This week in 1920

“Usefof did not take part in this crime.”

— Joseph Milano, convicted of murder, electric chair, New York.
Executed December 9, 1920

As Milano walked to the death chamber, condemned accomplice James Cassidy began to sing, “Oh, What a Pal Was Mary.”




 

This week in 1920

“You see an innocent man dying tonight. Thank you, warden. You have been a kind man.”

— Joseph Usefof, convicted of murder, electric chair, New York.
Executed December 9, 1920

Usefof was executed along with three other men for the 1918 murder of subway ticket agent Otto Fialo in the Bronx. Joseph Milano, one of Usefof’s co-defendants, exonerated Usefof in a written confession, which he later retracted. Usefof maintained his innocence; he was the first of his group to be executed because he was considered the most likely to suffer a breakdown.




 

This week in 1937

“I have a right to choose the way I die!”

— Douglas Van Vlack, convicted of murder, hanging, Idaho.
Executed December 9, 1937

Van Vlack kidnapped his ex-wife and killed her, as well as two police officers. A few hours before his hanging was scheduled, Van Vlack broke away from his guards and scrambled over the cell block  o cling to the ceiling rafters. He stayed in the ceiling for a half an hour as his lawyer and the prison chaplain begged for him to come down; he jumped thirty feet below just before the guards entered the cell block with a net. Van Vlack’s hanging was unsuccessful; technically he died the next day, December 10, after a few hours in a coma.




 

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