Thursday, July 15, 2010

Waltham Car Barn Case

Three men, John J. Devereaux, Edward J. Heinlein and John J. McLaughlin, robbed the offices of the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway in Waltham. During the crime a murder took place. The case is commonly known as the Waltham car barn case. A car barn is where railway cars are stored. One person was shot, and the three men received the death penalty in 1927. The citation for this case, Devereaux vs. Mass., is 256 Mass. 387.

One point the court made was: “If two or more combine to commit a robbery and a homicide results, each is criminally responsible for the acts of his associates in the perpetration of the common design for which they conspired; and it is no defence for the associates of the one who committed the homicide, that they did not intend to take life in its perpetration, or that they forbade their companion to kill.” (256 Mass 387, p. 387-388)

The Commonwealth stated that "there was evidence that they drove in an automobile to the car barn of the street railway company in the night time; that two, armed, went to the office of the cashier on the second floor, placed the occupants in fear of their lives and stole money; that the third, armed, was left on guard below, where he placed two men in fear of their lives and made them lie down and then shot and beat a watchman who had seemed to offer him resistance, as a result of which the watchman died. The evidence of the Commonwealth was that the watchman was killed while the other two defendants were in the cashier's office, and the evidence of the defendants was that at that time the first two defendants had retired to and were waiting in the automobile." (256 Mass. 387, p. 387)

All three were found guilty and given the death penalty. It was the only time three men were given the death penalty for the same crime in Massachusetts.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian