A detailed and unnecessary look at a failed assassination. Picchi, a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney,...



A detailed and unnecessary look at a failed assassination. Picchi, a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, believes there is mystery surrounding Giuseppe Zangara's attempt to shoot Franklin Roosevelt shortly before his inauguration in 1932, but this premise seems overdrawn. The facts are straightforward. Zangara, an Italian immigrant, went to a Miami event at which Roosevelt was scheduled to appear and fired five rounds in an attempt to kill the president-elect. Zangara's short stature prevented a clear view of or shot at Roosevelt, leaving the intended victim unharmed but several bystanders injured. The most critical wound was suffered by Anton Cermak, mayor of Chicago, who eventually died. Zangara's arrest, initial trial and conviction for assault, subsequent trial and conviction for murder after Cermak's death, and finally his execution, all took place in the amazingly short time of five weeks. Everyone seemed intent on swift justice, including not only the court-assigned defense lawyers intent on doing the prosecution's job, but even Zangara himself. Prejudice against southern Europeans was clearly present, Zangara's sanity was too easily affirmed, medical incompetence probably caused Cermak's death, and the judicial proceedings were a mockery given the significance of the case. While there are grounds to give Zangara ""his day in court"" then, it is not clear what purpose it serves. Zangara's lack of remorse may have been unsettling and his ill-formed personal political philosophy, suggesting that leaders of all countries should be shot, unsatisfying as a motive. However, Picchi's account leaves little mom to doubt that this is genuinely what Zangara believed, and that if alive today he would welcome an opportunity to shoot the president. Although inexplicable in rational terms, this hardly constitutes a reason to reexamine the case, for in the end Zangara's behavior simply falls outside the realm of rationality and there is little more to be said. An interesting historical footnote that can be bypassed without severe costs.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1998


Page Count: 272

Publisher: Academy Chicago

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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