The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956

December 28, 2014 · Posted in Famous Writers, Historic Crimes, Russian History, This Day in History · Comments Off on The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956 

The first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, a history and memoir of life in a Soviet Union prison camp, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, was first published in Paris in the original Russian on Dec 28, 1973.

“… authorized for Western publication only after the Soviet secret police seized a copy of the manuscript last August, …”

The Soviets arrested Solzhenitsyn on February 12, 1974 taking away his citizenship and deporting him.

Solzhenitsyn warned the Russian people, citizens of a severely, censorial, 1973 Russia, in the preface of his book The Gulag Archipelago (a three-volume work), that they must consider the reading of his writings as a “very dangerous” act.

Learn more about life in Stalin’s Gulag.

Lizzie Borden Lives On

November 30, 2013 · Posted in Historic Crimes · Comments Off on Lizzie Borden Lives On 

Lizzie BordenThough the infamous ax murderer, Lizzie Andrew Borden, died years ago on June 1, 1927, her biology lives on. Scientist James Fallon found out that not only was Lizzie Borden a distant relative, but that he also shared her psychopathic brain. It was during a family research project on Alzheimer’s disease that he saw his own PET scan, not knowing it was his, and recognized the hallmark neurological deficits of the psychopathic population he was studying.

As a neuroscientist Fallon worked with experts on brain abnormalities of the criminal kind and so was familiar with the brain scans that psychopaths present with. He was shocked to find out that the image he recognized as abnormal was his own. In retrospect and with family members’ input he concurred that there were tell tale signs that he had such a brain, but thankfully, without the unlawful and violent behavior. He does however have traits of aggression, risky and impulsive choices and an inability to connect on a deep intimate level even though he is married with children.

Unfortunately, for Lizzie Borden and her murdered parents, it was believed, that she was of the violent type. Although she was acquitted of the heinous murders in 1893, rumors to the contrary have outlasted her trial and life. A case in point is the popular children’s rhyme that was and is so often used when jumping rope, “Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done She gave her father forty-one.” The author of this rhyme is unknown, but speculated to be anonymously contrived in order to sell newspapers, while others give credit to Mother Goose.

For additional reading on James Fallon’s experience check out his book The Psychopath Inside


American Outlaws: Billy the Kid

October 11, 2013 · Posted in Historic Crimes · Comments Off on American Outlaws: Billy the Kid 
Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid had many names. He was born William Henry McCarty Jr. on November 23, 1859 in New York City. Some of his aliases were Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, and William Bonney.

His life of crime started in youth after the death of his mother to tuberculosis when he was only 15. He and his brothers partook in thievery, before The Kid joined a violent gang in the west part of the country.

Billy the Kid was shot dead July 14,1881 in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. His executioner was Sheriff Patrick Garrett. Garrett wrote the first account of the Outlaw’s life helped along by other writers to follow in making Billy the Kid into the western outlaw sensation we know of today.


Billy the Kid is arrested for the first time. (2013). The History Channel website. Retrieved 3:33, October 8, 2013, from

Gunfight at the Ok Corral as in the Movies

July 4, 2013 · Posted in Historic Crimes, This Day in History · Comments Off on Gunfight at the Ok Corral as in the Movies 

The movies Tombstone and Wyatt Earp, from the early 1990s, were not quite historically accurate dramatizations of the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral. See Facts 

A shootout of all shootouts having great popularity in the history of the American Wild West, though rumored to have lasted a mere 30 seconds or so.

It was 3pm on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. At the rear of the Ok Corral and then several doors west, outlaws (Billy Claiborne, Ike & Billy Clanton, and Tom & Frank McLaury) and lawmen (Marshal Virgil Earp, Marshal Morgan, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday) shot it out.


St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

February 14, 2013 · Posted in Historic Crimes · Comments Off on St. Valentine’s Day Massacre 

It was about 10:30 in the morning on a cold Chicago day, Valentine’s Day to be exact, when seven men were gunned down gangster style in the Clark Street garage at 2122 N. Clark St.

All of the victims, but one, (an unlucky optician who enjoyed the company of criminals) were gangsters marked for killing by Al Capone.Though Capone was the one behind ordering the killings, he wasn’t present that day. Instead he was at his vacation place in Palm Island, Fla. He had a solid alibi. No one was ever jailed for the shootings; not even the henchmen who did Capone’s bidding.

The heinous slaughter accomplished Capone’s desired result, which was to permanently take-out his gang rivals, so that he could move into the top dog spot with full control in the infamous crime world of that era. Capone and his successors triumphed in winning mob rule that lasted for decades.

The massacre made headlines during that decade of the “Roaring ’20s”. A time when underground crime thrived during the prohibition of liquor. They made a killing, in more ways than one, in the illegal distribution of whiskey and beer. The gangster’s world became romanticized in books and movies and is still so even in the present day.

valentine's day shootings

The grisly scene inside the SMC Cartage Company after gunmen dressed as policemen mowed down members of the Moran gang. (Chicago Tribune / February 14, 1929)


Source: Chicago Tribune


Jeffrey MacDonald Convicted of Murdering His Family

September 8, 2012 · Posted in Historic Crimes · Comments Off on Jeffrey MacDonald Convicted of Murdering His Family 

New York (CNN) — Before O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony, before Scott Peterson, Amanda Knox and the cottage industry of cable news legal pundits, there was the shocking case of Jeffrey MacDonald.

Ten years after his pregnant wife and two young daughters were butchered in their home in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, MacDonald was convicted of the killings and sentenced to life in prison. While a jury was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of MacDonald’s guilt, many people were still left with one lingering question: Did he really do it?

The drama surrounding the heinous crimes and the subsequent trial fascinated the public for decades. It sparked controversial best-selling books, an immensely popular television miniseries and an explosive “60 Minutes” interview that was watched by tens of millions of viewers.

Today, more than 40 years after the murders, questions are still being raised about MacDonald’s guilt.

“We’ve been sold a bill of goods about this case,” said filmmaker Errol Morris. “It’s as phony as a three dollar bill.”

Morris, an Academy Award-winning documentary director whose acclaimed movies include “The Fog of War” and “The Thin Blue Line,” has made that opinion the centerpiece of a new investigative book, “A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.” At more than 500 pages, it aims to prove that an innocent man is in prison.

“The evidence is neither clear nor convincing,” Morris told CNN. “There are many things about this case that rub me the wrong way, but principal among them was how the jury was asked to make decisions about his guilt or innocence with incomplete evidence, evidence that was withheld, corrupted and suppressed.”

Flawed forensic analysis, a contaminated crime scene, damaged and destroyed evidence and an effort to bury a confession all contributed to a miscarriage of justice, according to Morris.

“This has nagged me for so many years, “Morris said. “I felt I should do something.”

What is not in dispute is what happened at 544 Castle Drive in the early morning hours of February 17, 1970. Military police officers responding to a call from MacDonald found his wife, Colette, beaten and stabbed to death in the master bedroom; the couple’s two daughters, Kimberly, 5, and Kristen, 3, were in their beds, also stabbed to death.

MacDonald, who was wounded with two stab wounds and a collapsed lung, told investigators that he was sleeping on the couch when he heard screaming. He said he awoke to find in his home three men and one woman, who he described as having blond hair and wearing a floppy hat. They were chanting “kill the pigs” and “acid’s groovy” before attacking him, MacDonald told the investigators.

MacDonald and his claim of killer hippies made headlines around the country. They also turned him into a prime focus of the investigation.

“The story is so bizarre and unlikely and it might actually be true,” said CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “It seems too preposterous on its face that a smart guy might have come up with something better, which raises the possibility that it might actually be true.”

What is absolutely certain is that a military inquiry into the murders recommended MacDonald not be court-martialed, citing a lack of evidence. MacDonald was granted an honorable discharge.

He moved to Southern California, where he practiced medicine. But the case against him was far from over. In 1975, a grand jury indicted MacDonald for the murders. He was ultimately convicted in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison.

“He is almost the definition of an unlikely murder suspect,” said Toobin. “Princeton graduate, medical doctor, Green Beret, these are the kinds of credentials we associate with people at the top of the heap in this country, not convicted murderers.”

Was MacDonald the victim of injustice or a manipulative, cold-blooded killer? “Fatal Vision,” the 1983 book on the case by Joe McGinniss, portrayed MacDonald as a cunning sociopath.

Asked to comment on “Wilderness of Error,” McGinniss issued the following statement to CNN:

“Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of the murders of his wife and two young daughters in 1979. In all the years since, every court that has considered the case — including the United States Supreme Court — has upheld that verdict in every aspect. MacDonald is guilty not simply beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt.”

A key figure in Morris’ bid to show MacDonald is innocent is Helena Stoeckley, the woman who confessed to being in the home the night of the murders. Stoeckley, who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and who died in 1983, testified that she had no involvement in the murders. Morris said she was encouraged by a prosecutor to alter her testimony.

“Stoeckley was crucial to the defense case because she gave us reason to believe that MacDonald was telling the truth,” Morris said. “But if you cut her out of the story by pressuring her to change her story, you are going to change the outcome of the trial.”

James Blackburn, the prosecutor who MacDonald said threatened Stoeckley, would not comment on the charge because of pending litigation.

“I was the prosecutor in the case, and I did that job to the best of my ability,” Blackburn told CNN. “I did it in great reliance of the evidence the government had and we presented an honorable case and it was straightforward and it was based on good and competent evidence. And I agree with the jury’s verdict.”

Today, MacDonald, who will be 69 in October, still has his believers. In addition to Morris, they include Hammond A. Beale, who served as a legal adviser during the Fort Bragg military inquiry into the murders.

“I think those of us that are on the side that believes he is totally innocent can’t believe this happened,” Beale said. “This guy has not only lost his wife and kids but loses his career and ends up in prison for the rest of his life. That’s horrendous.”

“The army got it right, the federal courts royally screwed it up,” Beale added. “I don’t think this will ever go away until justice is done.”

Morris doubts the conviction will be overturned. Still, he is hopeful MacDonald will one day be freed from custody.

“It’s a principle of fairness,” Morris said. “You don’t want to convict an innocent man.”

Author seeks to prove murderer is innocent/Source CNN  Read More