An Execution in Charlestown- Part 2

Crowds in front of the Dedham Court House during the trial

The scene at the Readville train station on March 2, 1934 was just a preview of the frenzy that would surround the Millen Brothers’ case over the next year. Several thousand people gathered at the station to greet the brothers upon their arrival from New York. The crowds continued to gather throughout the trial, with curious onlookers from all over the country heading to Dedham to get a look at the accused and the beautiful young bride, Norma. School kids played hookey and waited in front of the court house to see the defendants brought from the jail. People dressed in suits and carrying briefcases tried to pass themselves off as lawyers in order to sneak into the court room. With Faber’s confession already in hand, the trio would have had a difficult time proving their innocence, and so their lawyers pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Incredibly, Faber’s confession in late February included the details of a Lynn theater hold-up and murder for which 2 cab drivers were on trial in Salem. The judge suspended the trial and freed the 2 men just as the DA was about to present his closing argument. This bizarre chapter in the Millen Brothers case was later dramatized in the 1939 film “Let Us Live,” starring Henry Fonda.

After a two month trial, all three men were found guilty and sentenced to death. The men certainly did their best to avoid their fate by attempting several escapes from the Dedham Jail, but by June of 1935, all appeals had been exhausted and the electric chair awaited them at the state prison in Charlestown. After the executions, the drama continued as a mob of onlookers tussled with members of the Millen families at the cemetery dusing burial services.

Twenty-year old Norma Millen was released from the Dedham Jail two months later, and disappeared into obscurity. Although the case received as much attention in 1934 as the Sacco-Vanzetti trial had a few years earlier, today it remains a little known chapter in Norfolk County legal history. Look up my May 23, 2010 post “The Cage is Removed” to see a courtroom sketch of Faber and the Millens sitting in the “cage” during the trial.

Above- the “lovely” Norma Millen, Below- Norma exercising in the yard of the Dedham Jail

Explore posts in the same categories: History/Mystery

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