Guiseppe Zangara could not believe his luck. On a mild February afternoon in 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt was visiting Miami and had decided to give a short speech at Bayfront Park. Although the crowd was large, Guiseppe had arrived early and had a good vantage point to see Roosevelt and other public officials.
Roosevelt was in good spirits. After all, he had won a landslide victory in November, and his inauguration was less than a month away. His speech was short, and his audience applauded his optimism and laughed at his self-deprecating humor. Everyone was having a good time.
Everyone except Guiseppe. He hated all politicians and government in general. And here he was standing just a few feet away from the most important politician in America.
Not wanting to draw attention to himself, he applauded enthusiastically. Occasionally, he would reach into his pocket and pat the .32 revolver inside. This was going to be easier than he thought.
Roosevelt concluded his speech, stepped inside a convertible, and sat atop the rear seat. He motioned Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak to join him.
The car was about to leave when Guiseppe made his move. He pushed through the crowd as he drew his gun. He pointed it directly at Roosevelt, but a woman in the crowd accidentally bumped his arm.
Guiseppe fired at least five times. He missed Roosevelt but struck Cermak and four others.
The crowd jumped on Giuseppe, wrenched the gun from his hand, and beat him into submission.
Secret Service agents covered Roosevelt and drove the car from the scene. Cermak would die three weeks later of causes not related to the bullet wound. However, another victim of the shooting died of her wounds.
Cermak died on March 6. Fourteen days later, Guiseppe Zangara was executed. To say the least, justice was swift.
And now another story:
James Holmes was fascinated by superheroes, with Batman his favorite. Anyone visiting his apartment would find it festooned with Batman posters, action figures, and other paraphernalia. He eagerly anticipated the newest Batman movie,The Dark Knight Rises, which was scheduled to be released in July, just two months away.
In May he began to prepare for the film. Over the next two months, he purchased two Glock pistols, a Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. All purchases were legal, and he passed all state and federal background checks.
On July 20, it was show time. A local theater was holding a midnight viewing of the new movie. Homes entered Theater 9 through an emergency door at approximately 12:30 a.m. He was dressed in black and wore a gas mask, bullet-resistant leggings, a ballistic helmet, and other protective gear.
Most in the audience thought he was just another avid fan, for several attendees were wearing batman-related costumes. Others thought it was a promotional stunt by the theater.
Coolly, James tossed two gas canisters to the floor, filling the theater with noxious gas and smoke. He then fired the shotgun into the ceiling and then aimed indiscriminately into the crowd. He quickly grabbed the M&P 15 and fired another 45 rounds until the gun jammed. Finally, he fired a Glock, intent on killing as many as he could. At some point, having perhaps run out of ammunition, James exited through the same door through which he had entered.
The police arrived at approximately 12:42 and less than five minutes later found James standing next to his car behind the theater. James made no attempt to resist arrest and told the police that he had acted alone. Strangely, he also told them that his apartment was booby-trapped with numerous explosive devices, a confession that would prove to be true.
The carnage James had perpetrated left 12 people dead and several others suffering from non-fatal gunshot wounds.
Now there was no mystery as to the identity of the killer. Aside from hundreds of witnesses, James had clearly confessed to the police, although later he would claim insanity.
This horrific crime took place on July 20, 2012. Do you remember the outcome of James’s trial? If you do, you are experiencing a false memory. For there has yet to be a trial. However, on January 20 of this year, the state of Colorado started the process of selecting a jury. The jury pool is 9,000 strong. No, that’s not a misprint. As a point of comparison, the jury pool for O.J. Simpson was 1,000. It will take weeks to actually sit a jury. In the meantime, James Holmes will continue to be a ward of the state of Colorado.
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution assures the right of a speedy trial. The rationale for such a guarantee is twofold: (1) protect the defendant from languishing in jail and (2) avoid the possibility of witnesses forgetting what they had seen. But, more importantly, a speedy trial keeps the crime in the minds of the public. It is safe to assume that the public could see the clear connection between the crime of Guiseppe Zangara and his quick execution: Heinous crime=quick, harsh punishment. But with the two and a half years that have passed since James Holmes’s horrific crime, that necessary connection has already been lost. And that can only do damage to an ordered society.