Alvin Victor Sellers.

Classics of the bar, stories of the world's great jury trials and a compilation of forensic masterpieces (Volume 4) online

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you draw? The law assumes whatever speaks in
favor of liberty. She will not for a moment think
of or argue guilt in regard to an act upon which a


Speech of Mr. O'Neill for the Accused

charitable interpretation may be had. It is mon-
strous as a doctrine in law, monstrous as a propo-
sition in reason, to assume that the prisoner, be-
cause he had these things, got them first by com-
mitting the murder so as to obtain them, and sec-
ondly, that he possessed himself of them by strip-
ping the dead. Now, is there anything in the case
to tell you when these things were got by him? I
say they were obtained before the murder. Gen-
tlemen, can you say otherwise ? You are bound by
the testimony, and by the testimony alone, and I
ask you is there anything in this cause that would
warrant you in swearing to that as a matter of
fact? Yet you will swear to it if you give a ver-
dict against this prisoner. Is it not, to say the
least, ungracious and unkind in the District At-
torney, to ask you to swear to a fact that has not
been established in the case? Hearken to the evi-
dence! Where is the testimony establishing for
you as a fact this question of time? You have heard
none, gentlemen. If the larceny was committed
before the murder, the Commonwealth's theory is
blown to atoms, and as the time of the theft has
not been established, and as its having been com-
mitted before the murder is consistent with in-
nocence, I say you are bound under your oaths to
so assume it as a fact in favor of liberty and life.
The Commonwealth next asks you to infer guilt
from the fact that the prisoner left his clothes
behind him, and that there was blood upon them.
What blood was upon them ? Was it human blood ?
The defendant may have been killing cattle with


Classics of the Bar

Mr. Bearing. In the Armstrong case, when the
prisoner was asked, "How did the blood get into
the wagon," he replied that it was chicken blood.
The Commonwealth then caused an examination
to be made of the blood, and the whole case turned
upon that point. Armstrong staked his life upon
the issue. He lost it, and expiated upon the scaf-
fold the offense of which he was convicted. Now
you are bound to assume nothing but innocence.
Therefore, I ask you that when there are so many
kinds of blood, whether you can assume the blood
on the clothes of the prisoner to be human blood ?
You cannot. Why? Because it is inconsistent
with the presumption in favor of human liberty
and life. There is nothing whatever in this case
to tell you it was human blood.

Could I but shut out from your sight and hear-
ing the scenes and excitement attendant upon this
trial ; could I even take you to the Bearing farm,
its solitude unbroken by the groans and hisses of
the other night ; could I make you forget the past ;
could I have you for the first time to hear the testi-
mony in this dreadful issue of life or death, with
all your presumptions, as naturally they would be,
in favor of liberty; could I have you to look upon
the prisoner confronted only by his accuser, I feel
that in the coolness of your judgments, in the
charity of your hearts, the case of my client would
be safe. But again let me ask you, is the case
against him clear? Is it positive? Is it without
doubt? Is it sufficient to convict him? Its char-
acteristics are inconsistency with itself, incon-


Speech of Mr. O'Neill for the Accused

sistency with the doctrine of innocence, and incon-
sistency with the law of presumptions. Is it prob-
able that Anton Probst committed this murder? It
is charged by the Commonwealth that he did com-
mit it, and that he committed it alone. Taking
into consideration the time, the place, the circum-
stances, I ask, is it at all probable that such is the
case? Bearing, a strong, stalwart man; his wife
the mother of a large family; Miss Dolan full
grown ; the boy out in the field ; the little children
sporting around in the spring breezes of the morn-
ing! Is it probable, I ask, that he murdered all
these, and murdered them alone? Is it probable
that he would have thought of such a monstrous
deed within sight of that cottage to the east, and
almost under the eyes of the people going to mar-
ket? If it is, then indeed he is not the expert crim-
inal that my friend the District Attorney would
have him. If he is, in fact, the cool designer of
such horrid deeds, would he have loitered in the
city? Would he have gone to places where he was
sure to have been traced? Would he have sought
public haunts? Would he have dwelt openly in the
city, and walked out upon Sunday? Would he
have gone here, there and everywhere? Would
he have exhibited, as my friend has said, this ex-
ceeding coolness of manner? Certainly not. The
very argument of my friend rebuts the probability
of his guilt. The place, the time, the manner of
his behavior; in brief, all the circumstances sur-
rounding the case forbid the idea of his having
committed the murder. Flight and concealment


Classics of the Bar

are, and ever have been, the telltales of crime.
Did he fly? Did he conceal himself? Why he
elbowed his way through the very officers of the
law. Could he not have fled? He was a stranger
here, scarcely known to any but the Dearing fam-
ily. He has a home far away beyond the waters ;
poor and humble, it is true, but its poverty and
humility would have been his surest protection.
Would he not have sought it, and could he not have
reached it? Yes, gentlemen, on that Saturday
night, had he committed this murder, instead of
coming to the city, he would have sought your
nearest port, got aboard the first vessel with a
weighing anchor, and by the Thursday following,
when he was arrested, he, with the trackless keel
beneath him, the full sail above him, would have
been far beyond the reach of law. No officer would
then have seized him; no foot so light of step to
trace his pathway through the waters. Gentle-
men, would he not have sought his home? There
the heart ever turns with its burden of cares,
there it wishes to lie down beside the fires of its
hearth, close to the heart of the mother who never
forsakes her son.

Who says that the murder was not committed
on Monday? And if it was, Probst was then in
this city. If committed on Tuesday, Probst was
in this city. We have had no testimony as to the
condition of the bodies when found. Were they in
a state of decomposition? Did they exhibit signs
of recent violence? The Commonwealth is silent
upon these points. Judge her, therefore, by her


Speech of Mr. O'Neill for the Accused

omission to prove, as well as by that which she
has proved. The great and ruling principle of the
law is the presumption of innocence. Look at the
Commonwealth's case and contrast it with that

Doubt in you is life for him. Forget not his
case in the atrocity of the charge. To accuse of a
crime so horrible as this is all but to condemn. I
share with you, gentlemen, the horror you have of
it ; its nature, its attendants, its sickening details
can never be forgotten. The Bearing farm will be
forever on this world's tongue, as the scene of the
monster crime of history. I would with you, gen-
tlemen, consecrate it in eternal memory, make it
a place for the maiden and mother to go, and have
the tears that would mourn the dead, like those of
the Heliades, turn to amber as they'd fall. I would
give it a requiem sad and soft, in music sweet in
tone as the notes of the storied nightingale that
sings all the day long over the grave of the mur-
dered youth.

But though we all execrate the deed and lament
its victims, yet the crime can alone be punished in
the conviction of the true criminal. That convic-
tion can be reached solely by the evidence in the
cause; judge the prisoner by it, and no matter
what may be his doom, I as his counsel shall be
content. Judge him by it; for He by Whom you
have sworn, looks down upon you, His eye radiant
as a star, reflected in the deep waters of the heart.
Be fair to this defendant. He is in a strange land,
but a land where our laws and institutions bade


Classics of the Bar

him come. Consider the broken links of evidence
and pause, ere you send his life back to God.

Gentlemen of the jury, I now give you this case,
and with it the prisoner. The last appeal I shall
make for him, is judge the one by the other. I may
never again address you here, but we shall meet
again and for another judgment upon this cause.
Yes, gentlemen, beyond the clouds and beyond the
tomb there shall we meet, judge and jury, prisoner
and advocate, and Oh, I implore you by that judg-
ment to come, by the fears you have of its jus-
tice, by the hopes you cherish of its mercy, that
you will, as this court has ordered, "Good men and
true, stand together and hearken to the evidence" !

Summing Up of District Attorney Mann


In arising to address to you the concluding ar-
gument for the Commonwealth in a case like
this, I feel constrained at the outset to ask you
to bear with me if I forget, at some moments, the
calmness and deliberation of the public officer in
the warmth of my resentment and the bitter in-
dignation of my manhood.

The circumstances connected with this case are
so unparalleled in atrocity, so unexampled in hor-
ror, that I cannot think of them, I cannot speak of
them, with calmness.

Not only are we called upon to consider the
death of Christopher Bearing and the manner of


Summing Up of District Attorney Mann

his murder, but the cruel and wanton slaughter
of seven other innocent and unoffending creatures
is so indissolubly connected with it, that we can
not sever the conduct and deeds of the murderer
of the one, from the indiscriminate destruction
of all. For I am sure you must feel satisfied
now that the death of all the victims of the Dear-
ing farm is fairly attributable to the same wicked
heart, the same fiendish arm, the same plotter,
and the same artistic destroyer. How then can
I speak or think of this with coolness?

As I stand here, even now, my mind carries me
away from this spot and fixes itself around that
secluded house, calling up memories of the kind
father, the happy mother, and the innocent prat-
tlers that dwelt there. A few weeks ago all was
gladness and sunshine. But a cloud has lowered
upon that house; the hand of the Destroyer has
been there, and with fingers of blood has written
upon its walls, Desolation!

No father, no mother, no child, no loving one of
God's creatures, dwells there now. All is solitude.
The very dogs run masterless, and in vain turn
their eyes wistfully to stranger forms, seeking for
those hands that were wont to answer with

These victims have now passed away; their
dirges have been sung, and the earth has closed
above them. In a few short months the young
summer will bestrew their graves with verdure,
and the flowers will bloom above them as over
other kindred turfs, but they cannot and will not


Classics of the Bar

be forgotten in their narrow dwellings. The rec-
ollection of their untimely end will haunt the
neighborhood where this bloody tragedy was en-
acted, and long will our annals tell the story of
this fearful crime, and in after years the aged
crone will gather around her the little children of
a generation yet to come, and, telling them the
story of this fatal massacre, "send her hearers
weeping to their beds."

I do not propose, gentlemen, to enter at any
considerable length into the heart-sickening details
of this case. I shall merely content myself with
demonstrating certain propositions which I think
can fairly and conclusively be drawn from the
consideration of the whole evidence in the case.
First, I desire to prove to you from this evidence,
beyond all doubt, that this was the work of one
man for one purpose. I say of one man, and I
mean of one man alone, unaided by an accomplice,
unassisted by a confederate. Next, that person
was no stranger to the family, but was one who
had access to the household, in whom the family
placed some confidence one who could entice the
women and children from the house without sus-
picion on their part, and was on such intimate
terms with the family as to be enabled thereby to
execute the hellish plans his wicked heart con-
ceived ; that this was done for purpose of plunder,
and in order to carry away all articles of value
from the house of Mr. Bearing, and from the per-
sons of those he intended to kill ; and finally, that
the prisoner at the bar was the person who carried


Summing Up of District Attorney Mann

away this plunder, for the acquisition of which
the murders were committed by him; and thus
that he, and he alone, is to be held responsible for
the perpetration of these fearful crimes.

I have said that this was the work of one, and
you will be convinced of this if you only consider
for a single moment the arts of deception which
must have been practiced to allure his victims to
the fatal spot at which they were slain, the same
kind of weapon evidently used in order to accom-
plish his entire purpose, and the same singularly
fearful manner in which the instrument was used
on each.

The presence of a stranger would have excited
surprise, and might have interfered with the per-
petration of this hellish work, which was evidently
plotted and contrived long before the first blow
was struck to further its execution.

Let us pause for a moment, gentlemen, to con-
sider from this evidence, if we possibly can, some
theory in connection with it which will satisfy us
in regard to the manner in which it was done and
as to where this fearful work was begun.

This wretch, whoever he be, in my estimation
first murdered Cornelius Carey. Approaching the
unsuspecting boy he struck him down, and then
coolly and wantonly chopped his throat with the
axe, and held his head over the ditch, and suffered
the blood to be poured out in the ditch on the
water, leaving, he believed, no trace behind. He
then raised the lifeless body from the ground, car-
ried it with a strap that he had fastened around


Classics of the Bar

his waist, and covered him over in the hay rick,
taking the poor boy's cap, and stuffing it in the
mud under the bridge, hiding it away, he sup-
posed from all human sight.

I say he must have killed this boy first, in pur-
suance of the plan arranged and perfected in the
mind of the murderer. He would not kill the peo-
ple in the house first; a single scream from any
one of them might startle the boy in the field who*
would then communicate the alarm to the neigh-
boring farm houses. He silenced the pickets be-
fore he attacked the citadel.

No pool of blood marked the spot where the boy
met his fate. The rains of Saturday and Sunday
filled the ditches, washing away from them not
only the blood, but the blood-stained water. Yet,
two traces of blood were near by in that meadow,
the one upon a turf, and the other upon a piece
of wood that lay loosely on the ground ; and these
two lined with the hay rick, and thus indicated the
course the murderer took as he carried the life-
less body of the boy away ; these two places were
all we could find that had received any blood that
dripped from the body when thus carried.

Having thus disposed of the boy, he deliberately
approaches the house. When he gets to the bridge
that crosses the ditch at the house, he probably re-
flects, "It will not do for me to keep this little
axe that I have killed the boy with ; its appearance
covered with blood, with the hair of Cornelius
Carey still sticking to it, may alarm this family."
Consequently he throws it into the ditch where it


Summing Up of District Attorney Mann

was subsequently found. He then stands before
that family with scarcely no stain upon him, per-
fectly calm and quiet.

What next is to be done? The outposts taken
care of, he now makes his fearful onslaught upon
the family. He decoys the mother from the house
and into the barn, and there strikes her down.
He had already chopped the throat of poor Carey
for a double purpose : to make his death sure, and
to pour out all his blood into the ditch. He con-
tinues now the same fearful work. Having struck
the mother down as he struck poor Carey, he
chopped her throat in the same brutal manner. He
then led or carried the little ones to the same place
of slaughter, beguiling them into the barn, dashed
out their brains by blows from the same weapon,
and inflicted similar fearful gashes upon their

I have said these murders were all committed
in the barn. I come to this conclusion because
there was not to be found one single spot of blood
anywhere except in the barn.

Have you seen at the seaside the gulls come
sailing along the beach slowly and calmly, and
sometimes poised in the air, how intently and
fixedly they keep one bright eye upon the watery
element beneath, searching for their food or their
prey? Even so did the detectives pass over every
foot of ground around that barn and house,
searching for a single particle of blood, for any
marks of a struggle, for the slightest evidence that
would indicate that blood was shed or an assault


Classics of the Bar

made outside of that barn, and they searched in
vain. In the barn, undoubtedly then, Mrs. Dear-
ing and the children were slain.

The question then arises, who got them there?
who could decoy them into the barn? I'll tell you,
gentlemen; it was the prisoner. He could frame
some probable story. He could go to Mrs. Dear-
ing and tell her that the horses or the cows re-
quired looking after.

I take it for granted the murderer took the
mother there on some such pretense, and then the
children as I have spoken of, and even carrying
the infant from the cradle. There was one spot
pointed out in the barn more fearful than the rest,
and that is the spot where he dashed out its brains,
scattering them upon the sides of the barn, and
where Mr. Franklin tells you was found a lock of
a child's hair.

The next thing he did was to hide these bodies
away so as to escape the attention of Mr. Dear-
ing when he came home. He dragged them into
the little coal bin, the only entrance to which was
through a hole from the barn. He was compelled
to get through this hole himself, and he left the
bodies as he had dragged them, lying side by
side. He did not take the trouble to lay the in-
fant side by side with the others, but the brutal
wretch flung it over on the breast of its mother.

Every living being left at the farm has been de-
stroyed. Let us now turn to Mr. Dearing.

In the meantime, the evidence shows that Mr.
Dearing and Miss Dolan returned home. They


Summing Up of District Attorney Mann

got down there about eleven o'clock of that day,
and Mr. Bearing, as was his custom, drove up to
the house, and got out of his wagon. Miss Dolan
got out also, and went into the house. I take it for
granted that the house was then undisturbed. I
take it for granted that, had the furniture been
turned upside down in confusion, Miss Dolan
would have given the alarm. All was quiet in the
house, but, thinking that the mother and the little
ones had gone to the barn, Miss Dolan went up
stairs, untied her bonnet strings, took off her bon-
net, her furs and her cloak, unhooking it all the
way down the front. She did this deliberately and
quietly; she would not have taken them off if
alarmed; she would have gone out and communi-
cated the alarm. But not finding the family there,
and beginning to apprehend something wrong, she
went out to the barn to tell Mr. Dearing that the
house was deserted, that neither his wife nor the
children nor any one could be found at home. Mr.
Dearing, by some excuse, probably the same that
had been used to get Mrs. Dearing out to the barn,
had been induced, in the meantime, to go to the
barn before entering his house. His gloves were
yet upon his hands, and his hat upon his head, and
the villain, following him, seized the axe he had
secreted in the barn, and struck him from behind
as he entered and then gashed his throat.

Miss Dolan could not probably have been en-
ticed by this man into the barn, but she rushes
there to inquire of Mr. Dearing about the chil-
dren, and is met by the murderer, who strikes her


Classics of the Bar

down, brains her, and then cuts her throat. He
had before covered up the wife and children, by
crowding upon them a great quantity of hay;
by this means he had entirely obscured them from
view. He then quietly arranges Mr. Bearing's
body and the body of Miss Dolan side by side,
and covers them up so as to keep them entirely
from view.

The terrible gashes in the throat, inflicted after
the skull had been shattered and the brains dashed
out, afford incontestable evidence that it was the
inhuman handiwork of one superlative villain,
whose heart was fatally bent upon deeds of rapine
and murder. The same distinctive mark is seen
upon every victim.

Had these poor, murdered creatures been found
in a wildernness, miles asunder, the conclusion
would have been inevitable in every case that the
work was that of the same fiend. How much more
powerful must that conclusion be when we find
their bodies laid side by side, and the instrument
of death near by.

In an American tale written by our townsman,
Dr. Bird, we read of an adventure that occurred
when Rowland and Telie Doe were journeying
through the forest. Fearful of an attack from hos-
tile Indians, they became aware of the propin-
quity of other enemies of the Indians beside them-

They suddenly came upon the body of a savage
of vast proportions lying on its face across the
roots of a tree, and glued, it might almost be said,


Summing Up of District Attorney Mann

to the earth by a mass of coagulated blood that had
issued from the scalp and axe-cloven skull. Frag-
ments of a rifle, shattered as it seemed by a violent
blow against the tree under which he lay, were
scattered at his side, with a broken powder horn,
a splintered knife, the helve of a tomahawk, and
other equipments of a warrior, all in like manner
shivered to pieces by the unknown assassin. The
warrior seemed to have perished only after a fear-
ful struggle ; the earth was torn where he lay, and
his hands which yet grasped the soil, were dyed a
double red in blood.

While Rowland gazed upon this spectacle he
observed the body of the Indian to be raised by a
spasm, which was the last and but momentary ; the
body rolled over on its back and thus lay, exposing
two gashes, wide and gory, on the breast, traced
by a sharp knife and a powerful hand, it seemed,
in a lust for blood which even death could not

The sight of these gashes answered the question
Rowland had asked of his own imagination ; they
were in the form of a cross, and, as the legend of
the forest fiend recurred to his memory, he respon-
ded, almost with a feeling of superstitious awe, to
the trembling cry of Telie Doe :

"It is the Jibbenainosy !" she exclaimed, staring
upon the corpse with mingled horror and wonder :
"Nick of the woods is up again in the forest."

What there was fiction, is here a terrible reality.

I've read also in Quentin Durward that Louis
XL's Provost Marshal was wont to put the bow


Classics of the Bar

string around the necks of his victims and then
say, with a merry tone: "Cut a fleur de lis upon
his shoulder and toss him into the river. Who-
ever finds him will utter no complaint, for the
king's toll passes free."

I ask you, gentlemen, whose mark was this?

Standing over the lifeless forms of these eight
gashed and mutilated corpses, I propound the
question to them, and although their organs of
utterance have been severed, I can fancy that their
forms feel horrid animation in the grave, and that
in response to this question each arm is extended
and each bony finger is pointed to the spot where
little Willie pointed yesterday as he stood upon
that witness stand, and in reply to a question of
mine, raised his little hand, and pointing to the
prisoner, said, "That man."

The murders were committed evidently upon
Saturday; Miss Dolan's carpet-bag was stolen on
Saturday, and on Saturday night Anton Probst
is in the northern part of the city, with the stolen
carpet-bag, spending the money for which he bar-
tered his soul, in haunts of vice and dissipation.

For a few days he goes from place to place, ex-
hibiting the articles stolen from the house of Mr.
Bearing, and taken from his and Elizabeth Dolan's

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