In the waning days of World War I and the waning weeks of the busiest year of capital murders in Pittsburgh’s history, Alabama-born coal miner Frank Green killed Frank Vukovich during a robbery in East Pittsburgh. The killing occurred late on Saturday night, November 2, 1918, when Green and his friends, Jasper Fletcher and Herman Simpson, en route to Homestead, encountered Vukovich and two of his friends on Braddock Avenue.
Under circumstances that are a matter of dispute, Green and his companions shot Vukovich, who died the next morning.
At trial, Green claimed he acted in self-defense after Vukovich and his friends, all recent immigrant steelworkers, attacked him and his friends, also steelworkers, in a racist incident. Eyewitness testimony indicated that Green fired the fatal shots.
The state claimed the killing occurred as part of an armed robbery. In the midst of the “Red Summer” of racist violence that sought to restore the racial social order following the return of Black servicemen from World War I, Green was convicted on June 11, 1919, and sentenced to death on November 1.
Fletcher, who was born in Florida, and Simpson, born in Alabama, maintained they were unaware of Green’s intent to rob and kill and were not in the immediate vicinity of the killing. Both were convicted of voluntary manslaughter on June 18, 1919, and sentenced to 12 years in Western Penitentiary.
Taken to Rockview, Frank Green was executed in the electric chair on March 29, 1920. He is buried in the prison cemetery.
The defendants lived in Port Perry, a no longer extant town on the Monongahela River near Braddock that was overtaken by the expansion of the steel industry.