Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Come for the Sun, Stay for the Murder! By Chantelle Aimee Osman

In previous years the Left Coast Crime conference has been held in some of America's murder hotbeds—Los Angeles (Black Dahlia), Colorado Springs (The Fort Carson Murder Spree), Monterey (Richard Ramirez “The Night Stalker”), the list goes on. For those of you who think Arizona is nothing more than a repository for…unique…politicians, worry no more! Here are some of our most famous (and infamous) criminals:


Ernesto Miranda. You  know those rights all the writers on TV shows have to have accurate? That guy. Law’s named after him. For some reason we were really proud of this in law school. His car and description were recognized and he was arrested for kidnapping and rape and put in a lineup. The police implied he had been positively identified, and within two hours had a confession. Long story short (too late) he was convicted on both charges and sentenced to 20 to 30 years. Enter the ACLU and the Supreme Court, Miranda v. Arizona, and "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no cost. During any questioning, you may decide at any time to exercise these rights, not answer any questions or make any statements. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?"


We all know history rewards the victor, and never was that truer than with the Gunfight at the OK Corral. (Yes, I know that’s in Tombstone, but close enough, it’s a day trip.) The 30-second battle that day was really not much more than a glorified massacre, with the killers wearing badges, which made it all okay in the eyes of history. Whether Han Solo drew first has nothing on the debate over the Earps or the Clantons. The Earps (Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan) and Doc Holliday (who I wouldn’t kick out of bed despite his being a dentist) took the fight to the Clantons, several of whom claimed to be unarmed, and actually filed murder charges agains the Earps. The gunfight didn’t even take place at the OK Corral, but six doors down at a photography studio, so that shows you how a story can...evolve. 


TV executives are known to “axe” shows with low ratings, and viewers are “dying” to see latest episodes, but it was all taken a bit too literally with the murder of Hogan’s Heroes Bob Crane (he played Col. Hogan). He retired in Arizona (read: couldn’t get a job after the show ended, he was doing dinner theatre here), and was found beaten to death by an unknown weapon (believed to be a tripod) in his apartment in Scottsdale. A friend of his was charged, but cleared. The murder remains unsolved (may I take a moment to recommend the great short story on this topic in PHOENIX NOIR, edited by local bookstore The Poisoned Pen’s own Patrick Milliken?).


At a train station, two trunks were found with two dismembered bodies inside (the upper legs were in a valise and hatbox). Apparently,  Winnie Ruth Judd, “The Trunk Murderess,” had murdered the two women because all three were interested in the same man—John J. “Happy Jack” Halloran (I’ll leave it to you to figure out how he got that nickname). She was caught, pretty much because she was an idiot. She traveled from Arizona to California with the trunks and when someone noticed the smell claimed she didn’t have the keys. She was sentenced to hang, which was overturned, and spent the rest of her life at the Arizona State Asylum of the Insane.

So come, enjoy the weather, and try not to kill anyone!

1 comment:

  1. Arizona is famous for its miscarriages of criminal justice that result in Supreme Court decisions. Not just Miranda - Youngblood v. Arizona, Ring v. Arizona. Basically, when you hear "v. Arizona" in a Supreme Court case, it means that the local cops and prosecutors did something terribly wrong.