Giuseppe Zangara bigraphy, stories - Convicted killer

Giuseppe Zangara : biography

September 7, 1900 - March 20, 1933

Giuseppe Zangara (September 7, 1900 – March 20, 1933) was the assassin of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, though United States President–elect Franklin D. Roosevelt may have been his intended target. Roosevelt escaped injury, but five people were shot including Cermak.

In popular culture

Zangara was played by Eddie Korbich in the original Off-Broadway production of Assassins by Stephen Sondheim. In later productions he was played by Paul Harrhy in London and by Jeffrey Kuhn in the show's original Broadway production. Appearing in several songs from the play, he has a major solo in the number, "How I Saved Roosevelt".

Zangara plays a significant role in the background provided for Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. The alternate history novel begins with the premise that Zangara succeeded in assassinating Franklin D. Roosevelt, using this historical event as its point of divergence - leading eventually to Axis victory in World War II.

In 1960, in a two-part story line on the TV show The Untouchables, actor Joe Mantell played the part of Giuseppe "Joe" Zangara. This episode focuses on Nitti's plan to kill Mayor Cermak, which fails, thanks to Eliot Ness. But Ness's successful prevention of Nitti's assassination plot is quickly undercut when Zangara does the deed. The shows were originally aired February 25 and March 3, 1960.

Max Allan Collins' 1983 novel, True Detective, first in the Nathan Heller mystery series, features Zangara's attempted assassination of Roosevelt, positing it as an actual attempt on Chicago's mayor at the time, Anton Cermak. The novel won the 1984 Shamus Award for Best P.I. Hardcover from the Private Eye Writers of America.

The 2011 fantasy noir novel Spellbound by Larry Correia features Zangara's attempted assassination of FDR. Zangara is magically enhanced in a plot to inflame bigotry and curtail the civil rights of the magically gifted protagonists of the Grimnoir Society. Instead of using a small caliber handgun, Zangara is made into a living cannon or bomb, and kills nearly 200 onlookers including Mayor Cermak and crippling Roosevelt.


In the Dade County Courthouse jail, Zangara confessed and stated: “I have the gun in my hand. I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists.” He pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted murder and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. As he was led out of the courtroom, Zangara told the judge: “Four times 20 is 80. Oh, judge, don't be stingy. Give me a hundred years.” The judge, aware that Cermak might not survive his wounds, replied: “Maybe there will be more later.”

Cermak died of peritonitis 19 days later, on March 6, 1933, two days after Roosevelt’s inauguration. Zangara was promptly indicted for first-degree murder in Cermak’s death. Because Zangara had intended to commit murder, it was irrelevant that his intended target may not have been the man he ultimately killed. In that case, he would still be guilty of murder under the doctrine of transferred intent.

Zangara pleaded guilty to the additional murder charge, and was sentenced to death by Circuit Court Judge Uly Thompson. Zangara said after hearing his sentence: “You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair! You one of capitalists. You is crook man too. Put me in electric chair. I no care!” Under Florida law, a convicted murderer could not share cell space with another prisoner before his execution, but another convicted murderer was already awaiting execution at Raiford. Zangara’s sentence required prison officials to expand their waiting area, and the “death cell” became “Death Row”.



Raymond Moley interviewed Zangara and believed he was not part of any larger plot, and that he had intended to kill Roosevelt.

Alternative theories have circulated, especially in Chicago, where there were rumors that Zangara was a hired killer, working for Frank Nitti, who was the head of the Chicago Outfit (Chicago's largest organized-crime syndicate). Allegedly, Mayor Cermak was the real target, because of his pledge to clean up the rampant gang violence in Chicago. Another speculation is that Cermak was connected to the Outfit's underworld rivals.

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