From the activity of S. L. Hutchins, a negro lawyer of this city, it is the opinion of officers of the criminal court that the case of the state of Tennessee against Ed Johnson will be taken to the supreme court in some manner. During the past two or three days Hutchins has been busying himself at the court house looking up the record of the case and he has expressed the intention to get the case before the court of last resort if possible.
It was said yesterday on the authority of several prominent negroes that there had been considerable activity among people of that race since Hutchins took up the case to raise the funds to support the proposed action. A report that the negro churches had in some instances taken up public collections at the Sunday services for that purpose was in circulation, but could not be confirmed yesterday.
It is generally conceded that if the case is taken before the supreme court at all it will be on a writ of certiorari dealing principally with the rule of Judge McReynolds' court governing motions. There has long been a rule of that court – and it has stood the test heretofore – that when defendants desire to apply for a rehearing notice of the same must be filed on the day when the verdict is returned. Three days are allowed defendant's attorneys wherein to file a motion for a new trial and the argument usually takes place on the next regular motion day. An examination of the court records show that the above rule has been frequently invoked in the past and that there are convicts now in the penitentiary for whom new trials were applied for in conflict with the rule and overruled on that account.
N. W. Parden, the negro lawyer who made the argument before Judge McReynolds for a suspension of this rule, was informed at the time that no exception could be made in the Johnson case. The explanation was made that the court must abide by its rule in all cases and no motion could be entertained at so late a date.
The only recourse open under the circumstances, in the opinion of lawyers, is to apply to the supreme court for a stay of execution until the case can be argued directly on the subject of the rule as invoked by the court.
Each day produces its quota of rumors in the case. There was one report
yesterday that the lawyer, Hutchins, had stated that he knew that Johnson
was not guilty and that he knew who the guilty party was. Hutchins could
not be seen about this report.
It was stated that some negroes were claiming that the guilty party was a white man who had blackened his face. Each inquiry added a new circumstance to the story, the final addition being that there were two persons who had seen the white man wash his face afterward and that he still possessed the strap. Attention was called to the fact that the strap was in the possession of the sheriff and that he came in possession of it on the night of the crime.
It was seriously stated, however, that some such representations would be made to the supreme court in the attempt to secure a new trial.
In view of the past record regarding rules of procedure and the admitted fairness of the trial of Johnson here, there are decidedly few persons familiar with court practice who are willing to predict any adverse opinion by the supreme court. The opinion provides that Johnson will suffer death by hanging on March 18.
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