The Crime

Media Accounts and the Coroner's Inquest

Cleveland's African-American Community

Homicide Trends

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by Mary Demmy

 

Homicide Trends

Finally, how does this crime fit in with the homicide trends outlined by Roger Lane in Murder in America? It fits into a few trends, the first as to instrumentality. According to Lane, the proportion of gun deaths in the early 20th century leaped up over 40%. The jump is the clear result of a population shift, the upsurge of immigration and especially of murder indictments among African Americans and Italians, two groups more likely than others to carry lethal weapons. Lane states, "African-American men and women were especially vulnerable to gun deaths, and across the country, as earlier in Philadelphia, accounted for proportionally more of them than any other group." The problem in the black community was that "the weapons carried for protection against gangs and strangers turned too often against family and friends." At first blush, Louis Hallick seems to qualify as a member of Lane's "bachelor subculture" who lived in a rooming house and committed an impulsive act of violence under the influence of alcohol. However, this crime does not totally fit Lane's pattern. His "bachelor subculture" was generally made up of transient, marginally employed, young white males, who were often recent immigrants. Louis Hallick was 40 years old and held a relatively high-status job for a black man.

As Lane states, African Americans "were not only denied a chance to grab at the fabled American ladder of opportunity' but in many cases, actually kicked off." He continues, "The effect of denial and despair, of being confined to medieval jobs in a modern world, was ominous." This statement implies that those frustrations combined with guns were a lethal combination. It might be that Louis' frustration at being forty, unmarried, unable to buy a decent home and condemned to an eternal life as a bellboy, no matter his ambition, led him to explode. Domestic violence motivated by jealousy has probably existed since relationships began. Guns simply have served to make it more deadly. This crime seems to fit into Lane's pattern of murder-suicide, which usually involved older men of respectable status who due to "passionate love, jealousy, or domestic despair" snapped and took their loved one with them.

If Louis had managed to escape death by infection, he would have been more likely to be executed for his crime than his white counterparts, according to the information provided by H.M. Fogle in Palace of Death (as the title page states in over-the-top prose, "A Human - Interest Story of the Incarceration and Execution of Ohio's Murderers, with a Detailed Review of the Incidents Connected with Each Case"). Fogle wrote detailed vignettes of the crimes and deaths of the 60 men executed in the Ohio Penitentiary Annex from 1885-1907. From 1892, when the first black man was executed, until the end of 1907, 15 black men were hanged or electrocuted compared to 45 white men; therefore 33% of the convicted murderers executed were black. This trend was also reflected in the statistics from Philadelphia where of the 24 men executed between 1900-1916, eleven were black. Lane states that "the Philadelphia story mirrored national trends: it was always easier to condemn black me to death than white."

The murder of Inez William allows a window into the world and lives of a small group of African-American in 1912. This glimpse shows a difficult world of tiny rooms, in tough areas, limited economic opportunities and hardship. Also, if a black man made a serious mistake and ended up in the criminal justice system, the treatment was likely to be much harsher. Overall, the lot of African Americans in Cleveland improved little from the Civil War until 1912 and unfortunately, life in this community was on the eve of a much harsher time.

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