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How a 1937 mafia hit led to the wrongful conviction that inspired Gov. Gavin Newsom to end the death penalty in California
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Mar 14, 2019 2:34 AM 1+ week ago

The story begins in a smoke-filled beer parlor in October 1937, when a woman stood up to put a coin in the jukebox half past midnight. That was the moment two gangsters stormed the Roost Cafe in Los Angeles and riddled a local gambling boss with more than a dozen bullets.

It was a mafia hit job that, more than 81 years later, would become one of the catalysts leading California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to end the state's death penalty, granting a reprieve to 737 prisoners on death row.

Elaine Huddle was the woman at the jukebox, right by the door, as the San Francisco Examiner would later report. She told police she could remember clear as day the face of the lead gunman as he barged inside with the .45 pistol, killing the gambling boss and a bartender. The police showed her a lineup. She pointed to Pete Pianezzi.

Pianezzi had a reputation. He was an ex-con who had done time at ...

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