Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jesse Pomeroy was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to Thomas and Ruthann Pomeroy. He was the second of two children; his brother Charles was a year older.
Reported attacks in 1871-1872
In 1871/1872, there were reports that several young boys were individually enticed to remote areas and attacked by a slightly older boy. However, no one was ever arrested. There must have been some discord in the Pomeroy household, as Ruthann and the two children moved to South Boston in 1872.
Pomeroy's attacks on young boys continued, and he was finally arrested and his case heard in front of a juvenile court judge. Pomeroy was found guilty, and sentenced to the Boys Reform School at Westborough, Massachusetts, for his minority (i.e., until he turned 18). The Boston Globe covered this story; the last line of the article: "It is generally concluded that the boy is mentally deficient."
Despite the severity of Pomeroy's crimes, he was released after serving only 15 months.
In February, 1874, at the age of 14, Pomeroy was paroled back to his mother and brother in South Boston. His mother ran her own dressmaking shop, and his brother Charles sold newspapers.
In March, 1874, a ten-year old girl from South Boston named Katie Curran went suddenly missing. On April 24, 1874, the body of four-year old Horace Millen was found on the marsh of Dorchester Bay. Immediately, the police detectives sought out Pomeroy.
Late in his life, Pomeroy still held that he committed the crime. However, his right to due process was farcical. He was taken to view the body of Millen and asked if he committed the murder. At the coroner's inquest, Pomeroy was denied the right to counsel.
The case of Commonwealth v. Pomeroy was heard in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (Suffolk County, Boston) on December 9 and December 10, 1874. At the trial, the Attorney General argued for a verdict of guilty in the murder of first degree. In his closing arguments, however, he urged an alternative charge of murder with extreme atrocity, which, according to Massachusetts law, is first degree murder, but differs from the original charge in the requirement of premeditation.
After the trial
It remained for the Governor to sign the death warrant and assign a date for Pomeroy's execution. However, Governor William Gaston refused to comply with this executive responsibility. The only legal means of sparing Pomeroy's life was through the Governor's Council, and only if a simple majority of the nine-member Council voted to commute the death penalty. Over the next year and a half, the Council voted three times: the first two votes upheld Pomeroy's execution, and both times Governor Gaston refused to sign the death warrant. In August of 1876, the Council took a third vote, anonymously, and Pomeroy's sentence was commuted to life in prison in solitary confinement. On the evening of September 7, 1876, Pomeroy was transferred from the Suffolk County Jail to the State Prison at Charlestown, and began his life in solitary. He was 16 years and 10 months old.
In 1917, Pomeroy's sentence was commuted to the extent of allowing him the privileges afforded to other life prisoners. At first he resisted this, wanting nothing less than a pardon, but he eventually did adjust to his changed circumstances, and even appeared in a minstrel show at the prison. In 1929, by this time an elderly man in frail health, he was transferred to Bridgewater Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he died on September 29, 1932, two months short of his 73rd birthday and 53 years after he had been first arrested.
- All about Jesse Pomeroy by Mark Gribben (page 1 of 18)
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