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  • Joseph Mitchell, wrote Execution
  • Born July 27, 1908, an American writer best known for the work he published in The New Yorker. He is known for his carefully written portraits of eccentrics and people on the fringes of society, especially in and around New York City.
  • Born on his maternal grandparents' farm near Fairmont, North Carolina, came to New York City in 1929, at the age of 21, with the ambition of becoming a political reporter.
  • He worked for such newspapers as The World, the New York Herald Tribune, and the New York World-Telegram, at first covering crime and then doing interviews, profiles, and character sketches.
  • He died May 24, 1996 of cancer at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan, age of 87.
  • In 2008, The Library of America selected Mitchell’s story "Execution" for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime
  • Mitchell married Therese Dagny Jacobsen in 1931. She died in 1980. He had two children with her, Nora Sanborn and Elizabeth Curtis.

Historical Context

The Victim: Michael Malloy (1873 – February 22, 1933), alias Mike the Durable and Iron Mike, was a homeless Irishman from County Donegal who lived in New York City during the 1920s and 30 and was a former firefighter.

The Murderers:Five men who were acquainted with Malloy, Tony Marino, Joseph Murphy, Francis Pasqua, Hershey Green, and Daniel Kriesberg (later dubbed "the Murder Trust" by the headlines), plotted to take out three life insurance policies on Malloy and then get him to drink himself to death. The first part of the plot was successful, and they stood to gain over $3,500 (more than $61,000 by 2011's standards by the CPI) if Malloy died an accidental death.

Marino owned a speakeasy and gave Malloy unlimited credit, thinking Malloy would abuse it and drink himself to death. Although Malloy drank for a majority of his waking day, it did not kill him. To remedy this, antifreeze was substituted for liquor, but still, Malloy would drink until he passed out, wake up, and come back for more. Antifreeze was substituted with turpentine, followed by horse liniment, and finally mixed in rat poison. Still, Malloy lived.

The group then tried raw oysters soaked in methanol. This idea apparently came from Pasqua, who saw a man die after eating oysters with whiskey. Then came a sandwich of spoiled sardines mixed with poison and carpet tacks.

When that failed, they decided that it was unlikely that anything Malloy ingested was going to kill him, so the Murder Trust decided to freeze him to death. On a night when the temperature reached -14 °F (-26 °C), Malloy drank until he passed out, was carried to a park, dumped in the snow, and had five gallons (19 L) of water poured on his bare chest.Nevertheless, Malloy reappeared the following day for his drink. The next attempt on his life came when they hit him with Green's taxi, moving at 45 miles per hour (72 km/h). This put Malloy in the hospital for three weeks with broken bones. The gang presumed he was dead but was unable to collect the policy on him.When he again appeared at the bar, they decided on one last approach.

Two of the men rented a room in an old boarding house with gas lighting. Once Malloy was again good and drunk, they hauled him there, connected a hose to the gas valve, ran it into the old man's mouth. The gas was filled with the lethal poison carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide muscles oxygen out of the blood stream and forms a bond with proteins in the blood that is 200 times more powerful than that of oxygen and it induces chemical suffocation.

They'd paid a corrupt local doctor to sign a death certificate attributing Malloy's death to poison alcohol.The city forensic scientists exhumed the body. And even though this was several months after the death, by that time researchers knew that carbon monoxide was not only efficient but durable, tainting a body for weeks after death. Laboratory analysis easily found lethal levels of carbon monoxide in the remains of old Mike Malloy.

Both the cab driver(Hershey Green) and the physician(Dr.Manzella) made deals and testified for the prosecution.

Green got 5 years in jail for assault and Dr.Manzella got 3 months for signing a phony death certificate


  • People in the story: Michael Malloy(victim), Anthony Marino, Frank Pasqua, Joseph Murphy (real name Archie R. Mott), and Daniel Kriesberg.
  • Relatives waiting outside when Robert Elliott walks into the lobby with his black travelling bag
  • The group called "the Murder Trust" got together and planned to insure Malloy's life and gain $1,290
  • Gave him poisoned whiskey...didn't kill him
  • Gave him oysters pickled in wood alcohol...didn't kill him
  • Gave him poisoned sardines with tin in them...didn't kill him
  • Gave him wood alcohol until he passed out stripped him to the waist and poured water on him and left him to freeze...didn't kill him
  • Ran him over with a taxi cab TWICE...didn't kill him
  • Finally killed him by putting a gas tube in his mouth
  • 30 odd men led into execution camber and jostled each other to get the front row seats
  • Pasqua: 1st one to die, grey face, just stared, kissed the cross, had white knuckles from holding on so tight, 3 mins to die
  • Marino: 2nd to die, smiled, also kissed the cross, crossed his legs, but uncrossed them so electrodes could be attached, 3 mins to die
  • Kriesberg: 3rd to die, escorted in by Rabbi, 2 mins to die
  • Each man was executed besides Murphy who had a two week postponement to question his sanity


  • What were some of the things that bothered you about the text?
  • Why do you think the Governor gave Murphy two weeks to prove he was insane?
  • Why do you think that Marino was smiling as he was about to die?
  • Why do you think that the family members had to wait outside?
  • Do you feel it is fair that the relatives had to wait to claim the bodies?
  • Why would the author include how much the executioner got paid?
  • Why would people try to get the front seats during an electrocution?

Reactions from the blogs

  • Gloriana: the prison system and if it actually worked and about the death penalty, within 3 years 67% offenders become repeat offenders and return to prison. Obviously, something here needs to change.
  • Lindsey: I love the ending of Execution! Those last two sentences were pretty clever, and in a kind of way was asking if killing Malloy was worth it.

Pop Culture

  • The Green Mile

  • "You Can't Kill Michael Malloy" is an instrumental piece by The Spent Poets. A clip of the song appears on the album Frizzle Fry by the band Primus.
  • In 1993, a play based on Malloy's murder was made, titled The Killing of Michael Malloy, by Erik Jendresen.
  • "Michael Malloy" is the name of a song by grindcore band Gob on their 7" split with Agoraphobic Nosebleed.
  • An episode, "The Durable Mike Malloy Case," of the 1952 television series Gang Busters seems to have been inspired by this incident.
  • The story is the plot of the 1949 pulp novel All Dames Are Dynamite, by Timothy Trent.
  • "You Can't Break Mike Malloy" is the first song on the debut album, Kick it till you like it, of the Dutch rock band SUNBURN.
  • The story of Malloy's murder was featured on an episode of the BBC series QI in 2011.
  • An episode, "One for the Road," of Amazing Stories features bar patrons trying to murder a drunk named Mike Malloy for insurance money.
  • An episode "The Indestructible Mike Matter," of the radio series "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar" seems to have been inspired by this incident. Howard McNear was Mike.