Tagged: unsolved cases

Prof. Gershman Reviews The Midnight Assassin

The-Midnight-Assassin-2869890Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University has reviewed a new book, The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth.  In his review, The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer. Prof. Gershman lends his prosecutorial eye to Hollandsworth’s written account of an unsolved series of murders – believed it to be the America’s first serial killer case. Prof. Gershman writes

Set in Austin, Texas—the capitol of the newly minted Lone Star state— The Midnight Assassin recounts a series of eight ghastly murders that were committed during the years 1884 and 1885. More like annihilations, these butcheries incited panic and paranoia in this frontier town of 17,000 people, and undermined municipal efforts to make Austin a mecca of prosperity and modernism.

The killer was never caught, although tantalizing clues point to several potential  suspects. Some observers believe that the killer fled Texas, traveled to London, and recreated himself into the legendary Whitechapel killer famously known as “Jack the Ripper.”

Prof. Gershman mentions a PBS TV documentary that identified the killer as 19-year old Nathan Elgin, who was allegedly apprehended at a crime scene, whose involvement was supported by additional circumstantial evidence, and after whose death these killings stopped. Yet, Hollandsworth discounts this possibility in his book leaving readers with a well-written dramatic story of one of the oldest (and almost forgotten) murder mysteries in the history of America.

Related Readings:

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Taking of DNA from Arrestees

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Maryland statute that permits the police to take DNA samples from anyone arrested for a serious crime. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the cheek swab was a legitimate identification procedure, like  fingerprinting and photographing. The dissent, written by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, accused the majority of being disingenuous in pretending the purpose of the DNA testing is identification rather than its real purpose – solving cold cases.

The case, Maryland v. King,  challenged a Maryland statute that permitted DNA testing of arrestees for serious crimes. Alonzo Jay King, Jr., had been arrested on assault charges and his DNA was taken. His profile matched evidence from an unsolved rape.  He was charged with that rape and convicted.

See the following readings:

  • Maryland v. King, 509 U.S. ____ (2013).
  • SCOTUSBlog Coverage of Maryland v. King including links to the Docket, lower court’s opinion, U.S. Supreme Court opinion, transcripts and audio of the arguments, and related news coverage.