Some readers might wonder what I consider a gang killing in the era I am researching (1955-1959). For my purposes I ask two questions: 1.) Do the newspapers report it as a gang killing? 2.) Is there a mention in the court records that it is gang related?
Of the two questions, number one is very important to me, perhaps more important than court records. The reason for this is because by 1955-1959, the newspapers had their noses to the ground for anything youth-gang-related because by this time, the juvenile delinquency problem that was sweeping the nation was being reported on with increasing frequency as the decade came to an end. If a newspaper article didn’t mention it, that usually meant the police did not bring up the fact it was gang related, and if the newspaper in question felt it wasn’t gang-related there probably wasn’t much to report on in that regard.
Court records are also important too, although not quite as much because if the evidence wasn’t rock solid, attorney’s would object to the gang angle being brought up. However, just the same, in all the certified gang cases that I am researching, at the very minimum gang names are mentioned.
If the newspapers had lots of information talking about the gang angle and the court records corroborated this, then I consider it fair game for my research purposes.
With this in mind it shouldn’t be a surprise that not all killings involving youth were necessarily gang related. Here is an example: On August 4, 1957 the New York Times reported about a Bronx killing involving three defendants by the names of Samuel Lee Montgomery, Robert May and Russell Corley. They killed a youth by the name of George Marshall who was stabbed to death with a hunting knife. The Times article was a long one and was mentioned along with another notorious gang killing — that of Michael Farmer. No mention was made of Marshall’s death being gang-related which is notable because the city was gripped in the sordid headlines of young Michael Farmer’s death which was most definitely gang-related.
When I requested and paid for the court records of this case I was sent these:
– Motion to Vacate Judgement from 1966 (101 pages)
– Copy of Sentence to State Prison
– Indictment Parts
– Indictment Papers
– 1,327 pages of trial minutes
The Motion to Vacate Judgement had no mention of gangs and neither did the Copy of Sentence to State Prison, Indictment Parts of Indictment Papers (although to be clear, these last three documents don’t usually list gang names).
The trial minutes did have some mention of gangs, but it was so little and because it was not reported in the article I have of the New York Times, I did not consider it to be enough of a gang nature for my research purposes. The trial went from Oct.21, 1957 to Nov.18, 1957 and the mention of any gangs was not brought up until Nov.14, 1957. Should you want to see the context of this, the following are the page numbers of the mentions of “gang” or “Diablo Counts” — the gang in question: 762, 770-71, 885, 921.
Of these mentions of the word “gang,” the prosecutor himself did not bring it up, which is also telling.
In summary, even though I don’t consider this a gang-related case, I would consider it a good example of juvenile delinquency in general, so if you are interested, please feel free to read the trial minutes below. These trial minutes are a good example of how this trial was conducted specifically, but also a good flavour of how trials were run in general. Even though I am not going to write about this particular homicide, the historical interest/significance warrants it to be hosted on this website for whoever is interested.
Trial Minute Transcripts below