The Crescent City Lynchings: The Murder of Chief Hennessy, the New Orleans "Mafia" Trials, and the Parish Prison Mob

Tom Smith, Author . Lyons $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59228-901-1

The court appearances of immigrant Italians for the 1890 murder of New Orleans police chief David Hennessy was the first organized crime trial to capture worldwide attention. Though it is now a household term, the word "mafia" wasn't a part of the American lexicon till the acquittal of half of the 19 defendants in the case that led to a mob lynching of 11 Italians, nine of whom had been found not guilty and two who had yet to be tried. The lynchings—the largest mass lynching in American history—not only caused great tensions between Italy and the U.S., but the trial itself left a stigma on Italian-Americans that has lasted to the present day. Freelance reporter Smith digs deep into the Big Easy's murky past to uncover the underlying connections between the compromised police force, the battling Italian dockworkers' syndicates and the city's corrupt political factions that made New Orleans' legal system ineffective in the simplest of cases. Quoting heavily from newspaper accounts, Smith is able to bring a local and timely flavor to his otherwise straightforward account of Hennessy's life, the murder and its spiderweb of repercussions. The sensational nature of the case certainly lends itself to conspiracy theories, but Smith stays unbiased, allowing his readers to use the facts to come to their own conclusions. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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