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  • The convict slams his handcuffed fists down on  a table and shouts at the two detectives sitting  

  • opposite, “I kill kings and presidents first  and next all capitalists!” He has no remorse  

  • whatsoever for the crime he's committed. “Give  me a hundred years,” he later screams at a judge

  • His story involves a dead mayor, an  assassination attempt on the president-to-be,  

  • and some famous last words, “Push the  button! Go ahead, push the button!” 

  • It was this man, an avowed king-killer, a wishful  slayer of presidents, that changed everything.  

  • He alone was the reason why death row  became a thing in the United States

  • There are about 2,500 people on death  row in the US as you watch this

  • There have been five executions so far  this year, although some other people  

  • will have uttered their last words by the  time this show comes out. Fourteen people are  

  • scheduled to die before 2021 is over. They are all  male. They will all receive a lethal injection.  

  • They are mostly from the states of Texas and  Oklahoma, and they are a mix of ethnicities

  • Gone are the days when a person could be  convicted and end up on the scaffold or in  

  • the death chamber just a few days or weeks laterCombined, the five people executed so far in 2021  

  • have served 96 years on death row. So, this brings us back to how death  

  • row got started and the fascinating  story of Giuseppe Zangara.

  • He was born in Italy on September 1, 1900.  He served in the First World War and later  

  • emigrated to the USA. He also became the man that  very nearly made sure that Franklin D. Roosevelt,  

  • often said to be one of the best presidents  in US history, never even became president

  • His parents were peasants living in an area  that is the toe on the boot of Italy. His  

  • mother believed he was cursed as a kid, mainly  because he was born with an ear defect and  

  • because he was always having accidents. He was badly injured after falling down  

  • some steps. He was burned in a fire. He then  fell down more stairs, and he still wasn't  

  • yet eight years old. Young Giuseppe didn't  go to school for any length of time because  

  • his father made him work in the fields. If  he was naughty, his mean old pop beat him,  

  • at times to the point of unconsciousness. This is what Giuseppe later wrote in a memoir

  • One day we lost one of the  cows. When my father found  

  • out about it, he beat me and kicked me like a dogand told me I was not working hard enough. From  

  • that day on he worked me so hard that I became  sick. I was beaten and starved and over-worked.” 

  • He didn't really blame his father. His  anger focused on the system he and his  

  • family were enmeshed in, that of capitalism. And then he arrived in the USA, the land of  

  • milk and honey, a country where anyone could make  it regardless of their classWell, that's what  

  • people were led to believe. Zangara arrived in  this land of plenty in 1923, the beginning of the  

  • Great Depression, when millions of Americans could  barely find enough food to sustain a decent life

  • On top of that, he had chronic stomach painsHe'd seen doctors about this back in Italy.  

  • The pains were likely a result of his child  labor and other maltreatment during his youth.  

  • A doctor once turned to his father and said,  “This boy will never be any good again.” 

  • Zangara was angry, in pain, and in  the wrong place at the wrong time.  

  • America wasn't going to save a wretch like him. This is what he wrote in his memoir. It  

  • sums up his mindset at the time: “The capitalists get to be the boss  

  • to my father, keep the money from my father, and  my father sent me to work, and I have no school,  

  • and I have trouble with my stomachand that  way, I make my idea to kill the president-kill  

  • any president, any king.” He'd actually tried to assassinate  

  • Victor Emmanuel III of Italy back in 1923, but he  didn't even get off a shot. He later explained,  

  • The guards got in from of me, and I could not get  at him because the guards are over six foot tall,  

  • and I could not even see the king.” He'd discover again that being short got  

  • in the way of being a successful assassin. It was just after this lackluster attempt  

  • on someone's life that he applied forvisa to go live in the US. As we said,  

  • he was expecting milk and honey, equality for  all, vast landscapes of manicured gardens,  

  • and once he got off the boat, a pat on the  back from Uncle Sam and all the nice natives

  • Things didn't exactly work out that way. At first, he did ok, working as a bricklayer in  

  • New Jersey. His constant stomach issues ensured  he didn't waste money on booze or gambling.  

  • He didn't have many friends, and he never dated  women. His uncle in the US later condensed his  

  • nephew's life, saying, “He wanted to be  left alone to suffer with his stomach.” 

  • Then came the Great Depression. Work dried up in  New Jersey. He traveled to LA to look for another  

  • job, hoping the warmer climate might be better  for his stomach problem. There was no work there,  

  • either. He then moved to Miami, where  he earned a meager wage as a dishwasher

  • He ate a meal of scraps once a day, and when he  had a few cents to spare, he gambled that on dogs  

  • or horses. His American dream had turned into an  American nightmare, so he did what anyone would  

  • do...er sort of, and blamed the president. Sat in his squalid room, holding his damned  

  • stomach, he made plans to assassinate President  Herbert Hoover. Only Hoover was in Washington  

  • D.C., and it was cold there. Then just as soon  as he lamented his delicate disposition, he heard  

  • a newsboy shout something below his window: “President-Elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt,  

  • to visit Miami, read all about it.” Zangara clambered out to the street  

  • and bought a newspaper. He learned that Roosevelt  would arrive in Miami and later head to Bayfront  

  • Park where he would make a speech. “Perfect,” he  thought, “If I can't get the current president,  

  • I'll get the next best thing.” Truth be knownhe actually quite liked Roosevelt. Still, in his  

  • mind, all capitalist politicians deserved to die. A few minutes later, Zangara was in Davis Pawnshop  

  • buying a .32 caliber revolver and ten bulletsHe paid eight dollars. That was pretty much all  

  • the money he had in the world, but he wasn't  thinking about his own future at this point

  • On February 15, 1933, he put the loaded gun  into his pocket and headed out the door. As he  

  • made his way to the park, more than 25,000 other  people from all over the US were doing the same

  • Bands at the park were getting ready  to play when Zangara's five-foot-one  

  • frame tried to squeeze its way through  the crowd towards a seat close to where  

  • Roosevelt would make his speech on the podium. He would have gotten closer if it weren't for  

  • a Mr. H.L. Edmunds of Ottumwa, IowaAs he was pushing through the crowd,  

  • Edmunds grabbed him and sternly told him that  the front seats were for women and children

  • Zangara didn't argue, resigning himself  to a third-row seat and the fact he would  

  • now require a good aim. “No problem,” he  thought. He'd shot enough guns in the war

  • At around 9.30 am, Roosevelt made his short  speech, after which a group of people shook  

  • his hand and had an informal chat with him. One  of them was Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago

  • At this point, Zangara was trying his best to get  into position, which wasn't easy given he couldn't  

  • quite see over the heads of people much taller  than himself. He had no choice but to position  

  • himself on a bench, one that wasn't too stable. He then got his chance, seeing the back of the  

  • head of the president-elect. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang

  • He fired all five shots, each just missing  Roosevelt. He did hit someone with each bullet,  

  • though, including mayor Cermak. The bullet entered  his chest under his armpit and lodged in his lung

  • Mrs. Joseph H. Gill took a bullet to the  abdomen. Three others, Mr. Russell Caldwell,  

  • Miss Margaret Kruis, and Mr. William J.  Sinnott, were also shot, but they all survived

  • It was nothing short of a miracle  that Roosevelt wasn't hit. Later,  

  • Lillian Cross and Thomas Armor said they had seen  what was happening and managed to push Zangara  

  • enough so he couldn't aim directly at Roosevelt. This is debatable, however. Zangara told  

  • detectives that the bench he was standing  on moved, and that's why he'd missed.  

  • Had that bench not have wobbled, he was  certain he would have found Roosevelt's head

  • With Roosevelt now under a mass of people trying  to protect him, Zangara was wrestled to the ground  

  • and arrested. Cops didn't waste much timethinking the guy would likely be lynched  

  • by the angry crowd. They tied him to the trunk  rack of one of the limousines from the motorcade  

  • and sped off. The furious crowd ran after itscreaming for the blood of the would-be assassin

  • From his jail cell, Zangara said his only regret  was that he had missed. He told cops that he  

  • didn't so much hate Roosevelt, but the fact he  was to become president of the capitalist nation.  

  • All the time he was being interviewedhe was clutching his stomach

  • After two psychiatrists visited  him, they wrote a report. It stated,  

  • His intelligence is not necessarily inferiorhis distorted judgment and temperament is  

  • incapable of adjustment to the average social  standards. He is inherently suspicious and  

  • anti-social. Such ill-balanced erratic types  are classified as a psychopathic personality.” 

  • He might not have been psychopathic. These days  an assessment would more likely have said he  

  • had a severe personality disorder, partly  a consequence of his traumatic upbringing,  

  • made worse by a very painful stomach ailmentNot having work was the final straw, but Zangara  

  • was always going to explode at some point. On February 20, 1933, he pleaded guilty to four  

  • counts of assault and an assassination attemptJudge E.C. Collins handed Zangara 80 years,  

  • to which he responded, “Four times 20 is 80. Ohjudge, don't be stingy. Give me a hundred years.” 

  • But then Cermak died from his injuries, so now  the sentence was murder under something called  

  • transferred intent. He might not  have intended to kill Cermak,  

  • but under this doctrine, he should have known he  might kill someone else while trying to kill his  

  • target. This meant his intent was transferredand so in legal terms, he meant to kill Cermak

  • Circuit Court Judge Uly Thompson then passed  down the death sentence. Zangara didn't seem  

  • phased at all, telling the judge, “You give  me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair!  

  • You one of capitalists. You is crook man  too. Put me in electric chair. I no care!” 

  • The thing was, under Florida lawmurderers could not share a cell.  

  • This was a problem, because there was already  a guy in the death cell awaiting execution. The  

  • prison had no choice to build another cell next  to it. Hence, the death cell was now Death Row

  • From the day of the shooting to the execution took  five weeks. Just before Zangara went to the chair,  

  • he passed a bunch of notes to prison officialsThese were part of his biography. The chaplain  

  • then came to calm him down, but Zangara  got angry and chased him out of the room,  

  • shouting, “Get to hell out of here, you  son of a... I go sit down all by myself…” 

  • We think you can fill in the missing word by  yourself. It seems Zangara despised all authority

  • He sat in the electric chair smiling  but became incensed when he discovered  

  • his final moments wouldn't be photographed or  filmed. That's when he said, “Viva l'Italia!  

  • Goodbye to all poor peoples everywhere!...  Push the button! Go ahead, push the button!” 

  • No one claimed the body, so he was buried in the  prison grounds. What's perhaps surprising is the  

  • pathologist said Zangara's brain showed no sign  of disease or injury, and neither did his stomach

  • By this time, Roosevelt was already sworn in as  President. He would be reelected for three more  

  • terms. The US, and even the world, might have  been a different place today if little Giuseppe  

  • Zangara had been just a few inches taller. Now you need to watchInsane But True Story  

  • Of A Real Life Assassin.” Or, have a look at  “America's Deadliest Hitman - The Iceman Killer.”

The convict slams his handcuffed fists down on  a table and shouts at the two detectives sitting  

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Why is it Called "Death Row"

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    Summer posted on 2021/11/09
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