- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
Our question this week is: While Farrell acknowledges some lingering doubts, he ultimately makes a strong case for the guilt of Holmes and Thurmond. Others, such as author and filmmaker John Murphy disagree. What do you think? Was justice done?
I think that despite the "lingering doubts" Farrell discusses in his final chapter, he does present sufficient evidence that Holmes and Thurmond were both involved in the kidnapping. But as to the question, "Was justice done?," I don't think so. In particular, Mrs. Silveria and her daughter's sighting of five men transferring a captive and meeting with others along with the newspaper reports that a third man met with them on the mostly deserted White Oaks Road trouble me. Were there other conspirators who went free? More importantly, I don't think that anyone can assert that justice was done in any case where there is an absence of due process and and trial by jury that our Constitution guarantees. The actions taken that November night so long ago were certainly swift, but they did not necessarily result in justice being done.
This week we continue our discussion of Swift Justice by Harry Farrell which details the 1933 kidnapping of San Jose retail heir Brook Hart and the ultimate lynching of his accused abductors. Each week, we'll put forth a different question to prompt reflection on the book and its ideas. We hope you will participate in the discussion by contributing your comments.
Our question this week is: From the time Brooke Hart was snatched off the street until Jack Holmes and Harold Thurmond were lynched, do you think the fates of these three men were sealed? Could different choices have potentially changed their outcomes?
I do think that there were decisions made along the way that may have affected the ultimate fates of these three men. I think that the decision to send home most of the police reinforcements and the lack of communication with officers standing by from other jurisdictions both contributed to the violence of that November night. I also think that there were opportunities to save young Hart's life, had observations been acted upon, especially the cries for help heard by the Ridleys. How about you? What choices or decisions do you think might have changed the outcome of these events?
For September 2012, our Online Book Club selection takes a step back in time, revisiting one of the most infamous events in San Jose’s history. In his true life police procedural Swift Justice: Murder and Vengeance in a California Town , award-winning author Harry Farrell documents the 1933 kidnapping and subsequent murder of Brooke Hart, heir apparent to a family owned San Jose department store. After Hart’s lifeless body is finally discovered, a mob gathers at the downtown jail leading to a night of violence and ultimately the lynching of the two suspects in custody. Although most of the key figures in the case are now gone, today’s readers will still recognize many of the locations central to a case that captivated our city nearly eighty years ago. For more information on the kidnapping and the violence that followed, visit the library's local history collection in the California Room of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library or visit key sites from the incident by grabbing your smart phone and retracing the steps of some of San Jose's greatest tragedies and calamities.
Each week, we'll put forth a different question to prompt reflection on the book and its ideas. We hope you will participate in the discussion by contributing your comments.
For Week 1, we'd like to ask: What factors led to the mob violence of 1933? Could such events happen in San Jose today?
Several factors contributed to the eruption of mob violence in 1933. I think one of these factors was the size of San Jose itself. San Jose was a much smaller town in 1933, before the rise of Silicon Valley. Brooke Harte was recognizable to the residents, many of whom shopped at the downtown store where he worked. They felt they knew him; many, in fact, did. I think this familiarity, real or imagined, contributed to the city’s sense of outrage over his kidnapping and murder. While most of us are saddened and disturbed by the disappearance of Sierra Lamar, for example, the majority of those searching for her, following her story and praying for her safe recovery do not know her personally. I think that familiarity, often missing in today’s large metropolitan areas, was one of the key factors that incited the city to violence in 1933. How about you? Do you think such events are still possible in San Jose today?