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STEPHENSON v. STATE: Trial Summations

November 12-14, 1925

Prosecutor Will Remy

 Closing Argument for the Prosecution: William Remy


We have had a fair trial and these defendants have had a fair trial. No one In the history of jurisprudence ever had a fairer trial.

Gentlemen of the jury. . . Madge Oberholtzer is dead.

She would be alive today If It was not for the unlawful acts of David C. Stephenson, Earl Klinck, and Earl Gentry. They de­stroyed her body. They tried to destroy her soul. And here In the past few days they have attempted to befoul her charac­ter. It's easy to understand that any man who had stooped to the crimes charged against the defendants would not hesi­tate to assassinate a character.

Madge Oberholtzer was looking into the face of eternity when she made her statement. All the means that were em­ployed by the defense couldn't break it down. And so, they tried to make you think that Madge Oberholtzer was a bad girl! That is the most shameful page of the history of this case. They put their gang on the stand-I say gang advisedly, for these witnesses were part of the little coterie or organiza­tion of men who worked for or under Stephenson-some of whom were paid by him and who associated with him. They were put on the stand because they couldn't get anyone else! Her character still shines untarnished!

But they were unable to break down her story. Through their maze of lies and artifices, her statement stands forth as the truth. . . . He said he was the law in Indiana, and gentle­men, sometimes I think he was not far from being the law In Indiana. Thank God he can't say he is the law in Hamilton County....
They did not go to Chicago. No! That would have meant crossing the state line, and It would have brought a charge in the federal court. Even Mr. Stephenson is afraid of that court. He does not claim to be the law in the United States. He limits himself to Indiana, I hope....

Stephenson said to her when he learned she had taken the poison: "You'll have to have your stomach pumped out." I don't know where he had the experience, but he knew her stom­ach should be washed out. As to experience, he told Gentry, "I have been in tighter places than this, Gentry, but have always got out." Wouldn't it be interesting to hear about some of those tighter places?

Then he offered to take her to a hospital where she could register as his wife. But she refused to do that. She refused, as any decent, self-respecting woman would, to pose as his wife.  If Madge had been the kind of girl they would have you believe she was, she would have done as Stephenson suggested, gone to Crown Point and married him, or gone to a hospital and registered as his wife. The reason she did not was that she was a clean, decent, honorable, respectable girl, who had been trapped by these fiends. It Is to her everlasting honor that she refused to do these things that Stephenson finally suggested after he became scared....

The delay that elapsed from the time they learned she was suffering the pangs of death, the exposure and lack of care, hastened her death. It's the law of Indiana that although a person has been told by hundreds of doctors he is to die in six, twelve, or two hours, he has the right to the last ten minutes of his life, and any who fails to give the attention and
care it is possible to give is guilty of murder....

This girl's life might have been saved. The defense says it could not, but there have been cases where the life of a person was saved under such conditions where the persons had gone for as many hours without treatment.
But there was an abscess on her lung, brought on by the fangs of D. C. Stephenson. These doctors-the best that could be obtained-said that helped to cause her death....

Closing Argument for the Defense: Ira Holmes

...I have yet to hear him [Ramy] give a witness for the defense any credit for telling the truth. Witnesses for the state are always truthful and the defense wit­nesses are lying, according to him....

Suicide is not a crime In Indiana. There­fore, to be an accessory before or after the fact would be no crime in Indiana....

When I deny the truth of statements in this alleged dying dec­laration, I am not saying that Madge Oberholtzer lied. This statement did not originate with her. It originated in the
mind of Asa Smith, with the aim of making money....

Why didn't she make an outcry when she was taken through Union Station? . . . The statement says that after they were In Hammond, Madge Oberholtzer was forced to send a telegram dictated by Stephenson. Shortly afterward, she was allowed to go out alone to purchase a hat. She bought the hat and a little later went into a drug store, unguarded, and bought the poison. Couldn't she have sent another telegram refuting the one 'dictated' by Stephenson?
We have done nothing to blacken her [Madge's] character any more than the evidence of what she did during her life serves to blacken her character.

If you find Stephenson guilty of murder, you must find that he forced her to take poison and there was no evidence like that.

Closing Argument for the Prosecution: Charles Cox

I know, gentlemen of the jury, that some of you would be reluctant, in the ordinary murder case-perhaps in any murder case-to vote to inflict the death penalty. But let me ask, if a degenerate sheep dog got into your fold and killed your ewe lambs, wouldn't you kill him? The law-your law and mine ­gentlemen of the jury, says that if murder is committed in the act of committing a rape or by the administering of or causing poi­son to be administered, that one of the penalties shall be death.

If these men-Stephenson, the sadist, the moral degener­ate, and Klinck, the gorilla, the strong-arm man, and Gentry, who minister to distressed womanhood by sitting by and without protest seeing a woman ravished-if these men can take away a lady, entrap the one you love. . . and defile her and bite her and kill her by physical force or mental compulsion, those men should be killed by the law. . . .

They did not intend to kill her, perhaps, but they are lia­ble criminally. They are responsible to the law for everything that naturally and probably flowed from the things they did to her.

Her name has not been assailed. It could not be. If it could have, these ghouls would have done it. Instead they tried to attack her name, her memory by insinuation and innuendo. They try in this way to lead you to believe Madge Oberholtzer was a bad woman. They killed her, murdered her, and now they would write the scarlet letter on her tomb. [Cox points at Inman]. Are you going to let this painter of words, this man with the melodious voice, paint this letter on her tomb? He can't do it. But that is what it would mean if the verdict coming from you men is any­thing short of murder.

These degenerates, these perverts, drunken with power, would go free to commit other outrages. But you won't let them do it. I think I know what is in the hearts of good men....

I told you in my opening statement that Madge Ober­holtzer would be the principal witness for the state and, gentle­men, she has been.  That morning in the garage of Stephenson's, she was so prostrate, so weak and helpless, she could not dress herself. Klinck, the beast, the gorilla, dressed her. No doubt her mind went back to the days when she was a lisping child at her moth­er's knee and she must have thought of the awful contrast of be­ing dressed by her mother and there that morning having to attend her this beast, this Klinck.

You remember that she went on that trip without coat or hat. Would that appear she went on this trip willingly? You know it's not true. If a woman of brazen character would not do a thing like this, you know a woman of good standing and reputa­tion would not be a willing member of the party.

There is a man and woman in this courtroom now, a broken father and mother who brought Madge Oberholtzer into this world, who rejoiced at her coming, who cared for her in her babyhood, in her infancy, in her childhood, their only little girl, their only ewe lamb. They are entitled to some consideration at your hands, gentlemen of the jury. They are entitled to ask you that all that human laws can do shall be done, and they do not ask it except they are justified by the evi­dence and the law, as they are....

Madge Oberholtzer's brutal murder must be avenged by the law, and I ask you, gentlemen of the jury, in the name of the law, in the name of this sorrowing father and mother, in the name of virtuous girls, in the name of the daughters of us all, in the name of all good women everywhere, in the name of justice and in the name of the law. I ask you to write your verdict with a view of stopping the sort of thing that has been going on. Write it so that it will be impossible again for one, coming as this man came to the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis two or three years ago, and in two or three years boasting that he is the law and the government in Indiana, that he can commit crimes so detestable as this and get away with it because he has power.

Closing Argument for the Defense: Floyd Christian

...How did this girl know about bichloride of mercury? I don't know, but there must be some explana­tion. How did she take it? It hasn't been proved beyond a reason­able doubt that she did take it by mouth.

Sometimes girls in our best families do things that are wrong. Why didn't she tell her mother first? Why was her mother and father barred from the room when Smith, Dean, and Kingsbury framed that dying statement?        

If a man went home and committed suicide because his banker refused to lend him money, you wouldn't hang the banker. It would be a plain case of suicide, as this is. Suicide can't be homicide and homicide can't be suicide. They are as dif­ferent as black is from white....

[U]phold true American principles and, with the courage of heroes, write a verdict on the evidence in the case, having in mind the definition of a reasonable doubt.

Closing Argument for the Defense: Eph Inman

There probably has been no case like this in the history of the American Union. There has been none in the world, so far as I know.

It is no trouble for you men to see that there is some mysterious power in this state that is back of the persecution of these men--trying to send them to the electric chair. These men know it. D. C. Stephenson knows it. Some men are jingling the gold now of the enemies who seek their destruction.                  

I would [wish] that you and I-the thirteen of us-could sit down and talk about this case, that you might ask questions of me, and we could clear this thing up.

The attorneys for the prosecution were hired for money to get blood in this case. The state has drawn
pictures not with brush and paint, but with brush and mud. Judge Cox said some of the most terrible things I ever heard said in a court room.

I'm not here to blacken the character or the name of Madge Oberholtzer. I'm here to be of some service to you, if I can in my own feeble and humble way. [Pointing to Stephenson] They are trying to rush this man to the electric chair to get rid of him for his enemies.
You can't crush the truth! You may think you can, but it will travel along, take new life and rise again, regard­less of the fact that lawyers hired for money will call it a lie...Did these men put a re­volver in her face and say, 'You drink or we'll kill you'? Why, you'd think from that statement that there were sawed-off shot­guns, .44s, and all kinds of firearms in that house, and all drawn on that woman to make her drink. Asa Smith ought to be ashamed of that fabrication the longest day of his life....

The prosecutor has accused us of 'falling back' on suicide theory. This defense always has held to the theory of suicide. This prosecution has abandoned its theory of poison on which it started out. A new theory, that of infection, has been hatched up between the bail hearing last June and now.

Why was it that Madge had sent the first telegram to her mother saying that she was "driving through to Chicago" and not bothered to send a second telegram when her "captors" were not guarding her? She had ample opportunity to buy a hat with money she had borrowed from Stephenson while she was out. Why hadn't she sent a second telegram then, if the first one had been sent under duress?...

If she was the heroine you say she was, why did she condescend to take a cent of money from Stephenson. Why did she need a hat? Couldn't she commit suicide bareheaded?
Why didn't she go to the druggist where she got this poi­son-the druggist in the hotel-and tell him of her plight and beg for the poison instead of condescending to take money from Stephenson? . . . Where is the milliner from Hammond? Where is the druggist? Why didn't they bring them here to testify? . . .

There is not a lawyer in Indiana--not a lawyer in the na­tion-freed from prejudice and interest, who wouldn't say, and who doesn't say, that this prosecution for murder is entirely with­out justification and without precedent in the jurisprudence of the country. Not only that, but every cool-headed, every fair-minded, reasoning man you may meet upon the street-in public or pri­vate-feels and will say they might be guilty of something, even assuming the theory of the state and the story of its witnesses to be true--we don't know-but they are not guilty, and could not be guilty, of murder-or guilty of homicide, in any degree.

The sole question presented here is: can suicide be mur­der? Can suicide be homicide? The law doesn't say it can be and never will say so. No man has ever said so-or ever will say so, unless he says it in contradiction of the law.

If this so-called dying declaration declares anything, it is a dying declaration of suicide, not homicide. Why, she only told of how she committed suicide!

She, by her own concealment of taking the poison for six hours, made medical aid of no avail. She, by her own willful act and conduct, made it impossible for these men to save her life.

Has everybody lost his head? Pray, are we all insane? Must prejudice and passion submerge the world for the purpose of some particular case, leaving us, when it is over in a wild dis­orderly state-in mental bewilderment and anarchy in the heart's regret and the soul-sickness of remorse?

The conviction of these men might satisfy the transient spirit of the mob for the moment being, but the mob itself, after the savage thrill of the triumph has passed, would learn that a fatal error has been made. These men have been made helpless for seven long months by fate unwarranted and cruel....A jury of intelligent men, of sensible, thinking men, have been accepted to pass upon the question--a jury, which we have a right to feel will not be stampeded into doing violence to common sense and law.

Maybe someone feels that I say these things because I am engaged in the defense of these men. It is true that I am so en­gaged. But, after a long service in the great profession of the
law--and, I pray, an honorable one-my heart gives utterance to this: That I have not, in all my professional life defended one for murder where I felt in my soul there was as complete absence of justification for such a charge as there is in this sad case....

Gentlemen, I am done. I give this great issue, the safety of my clients to you.

By the law of reason--by the law of courage--by the law of right--I feel that your consciences will not allow any harm to come to these men. They have already suffered much--too much--far too much. And I am grateful to heaven in the confidence that they are now approaching the end of it all. I thank each one of you for your patience-your infinite patience. And may there fall upon you the blessings of the Almighty God of us all.

Closing Argument for the Prosecution: Ralph Kane

In all the history of the middle ages, when feudal barons ruled with the mailed fists of despots, when there was no law but the law of force, and when outrages, the despoiling of women, were in the general course of events, there is no case to compare with the shameful character of this! These defendants are as guilty of the murder of Madge Oberholtzer as though they had stabbed her with a knife! 
This has not only been a revolting offense against the law of the land, but It has been a terrible offense against the laws the Creator!...

Inman consumed four hours in throwing a smoke screen over the facts In the case. He did not discuss a fact that had been introduced in evidence....When Judge Cox told you yesterday that their witnesses were perjurers and members of a defense conspiracy to evade facts and give false testimony, he spoke the truth.

Under the law that when these defendants abducted Madge Oberholtzer from her home and unlawfully took her to Hammond and unlawfully attacked her, they were in commission of unlawful acts which held them responsible for the body of that girl and when by their acts they drove her to take poison they made themselves murderers as much as if they had stabbed her....

This man [Inman] stood before you and talked about how he was so fair that he nearly leaned backward, he was trying to mislead you right there!  Do you believe you are so credulous that you will believe their theory that this girl went along on that trip with those men willingly? Even a woman of evil virtue shows a little pride in a
case like that--she does not start out on a long trip like that without making any preparation, without taking any lingerie with her. She would not have got into that Pullman compart­ment with Stephenson while this big pug ugly Gentry was with her....
We can't bring Madge Oberholtzer back to life and restore her to her bereaved parents. But we can make an example of them for the protection of other daughters....

Was Madge Oberholtzer a willing party to this outrage? Let's look into the evidence. Didn't that nurse tell you of the wounds all over her body?...And then, gentlemen, do you believe that this woman had not been attacked, assaulted, ravished, raped, humiliated, driven to despair and forced by these defendants to drink poison, be­cause she had lost her jewels, she had lost that which she held dearer than her life--her chastity?...

They hop on Asa Smith. If any of these defendants or their attorneys, too, for that matter, enjoyed the character and reputation of Asa Smith, they would be most fortunate indeed.
God bless Asa! He has the respect and confidence of every man and woman who know the facts in this case. I'll tell you why they have been bitter against Asa Smith. He took that dying state­ment from Madge Oberholtzer, which has been her testimony in this trial. He is the man who brought the evidence into this court that these defendants can't get away from. He is not only a hero of the nation for his services in the world war, but he is the hero in this case.

Poor girl. She had been robbed of everything she held dear, of all that life had meant to her through twenty-eight short years, and knowing she was about to die, she called Asa Smith.  And yet these criminal lawyers have come here, paid by the filthy dollars D. C. Stephenson got in the legislature, and have the nerve to attack the character of Asa Smith!

The moment Madge Oberholtzer left her home and met Gentry, who had been sent as her escort, she was in the clutches of the tiger. He took her to Stephenson's home, the tiger's lair. Then Klinck came into the picture. They were all around her, and in the ride in the automobile, she told you Klinck and Gen­try sat on each side of her.

These criminal lawyers tell you she made no outcry. In the first place, Washington Street isn't a crowded thoroughfare at that hour of the night.

And they bring in this hotel clerk, Lambert, a dirty, lying ­cur, to try to break down the story of this poor girl! His testi­mony on its face was a lie. He said that on that night, this girl, whom he had seen only twice before, was in an automobile in front of the Washington Hotel and she called to him and he spoke to her. This girl was a lady, a college girl, and she had no acquaintance with him.

And then that poor fish came on the stand and told you he had never told a living soul of what he knew. In the name of God, how did Stephenson's... gang find out that Lambert would testify for him? It was a lie, made out of whole cloth and they knew it! But in the stress of their desperation they would try to make a jury of Hamilton county men believe this Lambert against the dying statement of this girl. 

The defense has made capital of the fact Stephenson suggested they go to Crown Point and be married. Why, Stephenson did not want to marry her because he loved her, because he wanted her to be his wife. He realized the terrible situation he was in, and offered to marry her so that he might escape exactly what he is facing now.

If the prosecutor of Hamilton County has the nerve that he has and the nerve he ought to have, he will have a grand jury empanelled and have those four deputy sheriffs indicted for perjury, and all other witnesses the defense has brought in here to swear to lies. That bunch of turnkeys who are more fit to be jail birds than keepers of prisoners.  [As for defense witness Ralph Rigdon], he is a loafing vagabond, who hung around the legislature and the foot of Stephenson and licked his boots for the few crumbs he could get....

You are going to write into your verdict whether your daughter, my daughter, will be protected from the vandalism, the criminally inclined. That is the responsibility on you.  Not only the eyes of this community but the eyes of the entire state and nation are on this courtroom scene.          
The people of this nation wish to know whether an Indi­ana jury will permit vagabonds to commit a fiendish crime of this sort....I wish to know whether there's a man in this com­munity who would sign a verdict to acquit this hideous monster who preys on the virtuous young daughters of our state!....

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