This week in 1933

“I no want minister. There no God. It’s all below. I’ll go myself, I no scared of lectric chair . . . See, I no fraid of lectric chair. No cameraman? No movie to take a picture of Zangara? Lousy capitalists—no picture—capitalists, no onehere take my picture, all capitalists lousy bunch of crooks. Good-bye, adios to all the world. Push the button!”

— Giuseppe Zangara, convicted of murder, electric chair, Florida.
Executed March 20, 1933

After President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt finished a speech in Miami, Zangara attempted to assassinate him with a pawn shop revolver. Instead of hitting Roosevelt, Zangara wounded four others, including Chicago mayor Anton J. Cermak, who later died of his wounds. Zangara, an Italian immigrant, claimed that “pains in his stomach” caused him to hate people in power, according to a newspaper report.


This week in 1899

“God help me.”

— Martha Place, convicted of murder, electric chair, New York.
Executed March 20, 1899

The first woman to be executed in the electric chair by the state of New York, Place had been savagely jealous, according to newspaper accounts. While her husband was away, Place threw sulfuric acid at her seventeen-year-old stepdaughter Ida during a quarrel, then smothered her with a pillow. That day Mr. Place came home to find his wife wielding an ax, with which she struck him twice in the head but failed to kill him.


This week in 1995

“Please tell the media I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”

— Thomas Grasso, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Oklahoma.
Executed March 20, 1995

Grasso did not receive his SpaghettiOs, but it was reported that his last meal did include steamed mussels, a cheeseburger, spaghetti, a strawberry milkshake, and pumpkin pie. Grasso had been convicted for the murder of two elderly women—one in New York and one in Oklahoma. His convictions were highly publicized, as the two states fought over how and where he should be punished. Grasso himself asked for the death penalty. His case heated up the 1994 New York gubernatorial race between pro–death penalty George Pataki and Mario Cuomo, who opposed capital punishment.

The New York Times wrote: “Mr. Pataki campaigned strongly on the issue of restoring the death penalty, and one of his first acts on taking office was to send Mr. Grasso back to Oklahoma to be executed.”


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