Michael Farmer 


A Chalice for Michael

Time Magazine - Crime: These Marauding Savages





The following is an article written and published in Time Magazine on Monday April 28, 1958:

"In a Manhattan courtroom, an all-male blue-ribbon jury studiously listened to the story of a thoroughly senseless murder. Seven boys, 15 to 19, were on trial for the gang killing of polio-crippled, 15-year-old Michael Farmer in a Washington Heights park in upper Manhattan last summer (TIME, Aug. 12). Developed by the prosecution and no fewer than 27 court-appointed defense lawyers, the story unfolded slowly: the gang, called the Egyptian Dragons, had armed themselves with knives, a machete, a heavy dog chain, sticks, pipes and garrison belts, slipped into the park looking for members of a rival gang. They found no rivals; only the Farmer boy and a friend. Neither belonged to any gang. Unable to defend himself, Michael Farmer fell under stabs, kicks, stomps and blows.

There were 18 Egyptian Dragons in all, Negroes and whites. Eleven, aged 13 and 14, were shipped off to a reformatory as juvenile delinquents. The remaining seven, all of whom signed confessions, quietly waited out their trial. Some of them changed their stories ("I didn't see nobody do nothin' "), protested that they had been beaten into confessions by the police. Last week, after 24 hours of discussion, the jury wound up the city's longest murder trial (14 weeks, 6,000 pages of testimony). Verdict: three defendants were acquitted; two were convicted of murder in the second degree (sentence: 20 years to life), two of manslaughter in the second degree (maximum penalty: 15 years). The guilty four:

Louis Alvarez, 17, born in Puerto Rico, arrived in the U.S. at the age of four; three years later his mother died. He was captain of a baseball team, member of the Police Athletic League. Assistant president of the Egyptian Dragons, he shouldered out the president, made himself boss. On the night of the murder, he confessed, he had steeled his courage by getting drunk on cheap wine. He used a knife.

Charles Horton (nickname: Big Man), 18, husky (6 ft. 2 in., 170 Ibs.), Alabama-born Negro, picked cotton 14 hours a day when he was seven, went to New York at 15 to live with his mother, whom he had seen previously only once a year. He confessed that he played his role "to show the others I was doing something." He swung the machete.

Leroy Birch (nickname: Magician), 19, Negro, came from a broken home, lived with grandparents. Acknowledged as "counselor" for the younger boys, he advised the gang on strategy, denied participating in the murder.

Leoncio DeLeon (nickname: Jello), 17, born in the Dominican Republic, arrived in the U.S. alone in 1952, quit school to help support his mother, has not seen his father in six years. He used a stick.

Two who felt that the jury was too merciful to all seven were Michael Farmer's parents. Said City Fireman Raymond Farmer: "It's a sign to juvenile delinquents that they can get away with murder—a green light for them to do anything. My wife and I are not brutal. We don't demand an eye for an eye. But I thought possibly Michael's death wouldn't be in vain. Now he's a lost cause, an absolutely wasted life. These marauding savages have made a laughingstock of the law. I can just see the grins and the ha-ha's in the neighborhood where the Egyptian Dragons live."