Assassination Attempts: William McKinley President of the U.S. Part 3

About the assassination of William McKinley, President of the U.S. at the hand of Leon Czolgosz, history of the event, trial and verdict.

The Victim: WILLIAM McKINLEY, 25th President of the U.S.

In 1900 Czolgosz attended a speech by the anarchist firebrand Emma Goldman. Later he sought her out at her hotel, but she was too busy to pay much attention to him. Totally alone, Czolgosz moved to West Seneca, a small town outside Buffalo, and stayed in a boardinghouse. This was before the announcement of McKinley's appearance at the Pan-American Exposition. It is not known when Czolgosz decided to kill the President, although he claimed after his capture that he had the idea only a few days before the deed was accomplished.

In a handwritten confession after the assassination, Czolgosz said that he didn't believe that "one man should have so much service and another man should have none." He complained that "McKinley was going around the country shouting about prosperity when there was no prosperity for the poor man."

Czolgosz was indicted for 1st degree murder and went on trial September 23, 1901. Two old lawyers were assigned to the case. They presented no witnesses and did not contest the unanimous medical testimony that Leon was entirely sane. Czolgosz refused to talk to the attorneys, saying that he didn't believe in courts or lawyers. He showed no interest in the proceedings, refused to take the stand, and received the verdict of guilty without the slightest emotion. The trial lasted 8 hours and 26 minutes.

On the morning of October 29, 1901, Leon Czolgosz was strapped into the electric chair at Auburn State Prison. He said, "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people--the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime." At 7:12 A.M., 1,800 volts of electricity charged through his body for 7 seconds, then 300 volts for 23 seconds, then 1,800 volts for 4 seconds, then back to 300 volts for 26 seconds. Contact was broken. The presiding physician ordered another 5 seconds of 1,800 volts, and Czolgosz was pronounced dead. Sulfuric acid was poured into his coffin and doctors estimated that his body would decompose in 12 hours.

Aftermath: The assassination of McKinley touched off a wave of arrests and attacks on U.S. anarchists, including Emma Goldman and Johann Most, and led to the stiff antianarchist immigration laws passed 2 years later. Czolgosz's act significantly inflamed public hostility against the cause for whose advancement he had risked everything--and lost.

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