Friday, November 20, 2015

LINCOLN'S LAST MURDER CASE: THE NEWS REPORTS

At the end of his 25 year career as a trial lawyer, Lincoln tried one more murder case, defending the grandson of his old political foe, Rev. Peter Cartwright, "the Backwoods Preacher." It involved a brawl between the sons of two of the most powerful political families in Springfield, Illinois, and it garnered a tremendous amount of media attention. Lincoln turned in a stellar performance in all aspects of the case, cross-examining brilliantly, arguing points of law with great vehemence, and giving a final argument which was described as a tour de force of logical analysis. The two main newspapers in Springfield were the Journal and the Register, and their competition to cover the trial led to some controversy as they argued with each other about how the trial should be covered. Here is a sampling of the news reports of the trial:

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“Affray at Richland—Probable fatal stabbing,” Illinois State Register, July 18, 1859: Yesterday morning an affray took place at Pleasant Plains, between Simeon Q. Harrison and Greek Crafton. We learn that the difficulty grew out of an old grudge between the Parties, which was augmented by some difficulty about a girl, at a picnic on the fourth. Greek was cut across the abdomen from the lower rib on the left side, to the groin on the right, allowing the bowels to protrude. His brother John, in attempting to prevent the stabbing, received a severe wound, by the hand of Harrison, across thearm. Harrison instantly fled, and had not been arrested up to a late hour last night. It is feared that Greek’s wounds will prove fatal.—The State Democrat.

 “Death of Greek Crafton,” Illinois State Journal, July 20, 1859, Edition 2: We learn that Greek Crafton, who was so severely cut in the abdomen on last Saturday by S. Q Harrison, died from the effects of his injuries on Monday night. It appears that not only were his intestines cut, but he also received a fatal stab in the side, the knife passing in between two of his ribs. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Harrison, yesterday morning, and we presume he will have a preliminary examination today. There is much excitement manifested among the friends of the respective parties.

“The Richland Homicide,” Illinois State Register, July 20, 1859: Mr. Greek Crafton, who was wounded in the recent affray at Pleasant Plains, died on Monday night. His brother, John, who was also severely wounded, is lying in a critical state. Mr. John Harrison, who inflicted the wounds upon the Craftons, we learn, has been arrested and brought to town for examination.

“The Crafton Stabbing Affair,” Illinois State Journal, July 21, 1859: We learn that Harrison has not yet been arrested. When Coroner Kidd arrived at Richland he was found to have taken leg bail. The Coroner went to Richland for the purpose of holding an inquest over the body of Crafton, but for some reason it was buried without that formality.

Untitled Article, Illinois State Journal, July 22, 1859: Harrison, by whose hand Greek Crafton came to his death, has not yet been arrested. We understand, however, that he is ready to surrender himself at the proper time for the purposes of a preliminary examination.

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Journal, July 27, 1859, Edition 2: We are informed young Harrison, who caused the death of Greek Crafton, will probably be examined to-morrow. He has not yet been arrested but is ready to give himself up as soon as his witnesses can be got together.

“Surrender of Harrison—Examination set for to-day,” Illinois State Journal, August 2, 1859: Mr. Q. V. Harrison, charged with causing the death of Mr. Greek Crafton, a couple of weeks ago, voluntarily surrendered himself, yesterday morning into the hands of the law. Constable Perce brought him to town. His examination was set for yesterday afternoon before Justices Adams and Hickman; but on account of the absence of the principal witnesses, John Crafton and Silas Livergood, was adjourned till 8 o’clock this morning at the Court House. Harrison remains in the custody of the officers. Seventy-five witnesses have been subpoened and the examination promises to be lengthy. Messrs. White, McClernand and Broadwell appear for the prosecution and Messrs Lincoln, Herndon, Logan and Hay for the defendant.

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Register, August 2, 1859: Simeon Q. Harrison, charged with the killing of Greek Grafton, was before Justices Adams and Hickman yesterday afternoon. J. B. White, the prosecuting attorney, and Col. Jno. A. McClernand appearedd for the people, and Messrs. Logan and Lincoln for the defense. The prosecution stated that they were unable to procure the attendance of two important witnesses for the prosecution, and asked that the examination be continued until the attendance of the witnesses could be had. After several propositions were made and discussed, it was finally agreed to continue the examination until this morning, Harrison to remain in the custody of the officers.

“Examination of Harrison for the Murder of Crafton,” Illinois State Journal, August 3, 1859, Edition 2: The examination of Mr. Quinn Harrison, charged, with the murder of Mr. Greek Grafton, took place on yesterday, before Justices Adams and Hickman. The case excited unusual interest and the Court House was densely crowded during the day. The testimony adduced, is of course too voluminous for our columns. It was clear as to the point that the deceased came to his death by wounds inflicted upon him by a knife in the hands of young Harrison. It appears that the parties had had a quarrel on their way to a Picnic on the Fourth of July because Harrison had told his younger brother that the deceased was a not a fit associate. They were prevented however from fighting, but the deceased threatened to whip Harrison on sight, whereupon the latter remarked, that if Greek ever laid hands on him he should defend himself by shooting him. Their next meeting was in Short’s Drug Store at Richland, and it was in there that the affray occurred. Greek, it seems, saw Harrison go in the Store and followed him in and commenced an attack upon him, John Crafton also assisting. In the midst of the melee, Greek was fatally cut by Harrison’s knife. This is a mere outline of the facts so far as we heard them, on which the defense urge the plea that Harrison acted wholly in self-defense in this matter. Quite a number of witnesses were examined, and almost all testified to Crafton’s saying he would whip Harrison, and one went so far as to say he intended to do this by throwing him down and stamping him in the face. The examination closed about six o’clock last evening, and the court adjourned over until 8 o’clock this morning to hear the summing up of the testimony by the lawyers.

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Register, August 3, 1859: The examination of S. Q. Harrison, for the killing of Greek Crafton, at Pleasant Plains on the 16th ult., was continued, before Justice Adams and Hickman, yesterday. For the prosecution, Silas Livergood, B. F. Short, Frederick Henry, Daniel Harnett, J. C. Bone, Edward Crafton, Wm. Million, and Wm. Purriance were examined.

Livergood, Short and Harnett testified to the infliction of the wounds by Harrison; who was attacked by deceased. The testimony of the other witnesses was as to previous ill blood between the parties, and threats of deceased to whip Harrison, and of the latter to kill Crafton if he molested him.

‘For the defense, John Allen, Thomas White, A. W. Hays, A. Weir, Thomas Turley, P. M. Carter, Rev. P. Cartright and Rev. John Slater were examined.

Their testimony was mainly to show that threats had been made by Crafton to whip or shoot Harrison, and that the latter threatened to kill deceased if he ever attempted to molest him.

Mr. Cartright testified that Crafton, on his death-bed, absolved Harrison from blame, and blamed himself for the difficulty and its sad result. Mr. :Slater’s testimony was to the same effect. This was rebutted by that of Dr. Million, who was recalled, and who stated that he had had several conversations with Crafton on his dying bed, relative to the difficulty, and that he did not absolve Harrison from blame, but censured him.

After the examination of witnesses entire, by agreement of counsel on both sides, the court adjourned until this morning at 8 o’clock, to argue the case, upon the testimony presented.

There was a very large crowd in attendance all day, and the most profound interest was manifested.

The argument to-day will be by Messrs. McClernand and Broadwell and White for the prosecution, and Messers. Logan and Lincoln for the defense.

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Journal, August 4, 1859: The whole of yesterday was occupied by the counsel in summing, up the evidence in this case. The opening speech was made by Mr. Broadwell, for the prosecution. He was followed by Judge Logan and Mr. Lincoln for the defense. Mr. McCIernand then closed for the State. The Justices decided upon all the facts of the case, that he be bound over in the sum of ten thousand dollars. The sureties given were Peyton Harrison, Coleman Gaines and Peter Cartwright. The counsel for the accused, although very clear that he committed the homicide in self-defense, suggested this course to the court, lest his release might appear like too hasty a disposition of so serious a matter. The Court House was crowded to excess the whole day, many being attracted there to hear the able arguments of the counsel in the case.

“Conclusion of the Examination of Harrison,” Illinois State Register, August 4, 1859: The whole of yesterday was occupied before Justices Adams and Hickman in the summing up of the evidence in the case of Harrison, arraigned for the murder of Greek Crafton. The The speeches of Mr. Broadwell for the prosecution and Mr. Logan for the defense occupied the whole of the forenoon, and these of Mr. Lincoln for the defense and Mr. McClernand for the prosecution the whole of the afternoon. The grounds both pro and con were strongly contested, and the testimony thoroughly sifted. It was sought on the part of the state to sustain the charge of murder, and to place the case beyond the power of the court to allow bail for the future appearance of Harrison. The court, however, ordered that he be held to bail in the sum of $10,000 to appear before the next term of the Sangamon circuit court, to answer to the charge of manslaughter.

“Indictment of Harrison,” Illinois State Journal, August 29, 1859:  We are informed that the Grand Jury have found a bill against young Quinn Harrison for the murder of Greek Grafton. By what mode of precedence they made up their minds to such an indictment is a mystery. If there ever was a case of killing in self-defense, we think the testimony at the preliminary examination of Harrison, showed one. The public would not have a word to say even had the Jury seen fit to call it manslaughter; but among those who seem entirely disinterested and impartial in the matter, who have known Greek and Quinn as boys together, and had the same friendship for both, there is much surprise and astonishment manifested. If the Grand Jury in this case could see its way clear to indict Harrison, we do not see how it can fail to indict Matteson for larceny on the much stronger testimony against him. But we guess “that’s a bay horse of a different color.” Harrison’s trial is set for Wednesday by agreement of parties.

“The Harrison indictment,” Illinois State Register, August 30, 1859:  The grand jury, on Saturday found a bill of murder, against Quinn Harrison for the killing of Greek Crafton. Whether rightly or not, it is not for the public press now to express an opinion in justice to either party. But we regret to see that the Journal makes such find a subject of censure; coupling it with matters connected with the political efforts of that paper.

The Journal’s paragraph is one which cannot but be deprecated by every thinking man. It is unjust to the party it assumes to defend, who, if really not indictable for murder, cannot be benefitted by mingling his cause with the partisan commentary of the newspaper press; and so his friends feel it.

The killing of Crafton is a subject of judicial examination. Investigation by the grand jury is a part of the necessary routine. If their finding is to be subject of newspaper commentary pending the trial, and in manner to excite prejudice by joining such comment with matters having partisan connection, the decision of court and jury must necessarily be subject of similar preparatory controversy.

We express no opinion in regard to the finding of the grand jury, but, as a law-abiding citizen, we protest against the conduct of a public journal which assumes to prejudge judicial investigation; and more especially, when that journal attempts to bring partisan feeling to bear in matters before the courts affecting, not only the integrity of the officers of the law, and those under examination for its alleged infraction, but affecting the life of a human being.

If the action of our courts is to be moulded by outside opinion, expressed through the political press, we may as well conclude to decide judicial questions by popular election—to set aside constitution and law, and leave such self-constituted exponents of law and gospel as the editors of the Journal to decide, not only as to the making of the laws, but the manner of their execution by the courts.

We repeat that the Journal does injustice to Mr. Harrison. Its attorneyship can be of no benefit to him, and if its expressions effect anything, it can be only to his detriment, by creating the impression that such extraordinary means as the use of a partisan press, in a judicial investigation, is sought to further his interests, through party friends, in the absence of confidence in his innocence of the charge upon which he is arraigned.

We have full confidence that the court and jury will do its duty, and that justice will be done, upon thorough examination of the subject. In common with all good citizens, we deplore the causes which have led to the trial, and it is only cause of additional regret that anyone should be so foolish as to attempt to produce results in manner adopted by the Journal in its yesterday’s issue.

“The Harrison Case,” Springfield Evening Independent, August 31, 1859: The trial of Quinn Harrison, indicted by the Grand Jury for the murder of Greek Crafton, was reached today at about 11 o’clock. Many of the witnesses were not present, and the case was postponed till two o’clock thin afternoon. Messrs. White, McClernand, Broadwell, and B. S. Edwards are for the prosecution, and Messrs. Lincoln, Logan and Cullom are retained for the defense. The indisposition of Mr. Edwards may prevent his making an argument in the case. Mr. E. B. Hitt, of Chicago, has been engaged to report the trial. Up to 4 o’clock, only three jurymen had been empanelled.

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Journal, September 1, 1859, Edition 2: The trial of Quinn Harrison, indicted by. the Grand. Jury, for the’ murder of Greek Crafton, is set by agreement, for this morning. We presume it will not be disposed, of for several days, as there are a large number of witnesses to be examined. Messrs; White, and McClernand & Broadwell, and B. S. Edwards, are for the prosecution, and Messrs. Lincoln and Logan are retained for the defense. The indisposition of Mr. Edwards may prevent his taking any part in the trial.

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Journal, September 1, 1859: Owing to the interest which is felt in this case, now bofore the Circuit Court, and the further fact that the parties concerned are old and valued citizens of the county, we have made arrangements for reporting the testimony in full. For this purpose we have secured the services of Mr. it; R. Hitt, the well known law reporter of Chicago.

“The Register and the Grand Jury,” Illinois State Journal, September 1, 1859, Edition 2: Our paragraph in reference to the severe action of the Grand Jury in the Harrison case, affords occasion for a very affecting comment on the part of the Register. That sheet is wonderfully afraid that we are trying to give the case a political turn, which was as remote as possible from our intention. Upon what the Register predicates its fears, is not so apparent, unless it assumes that the acts of a Grand Jury are, forsooth, above all scrutiny or “censure,” which we would inform the editor, is not our nderstanding of the matter. We do not believe, as the Register seems to, that Grand Juries are omnipotent inquisitions, but we hold that they are just as responsible to public opinion for what they do as individuals. But it sounds rather laughable in the Register to talk about our lugging politics into the courts, when it is notorious that the very Grand Jury, which that sheet apologizes for, is a packed political machine, made up entirely of the very strongest Democratic partisans, for a particular purpose. If the Register is sincere in its deprecation of partisanism in judicial proceedings, let it begin by venting a small vial full of indignation at the composition of its present Grand Jury, before it presumes to arraign others on the charge. But aside from all this, and from the evident effort of the Register to call attention, politically, to the case of our Quinn Harrison, we trust that court and the traverso jury will act fairly and do their whole duty in the premises.

Untitled Article, Illinois State Register, September 1, 1859: The Journal makes a lame excuse for its paragraph prejudging the Harrison case, now pending in the circuit court, and charges us with what we condemned in its first paragraph. The justice of this we are willing to leave to public judgment, We repeat what we said on Tuesday—nobody can be benefitted by such attorneyship as that volunteered by the Journal. It is unjust to either side, and can result in no public good. We do not consider courts or juries immaculate, but there in a proper and improper time to discuss the correctness of their action. In the present instance we think the Journal has chosen the latter, to say nothing of the manner of its discussion. That’s all.

Untitled Article, Illinois State Journal, September 2, 1859: The counsel in the Harrison case being desirous of securing a full and verbatim report of the entire proceedings, it became necessary for Mr. Hitt, the law reporter, to devote his whole time to them. Consequently, we are unable to give as full a report as we intended we present however, a carefully prepared abstract, embracing every essential point, prepared by our own reporter.

“Trial of P. Quinn Harrison, Indicted for the Murder of Greek Crafton,” Illinois State Journal, September 2, 1859: [The paper gives a verbatim transcript of the testimony of the second day of the trial, ending with the defense offering Rev. Cartwright’s testimony concerning Greek Crafton’s deathbed statement.]

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Register, September 2, 1859: One of the jurymen empanelled on Wednesday being taken sick, most of the forenoon yesterday was occupied in completing the panel. The examination of the witnesses, on the part of the defense, was commenced, and some five or six were examined, when court adjourned for the day. The trial will occupy several days yet.

“The Harrison Trial,” Illinois State Journal, September 3, 1859: At the opening of Court, yesterday morning, Rev. Peter Cartwright was re-called for further examination. The Court decided, upon the previous” objection, that the evidence as to the dying declarations of Crafton must be heard while the jury were excluded; to which ruling the defendant’s counsel excepted.

The jury then retired, and Rev. Mr. Cartwright stated to the Court in a characteristic and forcible manner, the particulars of his visit to the bedside of the dying Crafton. The Court, after argument, decided that it was competent for the jury to hear the evidence; overruling the objection made by the prosecution. The jury were then brought in, and Rev. Mr. Cartwright in a voice tremulous with age and feeling, repeated his statement ***.

[T]he witness was [then]discharged from further attendance.

The Defense then renewed the question raised yesterday, offering to prove by witnesses, that at different times between the 4th and 16th of July, Greek Crafton made threats against Quinn Harrison, and to show that these threats were made within half an hour of the rencountre, so as to render it probable that he was in the same state of mind at the time of the struggle; though those threats had not been made known to the defendant. Mr. Broadwell for the prosecution, proceeded to argue against its admissibility. Mr. Logan and Mr. Lincoln followed, Mr. Palmer closing the argument, discussing the subject with learning and eloquence.

At the meeting of the Court after dinner, the Court decided the question, overruling the objections and admitting the testimony.

Madison Cartwright confirmed Rev. Peter Cartwright’s statement as to the declaration of Greek Crafton. P. M. Carier testified to threats made by Greek prior to the 16th. Dr. John Slater also confirmed Rev. Peter Cartwright. Thomas Turley, John Alien, John Purvians, Abijah Nottingham, James Zanes also testified as to various threats; when the defense rested.

The Prosecution called Jacob Epler to rebut Mr. Cartwright, or rather to add to his statement. Dr. Million was called for the same purpose; but Mr. Palmer withdrew his testimony and announced that the evidence was closed. Mr. Broadwell proceeded to sum up the case to the jury. At the conclusion of his argument, which was somewhat shortened owing to the feeble state of his health, Court took a recess until half past seven o’clock, P. M.

Eight o’clock,’ p. M.—Mr. Cullom, on behalf of the defense, proceeded to discuss the case; but had not gone far, when, owing to the great heat of the crowded court room, he became ill and was unable to proceed further. Judge Logan immediately entered upon his argument, which he continued for an hour and a quarter with great ability, discussing the facts with the most impressive earnestness and eloquence. Without concluding, he gave way, and court adjourned until nine o’clock to-morrow morning. Mr. Logan will continue and conclude his argument this morning, to be followed by Mr. Lincoln; after which Mr. Palmer will close the whole argument.

“The Harrison Case,” Illinois State Register, September 3, 1859: A motion having been made on Thursday afternoon, to exclude as evidence the threats made by Crafton, a warm debate sprung up between the counsel on yesterday morning. Judge Rice rendered his decision in favor of admitting the testimony. The evidence in the case closed late in the afternoon, when Mr. Broadwell addressed the jury on the part of the prosecution and court adjourned until half past seven in the evening. The other gentlemen in the case may probably conclude their arguments during the night session the case has not occupied as much time as was generally anticipated.

“The Harrison Trial—Verdict, Not Guilty,” Illinois State Journal, September 5, 1859: At the meeting of the Court on Saturday morning, Judge Logan resumed his argument and continued it for near two hours as ably as he had begun on Friday night. Mr. Lincoln, also on behalf of the prisoner followed him in a speech of two hours, examining the evidence with great skill and clearness, discussing the law and replying to the positions assumed by the counsel for the prosecution with a subtle and resistless logic, and frequent illustrations of singular fitness. It was delivered in an earnest, natural and energetic manner.

Court then took a recess for dinner.

Mr. Palmer proceeded at the meeting of the Court in the afternoon, to the closing argument for the prosecution. He spoke with marked ability for three hours, evincing great ingenuity in handling the testimony, interspersing many remarks upon human nature and human passions, the duties of the citizens and the spirit of the law.

At the conclusion of the argument the jury retired in charge of the officer—it then being eleven minutes after four o’clock. The crowd, which filled the court-room, hall and stairway densely, awaited their return with the most anxious expectation. At twenty one minutes after five o’clock, having been out one hour and ten minutes, the jury returned, and the foreman informed the Court that they had agreed upon a verdict at the same time handing it up upon a slip of paper. His Honor, Judge Rice, opened it, and while every sound in the densely packed room was hushed, and every face filled with anxiety, read: “We, the Jury, find the defendant Not Guilty as charged in the indictment.” The announcement was greeted with loud and prolonged applause in spite of the efforts of the officers to subdue the manifestation of feeling.

The prisoner, P. Quinn Harrison, was of course immediately discharged, whereupon he was surrounded by his friends and received their congratulations with a countenance beaming with joy, but with a grave and dignified reserve, well befitting the occasion.

“Harrison Acquitted,” Illinois State Register, September 5, 1859: The trial of P.Q. Harrison for the killing of Greek Crafton, terminated on Saturday, in his acquittal. The whole day was occupied by counsel in the argument of the case, and great legal ability was evinced on either side. The argument closed about 4 o’clock and the jury retired. At 6 they returned a verdict of “not guilty.” The courtroom was densely crowded to hear the verdict, which was received with loud manifestations of applause.

The deepest interest has been excited by this trial, which has occupied four days, during which time the courthouse has been crowded with people, to hear the testimony and arguments of counsel.

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