Sunday, June 5, 2011

⅏Did You Know: Barbara Graham aka "Bloody Babs"

Did You Know...

Barbara Graham takes what may be
the last look at her son Tommy,
18 months old, in
Los Angeles Jail
On June 3rd, 1955, Barbara Graham was gassed at California’s San Quentin Prison, along with two confederates in the brutal murder of an elderly widow. 

Barbara Graham (June 26, 1923 – June 3, 1955) was an American criminal and convicted murderess. She was executed in the gas chamber on the same day as two convicted accomplices, Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins. Nicknamed "Bloody Babs" by the press, Graham was the third woman in California to die by gas.

Graham was born Barbara Elaine Wood in Oakland, California. When Barbara was two, her mother, who was a teenager, was sent to reform school. Barbara was raised by strangers and extended family, and had a limited education. As a teenager, she was arrested for vagrancy and was sentenced to serve time at Ventura State School for Girls the same reform school where her mother had been.
Released from reform school in 1939, Barbara tried to make a new start for herself. She married and enrolled in a business college and soon had her first child. The marriage was not a success, and by 1941 she was divorced. Over the next several years, she was married twice more and had a second child, but each of these attempts at a normal life failed.

After this string of failures, Barbara is said to have become a prostitute, during World War II, she was a "seagull" working near the Oakland Army Base, Oakland Navy Supply Base and the Alameda Naval Air Station   In 1942, she and some other "seagulls" flew down to Long Beach and San Diego. She was arrested on vice charges in these naval cities and in San Pedro. 

Barbara liked nice things and also, perhaps surprisingly, was said to enjoy classical music but she also liked gambling and drugs.  At 22, with her good looks, red hair and sex appeal she was working for a time in San Francisco for brothel madame Sally Stanford. She was soon involved in drugs and gambling and had a number of friends who were ex-convicts and career criminals. She served five years for perjury as an alibi witness for two petty criminals. She served her sentence at the California Department of Corrections, Womens State Prison at Tehachapi. After her stint in state prison, Barbara moved to Reno, Nevada and then Tonopah.   In another attempt to live a decent life, she worked in a hospital and as a waitress. Barbara became bored and got on a bus for Los Angeles. She got a room on Hollywood Boulevard and returned to prostitution.

The Crime
In 1953, she married a bartender, Henry Graham, with whom she had a third child, named Tommy who was two years old at the time of her execution.  Unfortunately, Graham was a hardened criminal and drug addict with low-life friends, and it was through him Barbara met his criminal friends Emmet Perkins and Jack Santo.   She started an affair with Perkins, who told her about a 64-year-old widow, Mabel Monohan, who was rumored to keep a large amount of cash in her home in Burbank.
In March 1953, Barbara joined Perkins and Santo, as well as John True and Baxter Shorter (two of their associates), in robbing Monohan's home in Burbank. Barbara reportedly gained entry by asking to use her phone. Once Monohan opened the door for Graham, the three men burst in. The gang demanded money and the jewels from Monohan, but she refused to give them anything. At this point, Barbara reportedly pistol-whipped Monohan, cracking her skull. They then suffocated her with a pillow.
The robbery attempt was a futile effort; the gang found nothing of value in the house and left empty-handed. They later learned that they had missed about $15,000 in jewels and valuables stashed in a purse in the closet near where they had murdered Monohan.

Arrest and Conviction
Eventually, some of the gang members were arrested and John True agreed to become a state witness in exchange for immunity from prosecution. In court, True testified against Graham, who continually protested her innocence. Graham apparently stood a good chance of being acquitted, but erred by offering another inmate $25,000 to hire a "friend" who would provide an alibi. When questioned about her actions at the trial, she said, "Oh, have you ever been desperate? Do you know what it means not to know what to do?" Graham was ultimately convicted.


Inside the California chamber are two
identical metal chairs with perforated seats,
marked "A" and "B."
 (The twin chairs were last used in a
double execution in 1962).
Graham, Santo, and Perkins were all sentenced to death for the robbery and murder. Graham appealed against her sentence while serving time at the California Institute for Women in the city of Corona. Her appeals failed, and she was transferred to the death row at San Quentin State Prison to await execution. On June 3, 1955, she was scheduled to be executed at 10:00 a.m., but that was stayed by California governor Goodwin J. Knight until 10:45 a.m. At 10:43 a.m., the execution was stayed by Knight again until 11:30 a.m., and a weary Graham protested, "Why do they torture me? I was ready to go at ten o'clock." At 11:28 a.m., Graham was led from her cell to be strapped in the gas chamber. There, she requested a blindfold so she wouldn't have to look at the observers. Her last words were "Good people are always so sure they're right."

After Graham's death her life story was made into a movie called, "I Want to Live!" and starred Susan Hayward, who later won an Academy Award for playing Graham in the film.

Graham was also portrayed by actress Lindsay Wagner (above), in a 1983 TV version of I Want to Live!

While I was doing this story, I was also curious about this gas chamber in California.  How do they actually get them ready for it?  How does the gas affect them?  Does it hurt or is it painless?  The video above gave us great insight as to what really happened before and during execution.  But I still was curious and wanted to know and understand better what it is I was really seeing.
Did you know?...
The Procedure

  1. Two guards strap the prisoner into chair A, attaching straps across his upper and lower legs, arms, thighs and chest.
  2. They affix a Bowles stethoscope to the person's chest so that a doctor on the outside can monitor the heartbeat and pronounce death.
  3. Beneath the chair is a bowl filled with sulphuric acid mixed with distilled water to give a concentration of approximately 37%, with a pound of sodium cyanide pellets suspended in a gauze bag just above.
  4. After the door is sealed, and when the warden gives the signal, the executioner in a separate room operates a lever that releases the cyanide into the liquid. This causes a chemical reaction that releases hydrogen cyanide gas, which rises through the holes in the chair.
  5. When the reaction has finished the gas reaches a concentration of around 7,500 ppm.
Prisoners are advised to take deep breaths after the gas is released as this will considerably shorten their suffering. Easy for the Warden to say, no doubt, but much harder for the prisoner to intentionally inhale the gas designed to kill them even if they accept the logic of the advice they are given.
The Actual Process
A typical witnesses view of gassing is as follows: 
  • In medical terms, victims of cyanide gas die from hypoxia, which means the cut off of oxygen to the brain.
  • The initial result of this is spasms, as in an epileptic seizure. Because of the straps, however, involuntary body movements are restrained.
  • Seconds after the prisoner first inhales, he/she will feel himself unable to breathe, but will not lose consciousness immediately. "The person is unquestionably experiencing pain and extreme anxiety," according to Dr. Richard Traystman of Johns Hopkins University.
  • The pain begins immediately and is felt in the arms, shoulders, back, and chest.
  • The sensation is similar to the pain felt by a person during a heart attack, where essentially the heart is being deprived of oxygen." Traystman added: "We would not use asphyxiation, by cyanide gas or by any other substance, in our laboratory to kill animals that have been used in experiments."
Did You Know?...
A study of the execution records of 113 prisoners executed at San Quentin showed that the average time taken to kill them was 9.3 minutes. The prisoner will usually lose consciousness between one and three minutes after the gas hits their face and the doctor will pronounce them dead in around 10 to 12 minutes. An exhaust fan then sucks the gas out of the chamber. Next, the corpse is sprayed with ammonia, which neutralises traces of the cyanide that may remain. After about half an hour, staff enter the chamber, wearing gas masks and rubber gloves. Their training manual advises them to ruffle the victim's hair to release and trapped cyanide gas before removing him.


Did You Know?  For the month of

back in.....

  • 1934, Jun 01, Nissan Motor Company Found.  On this day in 1934, the Tokyo-based Jidosha-Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha (Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in English) takes on a new name: Nissan Motor Company.
  • 1953, Jun 02, Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Queen Elizabeth II is formally crowned monarch of the United Kingdom in a lavish ceremony steeped in traditions that date back a millennium. A thousand dignitaries and guests attended the coronation at London's Westminster Abbey, and hundreds of millions listened on radio and for the first time watched the proceedings on live television. After the ceremony, millions of rain-drenched spectators cheered the 27-year-old queen and her husband, the 30-year-old duke of Edinburgh, as they passed along a five-mile procession route in a gilded horse-drawn carriage.
  • 1965, Jun 01, Coal Mine Explosion Killed 236 in Japan.  Coal mine explosion kills 236 workers at the Yamano mine near Fukuoka, Japan, on this day.  The tragic disaster might have been avoided if the operators of the mine had taken even the most basic safety precautions.
  • The sudden explosion, probably brought about by the ignition of a gas pocket, led to the collapse of many of the mine shafts and caused boulders to block the escape routes.  For the next two days, thousands of relatives and friends waited outside the mine as the rescue effort got underway. But the wait was futile; no survivors were found. Yoshio Sakarauchi, the trade and industries minister of Japan, resigned in the aftermath of the disaster.
  • 1968, Jun 01, Helen Keller Died.  Helen Keller dies in Westport, Connecticut, at the age of 87. Blind and deaf from infancy, Keller circumvented her disabilities to become a world-renowned writer and lecturer.
  • 1970, Jun 02, Race Car Driver and Designer Bruce McLaren Died in Crash.  The 32-year-old race car driver Bruce McLaren dies in a crash while testing an experimental car of his own design at a track in Goodwood, England on this day in 1970. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, McLaren contracted a childhood hip disease that would keep him in hospitals for several years. By the age of 14, he had recovered fully. His father, a part-time mechanic with an interest in racing, helped young Bruce build his first car, and he entered his first competitive event, a hill climb, when he was 15.
  • 1972, Jun 04, Trains Collided in Bangladesh.  The collision of two trains in Jessore, Bangladesh, kills 76 people.  This disaster resulted from one simple error by a train-station operator.  An express train loaded far beyond capacity, as is common in Bangladesh, left the southern port city of Khulna heading north. It was passing through Jessore on June 4 at full speed when the stationmaster threw the wrong switch. With no other safeguards in place to protect it, the train was sent on local tracks straight into a train standing at the station.
  • 1977, Jun 01, Soviets Charged Shcharansky with Treason. The Soviet government charged Anatoly Shcharansky - a 29-year-old computer expert and a leader among Jewish dissidents and human rights - with the crime of treason.  After a perfunctory trial, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was finally released in February 1986, when he and four other prisoners were exchanged for four Soviet spies who had been held in the West.  
  • 1980, Jun 01, CNN Launched.  CNN (Cable News Network), - the brainchild of Robert "Ted" Turner, aka the "Mouth of the South", made its debut on this day as the world's first 24-hour television news network.  The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story about the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. CNN went on to change the notion that news could only be reported at fixed times throughout the day. At the time of CNN's launch, TV news was dominated by three major networks--ABC, CBS and NBC--and their nightly 30-minute broadcasts. Initially available in less than two million U.S. homes, today CNN is seen in more than 89 million American households and over 160 million homes internationally. In 1996, CNN merged with Time Warner, which merged with America Online four years later. Today, Ted Turner is an environmentalist and peace activist whose philanthropic efforts include a 1997 gift of $1 billion to the United Nations.
  • 1985, Jun 02, Serial Killing Spree was Put to an End.  Leonard Lake is arrested near San Francisco, California, ending one of the rare cases of serial killers working together.  Lake and Charles Ng were responsible for a series of particularly brutal crimes against young women in California during the mid 1980s. Lake, who had been arrested in 1985 for his connection to a burglary committed by Ng, ingested a cyanide capsule while in custody, and killed himself. Ng escaped to Canada, where he successfully avoided extradition for almost six years. When he was finally returned to California for trial, he utilized other delaying tactics. By the time he was finally convicted, he had gone through multiple attorneys and judges. It was one of the longest homicide prosecutions in state history and one of the costliest, at approximately $11 million dollars. After a four-month trial, the jury convicted Ng and he was sentenced to death in 1999.
  • 1986, Jun 04, Pollard Admitted to Selling Top-Secret Information to Israel.  Jonathan Pollard pleads guilty to espionage for selling top-secret U.S. military intelligence information to Israel. The former Navy intelligence analyst sold enough classified documents to fill a medium-sized room.  Israel has stuck by Pollard. During peace negotiations mediated by President Clinton in the late 1990s, the nation made Pollard's release from prison a key point. Though Israel continues to work toward Pollard's release, the United States has declined to work out such a deal.
  • 1989, Jun 04, Tiananmen Square Massacre Took Place.  Chinese troops storm through Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The brutal Chinese government assault on the protesters shocked the West and brought denunciations and sanctions from the United States.
  • 2010, Jun 03, Van der Sloot Arrested for Murder in South America. On this day in 2010, Joran van der Sloot, (born in the Netherlands and raised in Aruba), a longtime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba, is arrested in Chile in connection with the slaying of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Lima, Peru. Flores was murdered on May 30, 2010, exactly five years after Holloway went missing while on a high school graduation trip to the Dutch-speaking Caribbean island. In March 2011, an attorney for Van der Sloot, who remains behind bars in Peru, announced his client intended to plead guilty to murdering Flores but would argue temporary insanity, a defense that could result in a much shorter sentence for the Dutchman if a Peruvian trial judge accepted it.   

Resources:  wikipedia,,, various magazines,,,,

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