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Louis "Lepke" Buchalter
Thomas E. Dewey built a political career around hounding the Jewish gangster Lepke. His execution in 1944 — the first of a major underworld figure – riveted the attention of a nation and was in doubt up to the last minute.
by Allan May
It was Thursday, March 2, 1944, and time was running out in Sing Sing prison for Louis "Lepke" Buchalter and four of his henchmen who were facing execution with him. Condemned to the electric chair with Lepke were Emmanuel "Mendy" Weiss and Louis Capone, for the murder of candy storeowner Joseph Rosen; and Joseph Palmer and Vincent Sallami, for the murder of Brooklyn detective Joseph Miccio.
From the pre-execution chamber that the underworld called the "Dance Hall," Lepke seemed confident that the legal maneuverings of his attorney, J. Bertram Wegman, would pay off. After all, his execution date had already been changed five times. Weiss and Capone were optimistic too that if reprieve came for the boss that they would escape the electric chair too. Palmer and Sallami both sat dejected. Only a last minute word from New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey could save them.