Murder of Robert Ross

In Troy, New York, on March 6, 1894 during an election riot between pollwatchers and operatives of the local Democratic political ward boss who were engaged in repeat voting, a young poll watcher, Robert Ross, was shot and killed. His brother, William, was also shot but survived.

Bartholomew Shea and John McGough were at the polling booth of the third district of the Thirteenth Ward. William and Robert Ross were present as poll watchers. "The row started when one of the Shea gang sought to vote upon another citizen's name and in a twinkling clubs and revolvers were flourished. Many shots were fired and when the fight closed it was found that Robert Ross had been fatally shot, that his brother, William, [sic] received a bullet in the neck and that Shea and McGough, who fled from the scene, had each been slightly wounded."[1] Shea and McGough were caught and arrested, at which time McGough initially claimed he had fired the shot that killed Ross, but later apparently withdrew this claim, only to repeat the claim years later, after Shea's execution in 1896.[1]

A New York Times report on the incident laid blame directly on former Troy Mayor Edward Murphy Jr., who had been elected to the United States Senate the previous year (he would serve one term), which included the following excerpt: "The gun that shot Robert Ross has been loaded on election day in Troy ever since "Boss" Murphy's gang began their systematic frauds, a dozen years ago."[2]

McGough and Shea were arrested and an original suspect in the shootings, John Boland, was released from custody. The trial of Shea and McGough began on May 28, 1894. Shea and McGough were convicted on July 4, 1894. McGough was sentenced by a jury to 20 years imprisonment, and Shea was sentenced to death. Several lengthy appeals and efforts to have Shea's sentence commuted failed and he was executed in 1896.

Troy attorney Frank S. Black, a Republican, assisted in the prosecution of Shea and McGough.[3] The favorable name recognition he garnered propelled his successful candidacies for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1894, and governor of New York in 1896.[3]

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  1. ^ a b account of the events leading to Shea's trial and conviction, with details not included in New York Times accounts
  2. ^ CITIZENS OF TROY AROUSED; DETERMINED TO AVENGE THE MURDER OF ROBERT ROSS. The Blood-Stained Election of Tues-day the One Subject of Interest- Murphy's Methods Denounced, on All Sides -- A Mass Meeting Called for To-night to Express the Public Indignation -- The Alleged Murderer Treated with Tender Care in Jail., March 7, 1894; accessed January 28, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Cutter, William Richard, ed. (1918). American Biography: A New Cyclopedia. Vol. II. New York, NY: The American Historical Society. pp. 347–348 – via Google Books.

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