Electric Chair

Lead: Caught up in the frenzy of competition in the early days of electric power, Thomas Edison gave impetus to development of the twentieth century’s most fearsome form of judicial execution, the electric chair.

Intro. : A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the 1880s, inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist George Westinghouse were locked in a fierce competition over the future of electric power. The issue was transmission. Edison championed direct current, Westinghouse, in alliance with the brilliant and erratic Nikola Tesla, was an advocate of alternating current. Westinghouse eventually prevailed because AC, with its more efficient distribution over longer distances, was clearly the superior choice.

The Saga of Leo Frank III

Lead: In 1915, Georgia Governor John M. Slaton commuted the sentence of Leo Frank, a man wrongfully convicted in the brutal murder of one of his employees, young Mary Phagan. That summer a mob broke into the prison farm where Frank was being held, took him out and lynched him.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Slaton said later he would have pardoned Frank had he been asked to, but the failure to request complete exoneration was the latest in a long series of blunders by Frank's defense teams and the ultimate triumph of a prosecution which conspired in what was little more than an official frame-up. Frank was convicted by the testimony of a black janitor who was almost certainly guilty of the murder himself. An ironic twist of American justice: anti-Semitic prejudice prevailed over anti-black bias. In 1942 Rev. L.O. Bricker, the Baptist pastor of Mary Phagan's parents, revealed the popular sentiment at the time, "My own feelings, upon the arrest of the old Negro night-watchman, were .... [that he] would be poor atonement for the life of this little girl. But, when .... the police arrested a Jew, and a Yankee Jew at that, all of the inborn prejudice against Jews rose up in a feeling of satisfaction, that here would be a victim worthy to pay for the crime."

The Saga of Leo Frank II

Lead: In 1913 Leo Frank, a leader in Atlanta's Jewish business community, was accused of brutally murdering one of his female employees, Mary Phagan. It has been called "one of the most shocking frame-ups ever perpetrated by American law and order officials."

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In order to obtain an indictment against Frank, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey withheld from the grand jury the key fact that he had another suspect, Jim Conley, a janitor from the factory. Conley had been seen washing blood from a shirt after the murder, he admitted writing two notes found near the body which, in nearly unintelligible language, attempted to shift the blame away from himself, and under strong pressure from police investigators, changed his story over and over. In retrospect, it is clear that the police were determined to get Frank's conviction and used Conley to do it.

Nuremberg Trials I

Lead: By 1943 the tide of victory had begun to shift in favor of the Allies. How they used that victory would give shape to the postwar world. One of their first tasks was to bring war criminals to justice at Nuremberg.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: As World War II ground on, word began to slip out of occupied Europe describing terrible atrocities. These were not the acts of inhumanity normally associated with war. This was an organized terror rarely experienced in the modern era. Genocide on a scale theretofore considered unimaginable was engulfing groups thought by the Nazis and their allies to be subhuman. Jews, selected evangelical Christians, homosexuals, gypsies, the mentally infirm, and others were gradually being exterminated in Hitler's twisted pursuit of racial purity.

Alcatraz II

Lead: The regimen on “the Rock” was incredibly severe. Hardened criminals, were often reduced to babbling by the silence, the isolation, the discipline. The residents called it Helcatraz.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the 1930s the battle against urban crime seemed to be going against the forces of law and order. The aggressive young director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, convinced U.S. Attorney General Homer Cummings, that the solution lay in creating a “super prison” where hardened, intractable male prisoners serving long sentences could be sent. Word was out that the military had grown weary of the high cost of maintaining Alcatraz, its isolated outpost in the middle of outer San Francisco Bay. Cummings and Hoover decided to take over the island for their maximum security prison. Not only did it have the facilities, its distance from land, the closest mainland point being a mile away, and the treacherous tidal currents that swirled in and out of the Golden Gate, was thought to make escape nigh to impossible. They chose Alcatraz and James A. Johnston to run it.

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Alcatraz I

Lead: For 29 years perhaps the most intimidating sound in the American judicial system was the slammer, the collective crack of 250 pound automatic doors that, at the touch of a lever, enclosed the inmates of the U.S Penitentiary, Alcatraz.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: At 7:15 on the morning of June 12, 1962, a guard in the cell block of Alcatraz made his usual morning rounds. Outside a thick fog had descended upon San Francisco Bay and surrounded the tiny prison island obscuring the dawn and the view of the guards in the watchtowers above. Someone noticed that Frank L. Morris, John Anglin, and John’s brother Clarence did not get up. When they did not respond the guard entered the cell. In near disbelief, he announced the three had escaped the most fearsome prison in the Federal system. That escape would sound the death-knell of one of the most famous prisons in the world. Lubyanka, the Bastille, Fulsom, Sing Sing, the Hanoi Hilton, none would come close sharing the reputation of Helcatraz, on “The Rock.”

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The Saga of Leo Frank I

Lead: On August 17, 1915 in the small Georgia town of Marietta, a mob lynched Leo Frank. The story behind the murder of this clearly innocent young man may serve as a snapshot of social tensions in early 20th century America.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Leo Frank represented much that irritated Southerners or for that matter, most rural Americans. He was an outsider, a Yankee transplanted to a South still struggling to rise above the destruction and humiliation of the Civil War. Raised in Brooklyn, he came to Atlanta at the turn of the century to help establish a family business, the National Pencil Company. He was an urban industrialist come to bring change to the agricultural South, but most of all he was a Jew. For many white Christian Southerners, he represented a race that had rejected the True faith and killed the Savior. Jews were considered too bright, too aggressive, and much too rich. The life of Cornell graduate Leo Frank lay in the path of such envy and prejudice and for that he suffered and died.

Electric Chair

Lead: Caught up in the frenzy of competition in the early days of electric power, Thomas Edison gave impetus to development of the twentieth century’s most fearsome form of judicial execution, the electric chair.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the 1880s, inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist George Westinghouse were locked in a fierce competition over the future of electric power. The issue was transmission. Edison championed direct current, Westinghouse, in alliance with the brilliant and erratic Nikola Tesla, was an advocate of alternating current. Westinghouse eventually prevailed because AC, with its more efficient distribution over longer distances, was clearly the superior choice.

Read more →