Lack of Evidence
As Described by Judge Horton When He Ordered a New Trial in the Case of Haywood Patterson on June 22, 1933


When Judge Horton ordered a new trial in the case of Haywood Patterson on June 22, 1933, he discussed the lack of evidence corroborating Victoria Price and Ruby Bates' accusations of rape. The following is an excerpt from Judge Horton's opinion:

With seven boys present at the beginning of this trouble, with one seeing the entire affair, with some fifty or sixty persons meeting them at Paint Rock and taking the women, the white boy Gilley, and the nine negroes in charge, with two physicians examining the women within one to one and one half hours, according to the tendency of all the evidence, after the occurrence of the alleged rape, and with the acts charged committed in broad daylight, we should expect from all this cloud of witnesses or from the mute but telling physical condition of the women or their clothes some one fact in corroboration of this story.

Let us consider the rich field from which such corroboration [of evidence] may be gleaned.

1. Seven boys on the gondola at the beginning of the fight, and Orville Gilley, the white boy, who remained on the train, and who saw the whole performance.

2. The wound inflicted on the side of Victoria Price's head by the butt-end of a pistol from which the blood did flow.

3. The lacerated and bleeding back of the body, a part of which was stripped of clothing and lay on jagged sharp rock, which body two physicians carefully examined for injuries shortly after the occurrence.

4. Semen in the vagina and its drying and starchy appearance in the pubic hair and surrounding parts.

5. Two doctors who could testify that they saw her coat all spattered over with semen; who could testify to the blood and semen on her clothes, and to the bleeding vagina.

6. Two doctors who could testify to the wretched condition of the women, their wild eyes, dilated pupils, fast breathing, and rapid pulse.

7. The semen which must have eventually appeared with increasing evidence in the pants of the rapists as each wallowed in its spreading ooze. The prosecutrix testified semen was being emitted by her rapists, and common sense tells us six discharges is a considerable quantity.

8. Live spermatozoa, the active principle of semen, would be expected in the vagina of the female from so recent discharges.

9. The washing before the first trial by Victoria Price of the very clothes which she claimed were stained with semen and blood.

Taking up these points in order, what does the record show?

None of the seven white boys was put on the stand, except Lester Carter, and he contradicted her.

Returning to the pistol lick on the head. The doctor testifies: "I did not sew up any wound on this girl's head; I did not see any blood on her scalp. I don't remember my attention being called to any blood or blow on the scalp."

Next was she thrown and abused, as she states she was, upon the chert--the sharp, jagged rock?

Dr. Bridges states as to physical hurts-- we found some small scratches on the back part of the wrist; she had some blue places in the small of the back, low down in the soft part, three or four bruises about like the joint of your thumb, small as a pecan, and then on the shoulders a blue place about the same size--and we put them on the table, and an examination showed no lacerations.

Victoria Price testified that as the negroes had repeated intercourse with her she became wetter and wetter around her private parts.

Dr. Bridges and Dr. Lynch examined her; they looked for semen around her private parts; they found on the inside of her thighs some dirty places. The dirty places were dry and infiltrated with heavy dust and dirt. The vagina is examined to see whether or not any semen was in the vagina. He takes a cotton swab and with the aid of a speculum and headlight inserts the cotton mop into the woman's vagina and swabs around the cervix, which is the mouth of the uterus or womb. He extracts the substance adhering to the cotton and places this substance under a microscope. He finds that there are spermatozoa in the vagina. He finds this spermatozoa to be non-motile. He says that non-motile means the spermatozoa were dead.

Was there any evidence of semen on the clothes of any of the negroes?

Though these negroes were arrested just after the alleged acts, and though their clothes and pants were examined or looked over by the officers, not a witness testified as to seeing any semen or even any wet or damp spots on their clothes.

What of the coat of the woman spattered with semen and the blood and semen on the clothes and the bleeding vagina?

Dr. Bridges says he did not see any blood coming from her vagina; that Mrs. Price had on step-ins, but did not state they were torn or had blood or semen on them. Not a word from this doctor of the blood and semen on the dress; not a word of the semen all spattered over the coat.

What of the physical appearance of these two women when the doctors saw them?

Dr. Bridges says when the two women were broght to his office neither was hysterical, or nervous about it at all. He noticed nothing unusual about their respiration and their pulse was normal. Such a normal physical condition is not the natural accompaniment or result of so horrible an experience.

Lastly, before leaving Dr. Bridges let us quote his summary of all that he observed:

"Q. In other words the best you can say about the whole case is that both these women showed they had had intercourse?"

"A. Yes, sir."

Is there corroboration in this? We think not, especially as the evidence points strongly to Victoria Price having intercourse with one Tiller on serveral occasions just before leaving Huntsville. That she slept in a hobo jungle in Chattanooga, side by side with a man. The dead spermatozoa and the dry dirty spots would be expected from those earlier acts.


These materials were prepared as part of a class assignment for The Seminar in Famous Trials course at the University of Missouri-K.C. School of Law. The use of any sound or images in the trials sites is in furtherance of the educational mission of the Seminar.