Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Killer Cop: Charles Becker

Introduction

In the history of the United States, very rarely has a police officer ever been tried, convicted and executed for murder. One such officer was Charles Becker, a high-profile lieutenant for the New York City Police Department during the hay days of Tammany Hall. His execution didn't end that storied era of corruption, but it sharply punctuated it by giving it flesh and bones. His trial and re-trial were the biggest to ever hit New York. Before this case would close, it would leave the New York City Police Department in a shambles and create a worldwide sensation. For three years it would dominate the headlines of a frenzied press.

Caught in the whirlwind of reform that was decades in the making, Becker was a victim of his time as much as anything else. Whether or not he was actually guilty remains an open question. Yet his sinister ties with The Tenderloin underworld cannot be denied. If he had tried to defend himself on the stand, perhaps the outcome would have been different, but it is doubtful. Becker had much against him: a blindly ambitious District Attorney who astutely saw a death sentence for Becker as a free pass to the Governor's Mansion, a hostile press dedicated to the ruin of a corrupt police lieutenant, and a devil's pact hatched in New York's vilest prison by three desperate killers eager to trade Becker's life to save themselves from the electric chair.

 

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