W. G. M. THOMAS TELLS WHY CASE WILL NOT BE APPEALED
To the People of Chattanooga:
I cannot leave my fellow-citizens ignorant of what occurred on yesterday. If any lawyer for a prisoner and any twelve jurors trying a prisoner should have the sympathy fo the people, that sympathy should be freely given to the jurors and the defendant's attorney's in this case. What we have suffered: the mental strain we have been under; the weight fo the burden of the responsibility upon us cannot be told. The horror and awfulness of the last few days are things I hope never again to be called on to endure.
When the jury brought in a verdict of guilty, we, as the attorneys had to settle the question whether the case would be appealed to the Supreme Court. I felt that we should not bear that responsibility alone, and I went to Judge McReynolds and asked him to appoint three other lawyers to meet with Judge Shepherd, Mr. Cameron and myself, and counsel and advise with us and help to share with us the responsibility. Judge McReynolds granted my request and appointed Messrs. Foster V. Brown, Robert Pritchard and J. H. Cantrell, and said to me that those three gentlemen would meet us at the office of Garvin & Cantrell at 1:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon. We all met at that hour and we were in consultation until 3 o'clock. The case was reviewed; and our duty and the rights of the defendant were discussed. The most careful reflection was given to the horrible crime charged against the defendant, and the fact that a jury had, upon their oath, fixed that crime on the accused man. We discussed the recent mob uprising and the state of unrest in the community. It was the judgment of all present that the life of the defendant, even if the wrong man, could not be saved that an appeal would so inflame the public that the jail would be attacked and perhaps other prisoners executed by violence. In the opinion of all of us a case was presented where the defendant, not that he had been convicted by a jury, must die by the judgment of the law, or else, if his case were appealed, he would die by the act of an uprising of the people.
We discussed the trial, and it was agreed by all that it was quiet and orderly and fair according to the forms of the law, and that no error had been made in the charge or in admitting or excluding evidence. All were agreed that the jury was one of the best which ever sat in our court house. Messrs, Brown, Pritchard and Cantrell agreed that Judge Shepherd, Mr. Cameron and I had performed our full duty in our disagreeable task, and that, if a mistake were made and the defendant were not the right man, the mistake was not chargeable to us and the responsibility not on us. In view of all the conditions, it was the unanimous vote that the law ought to be allowed to take its course fi Judge McReynolds were satisfied with the verdict and if he were to approve it and pass judgment of death on it.
It was suggested that we ought to go to the jail and see the prisoner and lay the facts before him, and if he demanded an appeal, then he ought to have that right under the law. Judge Shepherd, Mr. Cameron and I went to the jail and spent a half hour with the man. We ask him if he felt that we had performed our duty in his defense, and he answered that he did not know what we could have done for him. I said: "Ed we don't know whether you are the guilty man or not; but you and God know. The jury says you are the man." His reply was: "Yes, they have put it on me, and I guess I have to take it, but I ain't guilty." I then said to him: "Ed, your life has been saved up to this time, but the people believe now that the jury have acted more than they ever did before, that you are the right man. They are outraged against you and even if you are innocent, as you say you are, we do not believe that we can save your life." Judge Shepherd explained to him his right of appeal: that the supreme court met in September next; that an appeal would stay the judgment until that time that we did not see any reasonable grounds to suppose that the supreme court would reverse the sentence and that we feared an appeal would cause mob violence against him. I asked him if he had ever heard the story of "Old Dog Tray," and he said he had. I told him that old dog Tray lost his life because he was found in bad company; and I said: "Ed, the Last Chance Saloon, is bad company if you are an innocent man, you, like old dog Tray, were found in bad company. Old dog Tray lost his life on that account, and it looks like you must lose your life on the same account. The jury would not believe your bad company. If you die, Ed, and you are innocent, your bad company will be the thing that kills you, because the jury refused to believe anything they said."
Without giving all that occurred at the jail, he said to us that he did not want to die by a mob; that he would do as we thought best. He said he would go over to the courthouse and tell the judge that he did not have anything more to say that that he was not the guilty man.
I want the people to know that the foregoing facts moved us to allow the law to take its course under the verdict of the jury and the judgment of Judge McReynolds. Six lawyers settled it in this way after the calmest reflection and under the keenest sense of the great responsibility.
In view of the awfulness of the crime committed, I beg that the sheriff and every peace officer of Chattanooga and Hamilton county will still try to get all possible further light, and if any person anywhere know anything whatever to show or reflect light on either the fault or innocence of the defendant, I beg that such person make known all that he may know to us or to A. G. Whitaker.
W. G. Thomas
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