ”  The spectators would hear the sermon preached before the criminal’s death.  Usually, the sermon would beg the criminal to save himself by turning to God.  The church hoped that by performing these public executions, the people watching would be touched too. They could see themselves as the convicted party, and realize that they must turn to God before it is their turn to die.  I can understand how this method would be effective.  After all, these people are witnessing very gory and gruesome sights.  If seeing these things doesn’t turn them to God, it’s hard to imagine what would.

As mentioned before, the death sermons of many executions were published so that the people could read them over and over again.  The last words of criminals were also published.  Often, books and narratives were written about the criminal’s entire life.  Fictional characters were created based on these criminals who were publicly hanged for their misdoings.

The main point is this: people back then were just as captivated by crime as we are.  Crime narratives were created because of the joy people received from watching public hangings.  I personally could not ever watch an execution, but I am still intrigued by this entire concept.  I guess crime is entertaining no matter what century you are from.

 

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