Alvin Victor Sellers.

Classics of the bar, stories of the world's great jury trials and a compilation of forensic masterpieces (Volume 1) online

. (page 9 of 20)
Online LibraryAlvin Victor SellersClassics of the bar, stories of the world's great jury trials and a compilation of forensic masterpieces (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

every emotion he had in that public place and the in-
cident had no further consequence. Now, you will re-


The Tragedy oj Madison Square Garden

member that during the afternoon Thaw had procured
four tickets for the performance that was to take place
that night at the Garden. He took with him his party,
and on the way took along another friend, to whom he
gave his own seat. He went about with the busy,
nervous activity which characterizes him until he found
a seat beside the witness Smith. He sat by Mr. Smith
for half an hour engaging in such idle conversation as
so-called men of the world indulge in men whose
minds are not seriously engaged in the serious problems
of life.

When Thaw saw White he walked quietly and slowly
down the aisle until he faced White and then fired three
shots. He then slowly and deliberately turned away
and I wish to call your attention especially to this cir-
cumstance, apparently slight, but to my mind of the
utmost importance, and testified to by the defense. Mr.
Meyer Cohen, one of the witnesses, said that as soon as
he heard the shots he looked and saw Thaw standing
facing the audience with his arms spread out in the form
of a cross, a circumstance which has not been dwelt upon
by any of the learned experts for the State. Mr. Thaw
stood as a priest might have stood after some ceremony
of sacrificial offering, saying, "All is over," and dis-
missing the congregation. He turned his pistol barrel
down to indicate to the audience that there was no dan-
ger to them.

He then walked slowly to where his wife stood, and
when she said, "O Harry, what have you done?" he
replied: "It is all right, dearie; I have probably saved


Classics of the Bar

your life." As he said this he stooped and kissed her.
When he was disarmed, he said: "He has ruined my
wife." When the policeman came, he said: "He has
ruined my wife."

I have dwelt upon these acts and declarations of Mr.
Thaw at that time to call your attention to the fact that
the safety of his wife was menaced by the man who had
followed her to the Garden, the same man who had fol-
lowed her to Dr. Delavan, the same man who had said
to Mae Mackenzie that he would get this young wife
away from Thaw. What condition of mind must Harry
K. Thaw have been in when, walking down the aisle, he
turned and suddenly saw the form the hideous form
of the man who had caused so much unhappiness?

If you have been near death, you know that at such
a time the mind travels with the rapidity of lightning.
The mind goes back over the past like lightning. Then
Thaw, as he looked upon the hideous form of this man,
saw the whole panorama of White's life. He saw him
making his way into the family where poverty dwelt;
saw him laying bare his plans to ingratiate himself; saw
him giving the mother money to absent herself from the
city that he might perpetrate the deed of shame he had
planned; saw him inflaming her youthful imagination;
plying her with wine; saw her mind wandering under
the fatal drug; saw her losing consciousness; saw her
in her shame; saw him next day kissing the hem of her
dress; heard his thousand protestations of love; heard
her refusing, and saw that chamber in Paris where she
told him the story of her wrongs; heard again his many


The Tragedy of Madison Square Garden

proposals to her; saw that terrible night when she had
told him her story; saw himself as he walked the floor
and cried: "O God! O God!" saw her return to New
York; saw her meet this man who had wronged her;
saw her about to fall into this villain's hands, and saw
himself rescue her from this man. He saw himself
again at the altar marrying her; saw her when her mind
was poisoned against him by the same man who had
ruined her; saw her rescued from the man; went over
the happy months he had lived with her in his mother's
house; saw this monster and he heard his words, "I
will get her back," and he knew not, he reasoned not,
he struck as does the tigress to protect her home struck
for the purity of American homes struck for the purity
of American maidens struck for the purity of American
wives. He struck, and who shall say he was not right?

He had appealed to the Pinkertons, to the district
attorney, and that night he appealed to God, and God
that night answered that cry the cry of the fatherless
child. And God then redeemed the promise He had
made thousands of years ago when He said He would
hear the cries of the afflicted and that He would make
the wives of the oppressors widows and their children

Ah, gentlemen, what was his condition of mind at
that time? Men, judge your fellow-man as ye would
be judged. Place yourselves as far as in your power
lies in the place he stood.

It is for the district attorney to prove that the de-
fendant was sane, and if he fails to do this he has not


Classics of the Bar

established his case. He must establish that he was
sane at the time.

And I ask you not to violate any law, and I ask you
to judge by that law which bids you do unto others
what you desire others to do unto you.

Send this young man to his death for what he did
when goaded into frenzy by the persecution he had
suffered? He turned at last as the weakest of created
things will turn as a worm, it is said, will turn against
his tormentors send him to his death for that?

Ah, gentlemen, recall the language of the great book
in which is contained the wisdom and religion of the
people of old, and I say to you, ' Is Jonathan to die
for working this great salvation in Israel?' God for-
bid! Not a hair of his head shall fall to the ground,
for he wrought with God on that day.

I now, with all solemnity, leave in your hands the
fate of Harry K. Thaw.

The jury were unable to agree on a verdict, and a mistrial
was declared. Some time after this, Thaw was tried the sec-
ond time and found " not guilty on account of insanity."
He was immediately sent to an asylum for the insane.


Eloquent Perorations

THIS country of ours is now rent by intestine war.
All who are conscientious in desiring its honor
and perpetuity feel deeply afflicted in contemplating its
condition. We are threatened with assault from be-
yond the sea, and the most peaceful of us know not but
that at some near time we may be called upon to lay
down our lives for our country. It is not impossible in
the affairs of mankind that this great nation may soon
be a ruin or an antiquity; that strangers from afar shall
come to look upon it, mourning over the fate of a people
who had not the ability to protect their liberties. But
there never can come a time unless we do something
dishonorable when the name and reputation of the
"American" shall not be known and respected through
the generations of men. We could not, however, trans-
mit any such reputation if it should be established in
this metropolis and go forth through the whole civilized
world as its act that a man twenty-three years of age
was taken from the side of his widowed mother and led
to a scaffold, the four supports of which were Hatred,
Interest, Malice, and Treachery Justice being pushed
aside that she might take no part in the execution; Re-
ligion being denied a place in the ceremony, and the
superintending demon of the sacrifice being the bloated


Classics o] the Bar

and brutal figure of Intemperance. James T. Brady
in the Trial of Charles M. Jefterds for the Murder of
John W. Matthews in New York.

I HAVE endeavored to analyze the testimony in this
case, believing that before you committed your-
selves to a verdict you, too, would analyze it. My re^
sponsibility ends here. It has been fatiguing to con-
fine myself to facts and not get the relief which comes
from even indulging in imagination. I have spoken
eleven long hours and it has been very fatiguing. I
feel that, however lamely and unfashionably I have
done it, I have done the best I could. I have tried to
assist you. I have been impressed, and shall be re-
sponsible for my opinions all my life.

This case has been the most monstrous in the history
of criminal jurisprudence. I make charges against no
one man; it is a combination of the serious mistakes of
many. This is a hellish tidal wave which rolls forward,
and I have set my face against the breaker of hellish
iconoclasm. If this hellish wave of brutality rises over
me, my last cry, like Warwick's, will be: "Fight oa my
merry men, for him."

If you are to yield to the tremendous pressure urged
upon you to tear down the rules of law and common
sense, then is the only bulwark of American and civil-
ized liberty washed from its foundation. If fanaticism
and the testimony of this vile murderer, conducted to
the witness stand with such pomp, instead of the calm
analysis of the evidence is to govern you, then tell your


Eloquent Perorations

artists to take down from the domes of your court-
houses that angel of justice, and to put in her place the
diseased form of a hag from hell. Let her blink be-
hind the bandage, only put on to dupe the public ; take
down the flag represented by the red, white, and blue;
the red emblematic of the blood of the Divine Martyr,
the white emblematic of the immaculate purity of His
spirit and life, the blue representing the skies to which
He ascended; and bid the officers lift on high your
created, polished, black field of hellish perjury, on
which is painted the form of the human tiger.

These figures, it seems to me, are well borne out by
the calm consideration of this case. Your Honor, I
have done. Gentlemen, I leave my client in your
hands for judgment, conscious that you, gentlemen of
the jury, are in the hands of God, and no power can
harm or mar, hold or control, your verdict. You are
the conscience of this nation. Beware that you do not
betray it. W. W. Irwin in the Harry Hayward Mur-
der Trial.

GENTLEMEN, you belong to an institution and
are representatives of an institution which
has a great history and noble traditions. There have
been times when juries, for what they believed to be
right and truth, have stood up against even the power
of the crown, have braved popular prejudices and
clamor, and have even disregarded the influence of the
bench, sometimes, but rarely, in times past brought to
bear upon them. Some of these influences are things


Classics o] the Bar

of the past, but there is the influence of prejudice, which
may in cases of this kind be often present, and has al-
ways to be combated. I have no fear of the influence
of the bench. There is no fear my lord will attempt to
invade your domain. You are the appointed judges
and arbiters in the case. The responsibility will be
yours alone, and will be the responsibility of each one
among you; for the law in its wisdom has fixed your
number so large, that the heated it might be intem-
perate, or hasty judgment of one or two shall not de-
stroy and outweigh the patient, determined, and anx-
ious judgment of the rest. So select is your number at
the same time as to preserve to each one of you a sense
of individual responsibility; for the verdict which you
give shall be by the law the verdict of each one of you.
This man, standing as he does friendless and alone,
stands almost within the shadow of the scaffold. Can
you will you ought you for this is the important
point save him? You ought not, I say, though I am
his advocate, if after careful, anxious, and thorough
examination and consideration of the facts of this case
you come to the conclusion that the finger of duty points
sternly, conclusively, irresistibly to a verdict of guilty.
But if, after that anxious consideration, a doubt re-
mains if you feel that there are parts of that evidence,
and vital parts, upon which you cannot stand, for they
seem to crumble away beneath your feet then it will
be your duty to say, whatever suspicions you have, that
the prisoner is entitled to the benefit of the doubt which
remains present in your minds, after anxious, solemn


Eloquent Perorations

I would almost say in so serious a matter, your prayer-
ful consideration of the facts of the case. The law
gives him the benefit of the doubt, and justice requires
that he should have it. I make no appeal to you for
mercy. Yours is not the prerogative of mercy; but you
are administering a law which is itself merciful; which
esteems it to be a less grievous thing that the guilty
should at times escape than that the innocent should
perchance suffer. In the spirit of that law, with all the
earnestness of which I am capable, I appeal to you on
behalf of the prisoner. Charles Russell in Defense of
Patrick O'Donnell.

I NOW, gentlemen, with entire confidence, thanking
you for your kind attention, submit the case of my
client to you. I have done my duty. Because Richard
Croker performed his duty, he has been immured within
the four walls of a prison. For this, the honest dis-
charge of duty, day after day, night after night, week
after week, has his incarceration been prolonged. Soon
you must perform your final duty in this memorable
case. God grant that the time may never come when
any of you, for the honest, fearless, faithful perform-
ance of duty, shall suffer martyrdom as has this de-
fendant! At all times, in all emergencies, on all oc-
casions, the only safe guide in all the varied relations,
the ever-shifting scenes of life, is the God-given moni-
tor within every man's bosom conscience. This side
the grave there is no luxury of enjoyment like that of
conscience clear and a sense of duty performed. Bet-


Classics oj the Bar

ter, far better, imprisonment within the walls of yonder
dungeon than the doom of a man who on the witness
stand rolls perjury like a sweet morsel under his tongue.

Because this defendant, when dangers thickened and
ruffian violence was let loose, performed only his duty,
he has been torn from his family and cast into prison.
Gentlemen, I envy you the happy moment so soon to
arrive when your verdict will restore him to that young
and loving wife who so recently gave birth to a son
her first child when the idol of her affections, the part-
ner of her joys and sorrows, was kept from her by bolts
and prison bars.

Ah, gentlemen, you can never know the suffering,
the agony, this young husband, in silence in his prison
cell, endured, when, in her critical condition, he feared
her spirit was hovering between life and death, and he
was thus debarred the dear privilege of ministering to
her wants and watching over her with that tenderness
and devotion inherent in his nature. Well might he

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'erfraught heart, and bids it break.

His father, aged and blind, awaits the deliverance of
this defendant. Whoever has watched this trial can-
not fail to discern his innocence. Throughout the en-
tire evidence the truth of this defense is

So well appareled,
So clear, so shining, and so evident
That it must glimmer through a blind man's eye.

Eloquent Perorations

Gentlemen, only the defendant is lacking to complete
the family group. The loving wife the young mother
the infant son, await the coming of Richard Croker.
The lesson taught by your verdict will sink deep in the
public mind. Let it be known and read of all men,
let it be everywhere understood, that, come what may,
a New York jury dare, and under all circumstances
will, do their duty. Henry L. Clinton in the Trial of
Richard Croker for the Murder of John McKenna.

GENTLEMEN of the jury, the district attorney has
invoked your loyalty. Loyalty is a word that
does not properly belong to the lexicon of republics, but
if it does belong to the lexicon of republics, it means the
faithfulness of the citizen to the supreme power of the
republic. What is the supreme power of the Ameri-
can Republic? The Constitution of the United States,
and the laws in pursuance of that Constitution. The
loyalty of the Austrian is due to the successors of the
Caesars; the loyalty of the Englishman is due to the
Queen; the loyalty of the Frenchman is due to Na-
poleon; but the loyalty of the American citizen is due
to no mortal man; but due to the spirit of human liberty,
incarnate in the Constitution of the United States. Be
loyal to that. Be loyal to the law. Above all things,
be loyal to yourselves, and do your duty. "A feeling
of duty performed," as has been said by a great man,
"will follow you through the world; but a feeling of
duty unperformed will pursue you with the lash of
affliction wherever you may go." All evils that are

Classics of the Bar

physical can be avoided; but evil that comes from the
conscience, when it arraigns us day by day, cannot be
fled from. "You may take up the wings of the morn-
ing, and flee to the uttermost parts of the earth"; but
there is neither rock nor corner in which you can hide
yourselves from it. Go forth then, gentlemen, from
your jury box with a conscience free and unembar-
rassed; a conscience that will say to you in all time to
come: "You have done your duty." Gentlemen of the
jury, I invoke for the prisoner not your mercy, but your
most deliberate judgment. There has been blood
enough in this case. No man can measure with larger
dimensions than myself the enormity of the crime which
was committed in the murder of Abraham Lincoln.
Already four have been hanged, and others suffer pun-
ishment, some for a term of years, and some for life. I
repeat, there has been blood enough. Think, gentle-
men, of what disasters have fallen upon this young man.
Three years ago, within the limits of the city, there was
a quiet wedding. Around the hearth was gathered a
happy band. A mother blessed it with a mother's love.
Her gentle daughter, budding into womanhood, gave to
the scene the sweet hues of her devoted smile. Beside
her sat a brother, just bursting into the promise of the
man. Think, gentlemen, what has transpired since
that night. The bright fire is quenched and gone, the
hearth is desolate, the mother sleeps in a nameless,
felon's grave, the daughter drags out a weary life with
a broken heart, and the son is before you pleading for
his life. But, gentlemen, as I have said, duty per-


Eloquent Perorations

formed must be with you ever. If he is guilty, convict
him; if he is innocent, acquit him. May the eternal
God so guide your judgments and enlighten your con-
victions that the remembrance of this day and the day
of your verdict may hereafter and forever be a sweet
and pleasant recollection. I thank you, gentlemen, for
your kind attention. R. T. Merrick in the Trial of
John H. Surratt for the Murder of Abraham Lincoln.

GENTLEMEN, this is not merely a struggle for
liberty not merely a struggle for life we
battle for character, without which life is but a withering
curse; life without character is as the body after the
soul has fled.

It is as if the dead could feel
The icy worm around them steal,
And shudder, as the reptiles creep
To revel o'er their rotting sleep,
Without the power to scare away
The cold consumers of their clay.

The future of Emma Augusta Burdell not alone
hangs upon your decision. Five children as bright
jewels as ever studded the diadem of woman's pride
must share her glory or infamy. Your verdict must
illumine their future with the serene and hallowed light
of innocence, or shroud it in darkness darker than
death. Must her little sons receive naught but a legacy
of shame? Must it be told them when they grow to
manhood that their mother was deluged in crime, that


Classics of the Bar

their sisters were monsters of iniquity, that what should
have been the temple of domestic purity was but the
charnel house of moral death? Ah, better for those
sisters that the stiletto, bathed in their heart's blood,
should record the death of the body than that your de-
cision should appear as a moral guillotine to sever the
vital principle of integrity from their being aye, a
hundredfold better, than that your verdict should be to
them an index finger upon the guideboard of life's
pathway, pointing to the grave of all their hopes!

When listening to the eloquence of the district attor-
ney, to his reference to ancient and modern classics, to
ancient and modern history, to the sketches he drew of
desperate women, I remembered that in those times
there existed a crime which sapped the very founda-
tion of law a crime which festered and gangrened in
the God-defying action of those into whose hands for
a time was committed the administration of public jus-
tice a crime so baleful in its consequences, so tower-
ing in guilt, as to almost bury in insignificance every
other offense that crime was judicial murder! It ex-
isted when juries convicted of capital offenses in viola-
tion of law and in defiance of evidence. Thank God,
those days have passed! I have no fear that you will
attempt the restoration of that crime, notwithstanding
the manner in which the district attorney has conducted
the prosecution.

Gentlemen, I know the defendant has nothing to fear
from you, the chosen ministers of the law, armed as you
are with the sword of justice to prevent the success of


Eloquent Perorations

perjury and the execution of designs festering in ma-
lignant hate. You will rejoice that duty does not re-
quire but forbids you to throw over my client, her
family one and all the mantle of infamy whose black
and cumbrous folds would envelop and entangle them
in all the varied windings of the labyrinth of life.
You will rejoice in the opportunity to vindicate the
widow and the fatherless, to show that in a court of
justice, come what may, their rights shall be protected.
When the time shall arrive as it will speedily for you
forever to end this case, I venture to say the pleasantest
duty which ever devolved upon you will be to pro-
nounce a fearless and truthful verdict of Not Guilty.
Henry L. Clinton in the Cunningham-BurdeU Murder

GENTLEMEN, in the middle of the fourth
month we draw near to what has seemed to
be an endless labor. While we have been here, events
have transpired which have roused national ambition,
kindled national resentment, drawn forth national sym-
pathies, and threatened to disturb the tranquility of
empires. He who, although He worketh unseen, yet
worketh irresistibly and unceasingly, hath suspended
neither His guardian care nor His paternal discipline
over ourselves. Some of you have sickened and con-
valesced. Others have parted with cherished ones,
who, removed before they had time to contract the
stain of earth, were already prepared for the kingdom
of heaven. There have been changes, too, among the


Classics oj the Bar

unfortunate men whom I have defended. The sound
of the hammer has died away in the workshops of some;
the harvests have ripened and wasted in the fields of
others. Want and fear and sorrow have entered into
all their dwellings. Their own rugged forms have
drooped; their sunburned brows have blanched, and
their hands have become as soft to the pressure of
friendship as yours or mine. One of them a vagrant
boy whom I found imprisoned here for a few extrava-
gant words, that, perhaps, he never uttered, has pined
away and died. Another, he who was feared, hated,
and loved most of all, has fallen in the vigor of life,

hacked down,
His thick summer leaves all faded.

When such a one falls amidst the din and smoke of
the battlefield, our emotions are overpowered, sup-
pressed, lost in the excitement of public passion. But
when he perishes a victim of domestic or social strife,
when we see the iron enter his soul and see it day by
day sinking deeper and deeper until nature gives way
and he lies lifeless at our feet, then there is nothing to
check the flow of forgiveness, compassion, and sym-
pathy. If, in the moment when he is closing his eyes
on earth, he declares: "I have committed no crime
against my country; I die a martyr for the liberty of
speech, and perish of a broken heart" then, indeed,
do we feel that the tongues of dying men enforce atten-
tion like deep harmony. Who would willingly consent
to decide on the guilt or innocence of one who has thus


Eloquent Perorations

been withdrawn from our erring judgment to the tri-
bunal of eternal justice? Yet it cannot be avoided.
If Abel F. Fitch was guilty of the crime charged in this
indictment, every man here may nevertheless be inno-
cent; but if he was innocent, then there is not one of _
these, his associates in life, who can be guilty. Try
him, then, since you must condemn him, if you must

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryAlvin Victor SellersClassics of the bar, stories of the world's great jury trials and a compilation of forensic masterpieces (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 20)