Monday, 1 September 2014

The Execution of Ruth Snyder

The execution of 33 year old Ruth Snyder in New York, is one of the most famous executions in US criminal history, and indeed, the most famous in Capital Punishment handed out to a woman.  The reason for this was a secretly taken photograph by a reporter with a tiny camera strapped to his leg, with him pulling up his trouser leg and operating a switch wired to the camera, at the moment the switch was thrown.  This photograph adorned newspapers throughout the world, and used generally as a warning "This is what happens to you when you sin!"   What brought her and her lover Henry Judd Gray to the execution chamber was the murder of Albert Snyder in March 1927.  He and Ruth had been for a night out in Queens but when they arrived home, a fatal surprise awaited him.  The lover, Gray, had been hiding, and he attacked Albert, hitting him with a weighted sash.  As he lay on the floor, Gray then used some wire to strangle him.  Then some chloroform soaked rags were jammed up his nose.  Gray then tied up his dead victim and proceeded to stage the crime scene as a burglary gone wrong.  In order to add credence, he tied up Ruth.

    The Snyder`s daughter came home to an horrific scene and called Police.  Immediately, Police sensed everything was wrong.  Despite the brutal death of her husband, she was not very emotional.  Inspecting the home, Ruth said some of her jewellery had vanished but detectives found the items she described hidden under a mattress.  Then she made a fatal error.  Police discovered a letter signed " JG" causing Ruth to say "What has Judd got to do with this?"  They had said nothing about the letter being from Gray but it turned out these initials were of the first wife of Mr Snyder, and the letter was from her.  She and Gray were immediately arrested.   They knew that the punishment would be a trip to the chair, and so turned on each other.  Gray, a lingerie salesman had met Ruth through his job and had been having an affair for two years.  Now Ruth decided that the husband had to go.  He had a very nice insurance policy on his life, which increased in value if he died during the commission of a crime.

    In April 1927, they went on trial in Long Island and were condemned to death.  Ruth always thought she get a reprieve but this was denied.  She met her end on January 12th 1928.  She was calm but then broke down as she was strapped into the chair.  The executioner for New York State was Robert Elliott, and he threw the switch that ended it all.  The reporter clicked the camera as the voltage hit her.  After turning off the current, Ruth Snyder was pronounced dead by doctors and her body removed into an adjoining room for a post mortem.  Her lover, Henry Judd Gray, was brought in, strapped in and executed by Robert Elliott.