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Joseph Zangara Trial: 1933

"too Many People Starving To Death"

Amidst the tide of people pressing toward the car came Joseph Zangara. Suddenly he was eight feet away, swinging his gun toward the president-elect, shouting, "There are too many people starving to death." As he emptied his revolver, a woman seized his arm. Two shots hit Mayor Cermak. Others scattered widely, wounding four spectators.

The crowd crushed Zangara to the ground, kicking and pounding him. When the police seized him moments later, he was already bloody. Roosevelt, barely glancing at the would-be assassin, turned to help the mayor. "He was the calmest person present," said a witness. Twice, as the car moved from the fray, he had it stopped so he could help make the wounded mayor more comfortable. The whole event was Roosevelt's first national demonstration of his daring lack of fear or concern for his personal safety.

With Mayor Cermak and the wounded spectators in the hospital, Zangara was immediately tried for assault with a deadly weapon, convicted, and sentenced February 21 to 80 years in prison.

On March 6, the mayor died of his wounds. Blaming the murder of Cermak on "that woman who got in the way," Zangara said he was sorry that Cermak had died but that he had fully intended to kill the president-elect.

Dade County Solicitor Charles Morehead, who had been standing by with an indictment for murder ready, brought Zangara to trial on March 9. He pleaded guilty and was condemned to death. A few days before his execution on March 20, he told a newsman he had always hated Roosevelt. "If I got out," he said, "I would kill him at once." He sat down in the electric chair without remorse.

Bernard Ryan, Jr.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Gunther, John. Roosevelt in Retrospect. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950.

Hurd, Charles. WVhen the New Deal lVas Young and Gay. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1965.

Nash, Jay Robert. Almanac of World Crime. Garden City, N. Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday & Co., 1981.

E nytclopedia of World Crime. Wilmette, Ill.: CrimeBooks, 1991.

"Roosevelt, Franklin D." Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. XXIII. New York: Americana Corp., 1953.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Joseph Zangara Trial: 1933 - "too Many People Starving To Death", Suggestions For Further Reading