New Orleans was outraged at the police captain's murder at the hands of these foreign hoodlums. As a result of Hennessy's murder, anti-Italian sentiment swept through New Orleans and the nation. Demonstrations were held in all the major cities that had large Italian populations. Mayor Shakespeare ordered a crackdown on the Mafia. More than 100 men were arrested, many simply because they were Italian. The media made things worse with sensational and racist editorials. The word Mafia became nationally known, and it automatically became associated with poor Italian immigrants.
Dividing the City
Among the men rounded up in the dragnet were the actual culprits in addition to innocent parties. An informant in the jail got cozy with one of the accused, who spilled the beans about the conspiracy against Hennessy. The loose-lipped prisoner implicated high-level members of the Matranga clan, including Charles Matranga, Joe Macheca, and numerous others. The trial divided the country along racial lines. The Mafia exploited ethnic pride to collect money for a defense fund for the accused.
Nineteen Sicilian men were brought to trial for the murder of Police Chief Hennessy, but using an old Mafia trick, the local gangsters bribed and intimidated the witnesses and the jury. The frightened jurors found sixteen of the accused not guilty, and couldn't come to a verdict on the other three, including the two kingpins, Matranga and Macheca, who would have to stand trial again.
Although it is highly likely that the Mafia murdered Police Chief Hennessy, the fiasco of the trial and subsequent chaos and carnage overshadowed the quest for justice. The case is still officially listed as unsolved.
The jury verdicts created an uproar in the city of New Orleans. The aftermath of the verdict coincided with an Italian holiday. The leader of Italy, King Umberto the First, was a hero who had unified the country. The Italians in New Orleans flew flags and were engaged in a festive celebration. Whether the non-Italians in the city thought the party atmosphere was a celebration of the verdict or they simply did not like the pomp and parades immediately after their police chief's killers did not meet the justice they felt was their due, they were incensed, and protests broke out.
Did the New Orleans family run Dallas?
Yes, they did. Though considered a separate family, Dallas crime boss Joe Civello was a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a close ally of Carlos Marcello, as was his successor Joe Campisi. The New Orleans family also held sway over Galveston through the Maceo brothers.
Thousands of people assembled at City Hall. They listened to a lot of inflammatory rhetoric from several notable citizens, one of whom flat out exhorted the throng to take the law into their own hands. The crowd raided the city armory and proceeded to the prison where the Mafiosi were being held. The prison warden let the Italians out of their cells so the rioters could get to them.
Bastille Day Redux
The angry mob barreled into the prison looking for the Mafiosi. Top man Joseph Macheca was shot dead. Six other men were also rounded up and shot. Manuel Polizzi was dragged from the prison and lynched. Several members of the lynch mob shot him as he writhed at the end of the rope. A total of sixteen men were killed that day. Two of them had no mob connections at all. They were executed simply for being Sicilian. In a stroke of luck for the Mafia, its leader, Charles Matranga, the man who had orchestrated the murder of the police chief, survived the mob's bloodlust. He had been able to successfully hide during the carnage.
We will never be sure whether it was a less-than-airtight case by the prosecution or Mafia intimidation that resulted in the charges against the accused being dismissed or mistrials declared and defendants found not guilty. No matter which side you take in these tragic events, justice was not served.