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Joseph Zangara Trial: 1933

"too Many People Starving To Death", Suggestions For Further Reading

Defendant: Joseph Zangara
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: James M. McCaskill, Alfred A. Raia, and Lewis Twyman
Chief Prosecutor: Charles A. Morehead
Judge: Uly 0. Thompson
Place: Miami, Florida
Date of Trial: March 9, 1933
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Death by electrocution

SIGNIFICANCE: Joseph Zangara's failed attempt to assassinate U.S. President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrated how the frustrations of financial misfortune in the Great Depression could lead to desperate and mindless acts of violence.

Early in 1933, Joseph Zangara, a bricklayer who was out of work, bummed rides from Hackensack, New Jersey, to Florida in hope of finding warm weather and a job. A self-proclaimed anarchist, he carried a revolver, probably as much to protect his diminutive 5-foot frame as to protest the system.

On February 15, Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in Miami, scheduled to make a major speech at a rally of Democrats. In November, he had won an unprecedented victory over incumbent President Herbert Hoover as the country, hoping for a savior from the economic devastation of the Great Depression, responded to his personal charm and the concern for "the forgotten man" that he had expressed in one campaign speech after another. His inauguration was set for March 4.

Huge crowds turned out to welcome Roosevelt as he rode in an open car in the official motorcade from the railroad station to his hotel. One of his escorts, seated directly behind him and Eleanor Roosevelt, was Anton J. Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, who had helped to deliver FDR's landslide vote.

At one point, the car stopped in the midst of the surging crowd. As he often did because of his relative immobility (the result of his attack of polio, or "infantile paralysis," in 1921), Roosevelt stayed in the car to deliver a short speech. Then the crowd pressed forward, eager to shake his hand. With his usual wide grin and buoyant enthusiasm, he welcomed them.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940