Washington D.C. had never seen anything quite like it: in January, 1919, three foreign diplomats, with no known enemies, assassinated in the city’s Kalorama neighborhood. Without any leads or clear motive, the police were baffled until they zeroed in on a suspect, Ziang Sung Wan, a Chinese student living in New York. He was held incommunicado without formal arrest for more than a week until he was browbeaten into a confession. In The Third Degree: The Triple Murder that Shook Washington and Changed American Criminal Justice, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama and part landmark legal case, author Scott D. Seligman tells the forgotten story of a young man’s abuse by the police and his arduous, seven-year journey through the legal system that drew in Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John W. Davis and even J. Edgar Hoover. It culminated in a landmark Supreme Court ruling written by Justice Louis Brandeis that set the stage for Miranda v. Arizona many years later. The National Committee partnered with the Museum of Chinese in America for the launch of Mr. Seligman’s new book on May 17 in New York City.
Scott D. Seligman is a writer, historian, genealogist, retired corporate executive and career “China hand.” He holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University with high honors in American civilization, and a master’s degree from Harvard University. Fluent in Mandarin and conversant in Cantonese, he lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China for eight years and reads and writes Chinese. He has worked as a legislative assistant in Congress, a businessman in China, and a communications director of a Fortune 50 company.
He is the author of Tong Wars: The Untold Story of Vice, Money and Murder in New York’s Chinatown (Viking Books, 2016), The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo (Hong Kong University Press, 2013), Three Tough Chinamen (Earnshaw Books, 2012), the best-selling Chinese Business Etiquette (Hachette, 1999) and Dealing with the Chinese (Warner Books, 1989). He is also co-author of the best-selling Cultural Revolution Cookbook (Earnshaw, 2011) and Now You’re Talking Mandarin Chinese (Barron’s, 2006). He has published articles in the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Asian Wall Street Journal, the China Business Review, Bucknell Magazine, Howard Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward, China Heritage Quarterly, The Cleaver Quarterly, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center blog, the New York History blog, the Granite Studio blog and Traces, the Journal of the Indiana Historical Society. He has also created several websites on historical and genealogical topics. He lives in Washington, D.C.