Henry Joseph

Henry Joseph, who was described as a Black man from the Spanish Main, worked as cook on the brig Juniper. Amos Otis, a white Englishman, worked as crew. En route from Boston to Suriname on August 14, 1834, Captain James Crosby and the first and second mates were killed.

Joseph, who by all reports attacked Crosby, was captured by the surviving crew and held until the ship was able to return to port. Otis, who was reported to have been in close contact with Joseph before the incident, was believed by the other crew to have conspired with him.

Joseph initially supported this view, claiming that Otis directed him to kill Crosby and the first and second mate and that Otis was supposed to kill the other crew members, allowing the two men to carry out their plan to pirate the ship to Havana.

At trial, Joseph told a different story, claiming that Captain Crosby had been abusive and that he acted on his own in planning and carrying out his revenge.

Both men were convicted of murder on the high seas and sentenced to death in the U.S. Circuit Court in Boston on November 1, 1834.

Henry Joseph was hanged in Boston before a large crowd on December 5, 1834. From the gallows, Joseph again confessed his guilt and Otis’s innocence.

Fall River (Massachusetts) Monitor, December 6, 1834

Amos Otis was pardoned by President Andrew Jackson on December 12 and released from prison.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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