When Leon Czolgosz was removed from the Temple of Music and taken to Buffalo Police Headquarters, he was in near death condition. Having suffered a terrible beating at the hands of President McKinley's military escort and the secret service, it was questioned as to whether or not he would survive to go to trial. The police had a terrible time trying to keep the angry mobs of Buffalo away from Czolgosz. If given the chance the mobs would tear him apart, so security and protection for the assassin was a constant problem.
On September 27, 1901, Czolgosz was moved from Buffalo to Auburn prison where he was to receive the punishment for his crime. When he arrived at Auburn, he came into contact with more people than he ever had during the entire ordeal. At 3:10am, his train arrived at the prison and he was brutally dragged from the train and shoved through a crowd of three hundred people who were constantly mauling him. Czolgosz was handcuffed and the continuous beatings made it almost impossible for him to walk. The prison guards were caught completely off guard by the crowd's reaction and had to use clubs and revolver butts to keep the mobs back. Many times he was knocked to his knees so the guards found it necessary to drag him up the stairs to the prison office. He was thrown to the ground upon reaching the office and cried out in terror, frothing at the mouth and uttering the most horrible sounds.
He stumbled into a cane seat and lay there moaning in terror, while the crowd hung on the iron gates outside and chanted, "GIVE HIM TO US! GIVE HIM TO US!" Shivering uncontrollably, Czolgosz nearly jumped out of his skin when a guard approached him and removed the handcuffs. He was then dragged through heavy oaken, iron-barred doors that led to the warden's office; in fact, he was carried. Four husky guards held his shoulders and arms. They dumped him in a chair; a limp, disheveled figure, his cries echoing down the long corridors and arousing all the other convicts. Czolgosz was in a state of absolute collapse, and when left alone rolled onto the floor, convulsing uncontrollably.
Two guards grabbed him and ripped him off the floor. Unable to stand, he quickly collapsed, screaming in pain. The angry cries from the crowd outside could be heard from the open window in the office.
"Shut up! You're faking!" said Dr. Gern, the prison physician. Czolgosz obeyed the order, but still continued to moan quietly and writhe in agony. Two prison guards stripped him of his clothing and placed a prison uniform on him. He was then removed to his cell where he would not emerge again until his execution
The trial of Leon Czolgosz began at 10:00 in the morning on September 23, 1901, at Buffalo's Supreme Court with Justice Truman C. White on the bench. After various witnesses were called to testify as to the events of the tragedy on September 6, Czolgosz was finally called to the stand by Clerk Martin Fisher. He placed his hand on the Bible and nodded his head in agreement with the words to the oath. However, he did not say, "I do."
District Attorney Thomas Penney began Czolgosz's interrogation by first asking, "What is your name?"
"Leon Czolgosz," came the weak response, scarcely audible to the Judge.
"What is your age?"
"Twenty-eight," after some hesitation.
"Where were you born?"
"Where did you last reside?"
"In Buffalo," whispered Czolgosz. His voice seemed husky and his mouth dry. He didn't make an effort at all to speak loudly and moved about nervously while the questions were being asked.
"Where did you live in Buffalo?"
"Where on Broadway?" insisted Penney. No answer. "At Nowak's?"
"Yes," after a pause.
"What is your occupation? Do you understand the question?"
Czolgosz shook his head. It seemed as though he was hard of hearing and not understanding of all that was asked of him. Penney repeated the question distinctly and in a loud voice. Czolgosz responded as if half-stupefied.
"Yes, sir; I was a laborer."
"Are you married or single?"
"Single," came the ready response.
"Are your parents living or dead?"
"No, sir." was the answer.
"You don't understand me quite," said Penney. "Is your father living?"
"Is your mother living?"
"No sir." Penney gave a tired glance at the jury.
"Mr. Czolgosz, have you been temperate or intemperate in the use of intoxicating liquors?" No reply.
"You don't understand the question?"
"No, sir. I don't."
Penney took a few steps toward Czolgosz and glared at him. "Do you drink much?"
"Ever been drunk?" Again there was no response. "Come on, man! Do you drink much?"
"Mr. Penney, please pass on to something else," interrupted Judge White.
Penney slowly turned and gave a slight bow to the judge acknowledging his request. "Mr. Czolgosz, were you ever before convicted of a crime?"
Clerk Fisher then asked, "Have you any legal cause to show now why the sentence of the court should not now be pronounced against you?"
"I cannot hear that." replied the prisoner.
The Clerk repeated the question, and Czolgosz replied, "I'd rather have this gentleman here speak," looking toward District Attorney Penney. "I can hear him much better." At this point, Judge White told all those in the courtroom to be quiet or they would be removed.
Mr. Penney then asked the prisoner, "Czolgosz, the court wants to know if you have any reason to give as to why sentence should not be pronounced against you. Have you anything to say to the judge? Say yes or no."
Czolgosz did not reply, and Judge White addressed him, saying, "In that behalf, what you have a right to say relates explicitly to the subject in hand here. What we are asking you is if there are any reasons why we should not proceed with your trial. The first being that you claim insanity, the second being that you have good cause to offer either in arrest of the judgment about to be pronounced against you or for a new trial. Those are the grounds specified by the statute in which you have a right to speak at this time, and you are at perfect liberty to do so if you wish."
Czolgosz appeared dazed. "I have nothing to say about that."
The judge then said to Penney, "Are you ready?" Penney nodded that he was.
"Have you anything to say?" Judge White asked Czolgosz.
"Yes," replied the prisoner.
Czolgosz was then permitted to make a brief statement to the court. "There was no one else but me. No one else told me to do it, and no one paid me to do it."
"Anything further, Czolgosz?" asked Judge White.
"No, sir," he replied.
Judge White then turned in his seat and looked directly into the prisoner's eyes. "Czolgosz, in taking the life of our beloved President, you committed a crime which shocked and outraged the moral sense of the civilized world. You have confessed that guilt, and after learning all that at this time can be learned from the facts and circumstances of the case, twelve good jurors have found you guilty of murder in the first degree."
"You have said, according to the testimony of credible witnesses and yourself, that no other person aided you in the commission of this terrible act. God grant it may be so. The penalty for the crime for which you stand is fixed by this statute, and it now becomes my duty to pronounce this judgment against you. The sentence of the court is that the week beginning October 28, 1901, at the place, in the manner and means prescribed by law, you suffer the punishment of death. May God have mercy on your soul. Remove the prisoner."
Czolgosz stood erect as the sentence was pronounced to him. He did not tremble. In fact, he never moved a muscle. His execution would be carried out by the electric chair at Auburn Prison.
Statistics show that by 1901, Leon Czolgosz was the 50th person to die in the electric chair in the state of New York. Those assigned to guard him while he was in Buffalo, and later at Auburn, were relieved when the prison physician approached the lifeless body and proclaimed that he was dead. However, the events that ultimately led up to his execution were without incident. Members of the press were denied interviews and were not permitted to witness the execution. There was no formal ceremony at the prison.
The images showing the execution of Leon Czolgosz are from a collection of original films shot by Thomas Edision at the Pan-American. However the "execution" shown in these films is actually a reinactment and does not depict the actual death of Czolgosz.
On October 29, 1901, Leon Czolgosz was led from his cell and slowly walked the twenty feet down the corridor to the door of the death room. He stumbled when his feet touched the stone pavement of the room and again when he got onto the platform that held the chair. It was there that he got the first look at the instrument that was about to take his life.
The electric chair was a plain looking, but heavy piece of furniture. It was decorated with wide leather straps and heavy buckles. From the ceiling came a coil of wire no wider than a common pencil to which the electrode for the head-piece would attach. Electric lamps were along the wall behind the chair and about the ceiling. The chair was large enough to hold a man much heavier than Czolgosz, so a broad plank was placed on its edge across the seat and against the back of the chair, that there might not be any movement of the prisoner's body to break the circuit.
Just before the electrocution was to begin, a leather-backed sponge soaked with salt water was tightly buckled below the knees, and on the head was placed a helmet, the top of which was filled with a wet sponge. The top of Czolgosz head was shaved so that perfect electrical contact could be made.
As he was being strapped into the chair, Czolgosz blurted out, "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people! I did it for the help of the good people, the working men of all countries!" The guards quickly finished preparing him. Then they slowly stepped away from the platform, turned, and walked away.
After what seemed like an eternity, the signal was given to throw the switch and send the current through his body. Czolgosz immediately gave a gurgled cry and his body lunged upward. He seemed to tremble with a slight rigidity as his body was converted into a piece of iron. As the 1,700 volts of raw energy exploded into his body, Czolgosz arched his body backwards and remained still. The current flowed for a full minute and was gradually backed down to 200 volts. After the electricity was turned off, some time passed without anyone saying a word. Then one of the prison officials said, "Give him another poke."
The current was turned on at 1,700 volts for another full minute without any reaction from Czolgosz's body. After this round was finished, the medical examiner went up to the lifeless body and pronounced Czolgosz dead. His eyes were open and seemed to be staring out at everyone in the room. The matter was finished. Justice was served.
Back at the Pan-American Exposition, the Temple of Music stood quiet and empty. The fair long since over. The crowds long gone. All around were signs that the elements had begun to lay claim on the buildings as pieces of plaster and wood lay scattered in every direction.
The Temple was an empty shell. Chairs were littered all about and a musty smell hung in the air. A small fence was built to surround the spot where President McKinley had been assassinated. Only a month prior, McKinley uttered the words, "Expositions were the timekeepers of progress." Now, the only progress that needed doing was the removal of the Pan-American Exposition. Buffalo had a black spot on its history. The Rainbow City was now an abandoned eyesore that many wished would go away.