UC Berkeley's Behind Bars

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Now that you've searched through the San Francisco Examiner's photo and newspaper archives, it's time to make a desicion on Burton Abbott's fate.

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Executing Abbott: 50 Years Later

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More than 50 years ago, the criminal justice system was both the same and very different. The Burton Abbott case is one of the best examples of this contrast – or lack thereof. Abbott was tried, convicted and executed for kidnapping and killing Stephanie Bryan, a 14-year-old girl from Berkeley. He died in San Quentin’s gas chamber on March 15, 1957, nearly two years after Bryan’s disappearance. Today, the average wait on death row is more than 20 years.

The role of the media has also changed. In the 1950s, newspapers were the main source of news. Two San Francisco Examiner reporters organized the team that discovered Bryan’s body. They broke the news to her parents and published graveside photographs. The paper published headlines nearly every day for two years and gave major developments three to five full pages. When Abbott’s trial began, the Examiner even hired a detective novelist to add to its coverage.

It was a different era. See for yourself: Explore the Abbott case through the Examiner’s photo archive and newspaper articles.

Credits

Reporting, Writing and Video Editing by Angela Kilduff
Design and Programming by Matt Buxton
Concept, Research and Editing by Amanda Dyer
Video by Steve Saldivar
Scanning Assistance by Vanessa Liu

Examiner archive images courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
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