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Inc. Trials Murder: 1941

"we Only Kill Each Other", Surrender To J. Edgar Hoover And Walter Winchell, Suggestions For Further Reading

Defendants: Frank "The Dasher" Abbandando, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Louis Capone, Martin "Buggsy" Goldstein, Harry "Happy" Malone, Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss, and Mendy Weiss
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Hyman Barshay, James L. Cuff, William Kleinman, David F. Price, Daniel M. Pryor, and Alfred I. Rosner
Chief Prosecutors: William O'Dwyer, Solomon A. Klein, and Burton B. Turkus
Judges: John J. Fitzgerald and Franklin Taylor
Place: Brooklyn, New York
Dates of Trials: May 8-22, 1940 (Abbandando, Malone, and Strauss, for Rudnick slaying); September 9-19, 1940 (Strauss and Goldstein, for Feinstein slaying); March 10—April3, 1941 (Abbandando and Malone, second trial for Rudnick slaying); October 21-November 30, 1941 (Buchalter, Capone, and Weiss for Rosen slaying)
Verdicts: Guilty
Sentences: Death by electrocution

SIGNIFICANCE: These trials awakened America to the fact that crime was one of the nation's biggest businesses, so vast that the crime syndicate had established its own enforcement arm—labeled by the press "Murder, Inc." They also helped advance two political careers: Thomas E. Dewey moved from special prosecutor to district attorney to governor of New York and two unsuccessful campaigns as Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States, and Brooklyn District Attorney William O'Dwyer later became mayor of New York City.

Starting in the early 1930s, crime became organized into a national syndicate as local gangs specializing in bootlegging, prostitution, and racketeering began cooperating to produce greater wealth for themselves. Soon such bosses as Charles "Lucky" Luciano, "Dutch" Schultz, and Meyer Lansky, all of whom served on the board of directors of the syndicate, realized they needed to protect their power by eliminating any underlings caught skimming from the revenue chain, trying to seize more power than had been delegated to them, or otherwise getting out of line.

Meyer Lansky had the idea of creating a small, well-organized army of killers. In succession, the bosses put "Bugsy" Siegel, then Albert Anastasia, and finally Louis "Lepke" Buchalter in charge. Buchalter came up with the code words that eventually found their way into the American language: The murder specialists could accept a "contract" (assignment) to "hit" (kill) any "bum" (intended victim) anywhere at a price per hit that ranged from $1,000 to $6,000. Members of the force operated in secrecy and without territorial claims. The rank-and-file mobsters never knew who they were. The killers prided themselves on their ability to do their homework by studying photographs of a bum they did not otherwise know, move unrecognized into a strange city, find the miscreant, hit him by ice pick or knife or bullets (one used whatever was handy, including a fire ax grabbed from a restaurant's wall case), and quietly leave town while the perplexed police looked around among the local bad guys.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953