Three From The Slums|
At Journey's End
By Paul Sann
LAST night in Sing Sing's Death House three slum-reared youths were executed for the murder of Detective Michael J. Foley in an abortive tea room stickup at 144 Second Avenue on April 10, 1937.
They were Arthur (Hutch) Friedman, twenty-two; 206 Madison Street; Dominick Guariglia, nineteen, 219 Henry Street, and Joseph Harvey O'Laughlin, twenty-four, 255 East Broadway.
OSSINING, Jan. 27--"Good-by."
This is Hutch Friedman, at 11:01 1/2 last night, signing off on the whole world. He comes into the Execution Chamber
walking--staggering--sideways. His eyes are closed as he comes through the little door to the left and is led to The Chair.
Principal Keeper John J. Sheehy and two burly guards strap the doomed man into place, speedily and efficiently. The cathode on the close-shaven head. The half-mask on the face. The straps around the sunken chest and scrawny arms. The electrode on the right leg. It takes only a few seconds.
Again the whirring sound, and the whole body jerks upward. The hands move again. The mouth opens wider. A curl of smoke flickers from the head and right foot. Along the sidewall, Rabbi Jacob Katz reads a Hebrew prayer. At the entrance, Warden Lewis E. Lawes stands disconsolate; his eyes are closed. The Warden never watches an execution. He is opposed to capital punishment.
Time to think about Hutch, for his brief and sorrowful history is closing. They blame all his trouble on the truck that ran him down when he was seven, injuring his feet, legs, jaw, and skull. His mother said "he was always a problem" after the accident. He had six arrests since 1931, did time in Hawthorne School and the City Reformatory.
The family was poor. Hutch grew up on Claremont Parkway, little Bronx counterpart of Manhattan's cesspool of crime, the lower East Side, whence the Friedmans moved a few years ago. "He spent most of his time drifting around the streets where he lived," the probation report said.
Yes, and "drifting around" he met other boys who were drifting. Boys who had a creed that went like this: "We have nothing. No breaks. No money. No chance. No good jobs. What we want we'll take. We'll rob and steal." The creed of countless thousands growing up in the slums.
Liquor, and later marihuana helped Hutch Friedman expand his philosophy. The night Mike Foley--he had a wife and child--was shot Hutch came into a tea room wildly screaming, "This is a stickup! Don't move!" He had a gun, but when the shooting began he rushed into the kitchen and threw it into the flour barrel. He was stiff with fright.
Not fright, but astonishment now mars his drawn face as the third whirring sound fills the room and the body grows taut.
The guard rips open the white shirt and wipes the chest with a towel. Doctors Charles C. Sweet and Kenneth McCracken apply stethoscopes, and Doctor Sweet says:
"This man is dead."
It's 11:04, and Hutch's limp form is wheeled away. Dominick Guariglia is next.
Dominick, nineteen, was tougher than Hutch in his last day on earth. He ate all of his last meal--chicken, string beans, tomato salad, ice cream.
In the pre-execution chamber during the evening he listened attentively while Warden Lawes' victrola droned out the three records he requested--"In My Mother's Eyes," "There's a Gold Mine in the Sky" and "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie."
He comes into the chamber a husky boy, barrel-chested, tough-looking, but pale. Father McCaffrey is at his side, reading, "The Lord is my shepherd..."
It is just short of 11:06 and Dominick is strapped into place. He stares a moment at the people who came to see him die (seven newspapermen on business; the other men just for the hell of it) and you hear the dynamo's sickly whir. Over against the wall a man ducks his head into the sink and retches violently, but he is erect in time to see the rest.
The rest is quick. Executioner Robert Elliot, earning $450 this night, times his heavy voltage blows precisely. The life he's taking never counted much. Just another mugg.
Dominick had low mentality. In the trial last April-March, his attorney called him "A stupid boy, a moron, a nitwit." In the clemency hearing before Governor Lehman January 11, another attorney pointed out Dominick had shined shoes, ran errands, blocked hats, etc. He was industrious. Jacob J. Rosenblum, the prosecutor took this up at the trial. He said when Dominick wanted to he went out and shined shoes, ran errands, blocked hats, etc., and "when he wanted to rob and steal he went out and robbed and stole."
No one knows how this kid got hooked into the Foley killing. He didn't belong with those other muggs. He hadn't graduated into the murder class. He said he was dragged along and forced to carry the guns up Second Avenue for the others. He was the arsenal. He said he refused to do it, but, that Little Benny Ertel (indicted in the crime but not tried yet) told him "Come on, you little--what are you scared of?"
So he carried the guns, handed them to O'Laughlin, Ertel and Friedman and--unarmed--followed Friedman into the tea room, and he, too, cowered in the back while O'Laughlin and Little Benny shot it out with Foley and his partner John R. Gallagher, who happened to be there when the boys arrived.
There's the third whir, and the lights dim a little. The smoke curls up beyond Dominick's ears, his right leg is seared and his eyes pop and his mouth is wide open. The medicos again, and Dr. Sweet hardly audible:
"This man is dead."
It's 11:09 and the boy is wheeled into the autopsy room; it's the turn of Joseph Harvey O'Laughlin, whom everyone called Harvey. He's a defiant youth. He is brought in and as he reaches The Chair he steps forward and says:
"Can I have a word? I'm glad the other boys got a break. Probably if I had a name like Cohen or a longer nose I would have got a break. Let's go, Bob." (Robert is the first name of Father McCaffrey.)
Harvey is strapped in--it's 11:11 now--and you hear him say:
"It's powerful, huh?"
He says this either before or just as the first charge is on the way through him.
It's hard to tell when he says it, because at the same time the man in the row ahead sinks to the floor and makes the sign of the cross. This man is weeping bitterly. (Later he tells the Brooklyn dentist who sat next to him that years ago thugs killed his father, a policeman, and he has always wanted to see a tough guy burn. Harvey was too much for him. He's still bawling in the prison-wagon drive back to the front entrance.)
Harvey is still in The Chair, and it's time to think about him, as you dimly hear Father McCaffrey, the good Chaplain, reading the Twenty-third Psalm.
Harvey is twenty-four. He's the one accused of firing the fatal shots. He had an unfortunate childhood. His father was a drunk. Mrs. Ellen O'Laughlin kicked him out long years ago when she was bearing her seventh child and she went to work. She worked fourteen years, mostly a laundress. At seven, Harvey was assigned to the Bellevue Hospital boat in the East River. At thirteen, he started going to Public School 147 and four years later he quit and went to work. Never earned much.
In March, 1935, he eloped with Irene Weiss, a Jewish girl from the East Side. They broke up the next year--parental objections. They had a son, Robert, three now.
Harvey's mother said that a week before the Foley killing he was talking about raising some money so he could take Irene and the baby out to Long Island and set up house again.
He was desperate, his mother said. The year before he had lost his $53 a month job as a WPA laborer. He was up against it. Thus did he come to sit in the board of strategy the night--April 9, 1937--when the boys assembled in Tobias Hanover's candy store at 218 East Broadway and plotted a crime.
Maybe so, but the probation report said:
"Home environment marred by family disintegration, he elected to associate with the criminal element that frequent the street corners and questionable resorts of the lower East Side...constantly under police surveillance."
It's simple to understand. Harvey had to have some money, a lot of money, and he went out to get it with a gun. A lot of boys do it that way. Only a few weeks before the fatal stick-up (in which Harvey was shot twice) some other boys had "taken" the joint at 144 Second Avenue for $3,500. Easy money.
And easy dying. The deft Mr. Elliot is superb tonight. On the second deathly whir you seem to hear Harvey say "Ugh" and you certainly hear the awful internal body sound of all who die in that grisly looking chair, and the hands turn and the right foot turns and sears badly and the warden stands with bowed head.
You hardly notice the solemn medical men, but you're leaning forward and at 11:14 you catch Dr. Sweet again:
"This man is dead."
Total elapsed time; thirteen minutes.