In July 1926, Rep. Birmingham urged Gov. Alvan T. Fuller to commute the death sentences of John J. Devereaux, John J. McLaughlin, and Edward J. Heinlein, who were convicted in the murder of James H. Ferneau, a watchman on duty at the Boston and Middlesex Street Railway office in Waltham, during a 1925 robbery.
At a July 13 meeting of the Massachusetts clemency committee in Brighton, Birmingham noted that the three men convicted in the Waltham car barn murder case had served in the U.S. armed forces and that this would be the first time that veterans had been put to death in the state. He urged the female members of the committee to redouble their efforts to stop these men from being put to death, according to an article in the Boston Globe (July 14, 1926, p. 14).
Also urging clemency at the meeting were Rep. Thomas S. Kennedy of Jamaica Plain and attorney Thomas Vahey. Kennedy said that interest in the petition calling for clemency was spreading throughout the state. Vahey noted that during his career as a lawyer he had been involved in 20 capital cases in Massachusetts and no clemency request had better or sounder reasons behind it than the Waltham car barn murder case, according to the newspaper.
The murder occurred during a robbery at the railway's office by the three men. According to prosecutors, Devereau killed Ferneau during a struggle in which the watchman was shot and beaten. At the time, McLaughlin and Heinlein were robbing the railway cashier on the second floor. The jury found that all three men were guilty of first degree murder and given the death penalty.
Despite the efforts of Birmingham, Kennedy, Vahey, and the Massachusetts clemency committee, the three men were put to death by electrocution on Jan. 6, 1927, at the Massachusetts State Prison in Charlestown.