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The New Orleans "Mafia" Trial: 1891

Who Killed The Chief?, Absent Conspiracy, Missing Witnesses, The First, The Best, And Even The Most Law-abiding

Defendants: Antonio Bagnetto, James Caruso, John Caruso, Loretto Comitz, Rocco Geraci, Bastian Incardona, Joseph P. Macheca, Antonio Marchesi, Gasperi Marchesi, Charles Matranga, Pietro Monasterio, Pietro Natali, Charles Patorno, Charles Pietzo, Emmanuelle Polizzi, Frank Romero, Antonio Scaffidi, Salvatore Sunzeri, and Charles Traina
Crimes Charged: Shooting with intent to murder, lying in wait to murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Lionel Adams, Charles Butler, John 0. Flynn, Arthur Gastinel, A.D. Henriques, Thomas J. Semmes, and Charles Theard
Chief Prosecutors: W.L. Evans, Charles H. Luzenberg, and James C. Walker
Judge: Joshua G. Baker
Place: New Orleans, Louisiana
Dates of Trial: February 16-March 13, 1891
Verdicts: Scaffidi, Polizzi, and Monasterio: mistrials; Macheca, Matranga, Bagnetto, Incardona, and Antonio and Gasperi Marchesi: not guilty; Natali, Pietzo, Patorno, Sunzeri, and John and James Caruso: charges dismissed

SIGNIFICANCE: The acquittals and mistrial verdicts provoked the worst mass lynching in U.S. history and made the word "Mafia" part of the American vernacular.

On the misty night of October 15, 1890, New Orleans, Louisiana, Police Superintendent David Hennessy was fatally shot in an ambush a block from his home. The dying man's whispers would cause the most controversial trial ever held in New Orleans courts and provoke the most notorious international political incident of the Gilded Age. They would also make "Mafia" a household word in America for the very first time.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917