Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Infamous crimes of Orange County

Larry Welborn is doing a series for the Register on the "50 most notorious crimes in Orange County history." Today is day two, featuring the story of burgler and serial killer Mose Gibson. Yesterday's entry was about lynched ax murderer Francisco Torres.
Another case I'm guessing will eventually be covered is the 1951 murder of 10-year-old Peggy Hull by Henry Ford McCraken. The photo above shows McCracken being led back to his jail cell from the Old Courthouse in Santa Ana. The photo below shows Sheriff Jim Musick, Ranger Joe Scherman and others gathered around Hull's body after it was found in Live Oak Canyon. Some say McCracken's trial was the first major instance of a sensational legal case being exploited by television. In a sense, you can draw a direct line from the McCracken coverage to the voyeurism of the O. J. Simpson trial or the shock value of "reality television."
McCracken's first trial ended in deadlock and a mistrial. The jury at a second trial found him guilty of murder. He was executed in 1954.
Writer Nathan Callahan has posted a fascinating essay about this trial and its effects on television and media today.


Gustavo Arellano said...

Callahan's essay first appeared in OC Weekly, and we also did similarly long stories on Francisco Torres and Juan Flores (Larry's preview pick). I'm surprised he didn't highlight Modesta Avila...

Doug said...

I love their suits, ties and hats.
Cool Dragnet looking outfits. The prison pants and shirt appear to have an O.C. jail stencil.