Looking Back: A Young Lawyer Had a Week to Defend a Murderer in 1928

Within an hour of being called to the Luzerne County Bar on September 10, 1928, 25-year-old attorney William Swan McLean III was named to Richard Gaughan’s defense team.

Gaughan, 74, was a patient at the former Newport Township Retreat mental hospital where he fatally shot Edward Murray, 78, and injured hospice superintendent Dennis A. Mackin, 60, on June 11 1928.

Mackin succumbed to his injuries three weeks later at Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

When young attorney McLean was appointed to help with Gaughan’s defense, he was given a week to get up to speed as Gaughan’s trial would begin on September 18 before his uncle, Luzerne County Judge William S. McLean Jr. .

Young McLean was the son of George McLean, who was the judge’s brother but shared the same name.

Gaughan reportedly confessed to killing Murray and shooting Mackin.

“In his confession, Gaughan told state police that he had possessed the gun for three years and managed to evade the attention of the hospice guards by hiding it in his bedroom or carrying it on him,” Wilkes said. -Barre Record reported June 12, 1928.

The Record reported that Gaughan first shot Mackin as he emerged from his office and ran down the stairs and down a hallway. Gaughan ran down another set of stairs and shot Murray.

Plymouth Police Chief Dominick Mangan was the first to arrive at the psychiatric hospital, taking Gaughan into custody. Gaughan had been a patient in the psychiatric hospital for eight years, the Record reported.

In preparation for Gaughan’s trial, his first attorney, James T. Brennan, requested the assistance of a second attorney and in response, Luzerne County Judge Benjamin Jones appointed young McLean and a third attorney, Rudolph Magagna , in the defense team. Young McLean became Gaughan’s lead defense attorney.

Prosecutors first brought Gaughan to trial for Murray’s murder before Judge McLean.

“Lawyer William S. McLean 3rd opened the defense case in a brief statement in which he said they were prepared to prove that Gaughan was not responsible for his actions and should be acquitted of the charge. of murder by reason of insanity,” the filing said. reported September 20, 1928.

A hospice caretaker and caregiver testified that Gaughan had been a patient for several years and was known to be calm and harmless.

Gaughan testified in his own defense and probably his worst witness.

The Record reported that Gaughan had a remarkable memory but suffered from hallucinations, believing Mackin intended to put him in solitary confinement or get rid of him completely stimulated by Murray’s lies. His testimony, according to prosecutors, showed intent to kill Mackin and Murray.

The jury deliberated for just four hours to find Gaughan guilty of first degree murder and was sentenced by Judge McLean to life in prison.

Gaughan was not brought to trial for Mackin’s murder because Assistant District Attorney Leon Schwartz felt Gaughan was too old and was sentenced to life in prison for Murray’s murder conviction, the Record reported. .

Gaughan was transferred to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia on October 13, 1928. Eventually Gaughan was transferred to Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Wayne County where he died of chronic myocarditis on September 15, 1930.

At age 42, McLean III will be drafted into the U.S. Army and serve as an officer in the 109th Field Artillery stationed at Indiantown Gap during World War II. After the war, he served in a military security force in Germany before being discharged. He died at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital of a head injury on June 19, 1963, and was interred in Maple Hill Cemetery in Hanover Township.

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