The Harry Thaw (Stanford White Murder) Trial: Newspaper Accounts

New York Times (June 27, 1906)

Murders' Row Gets Harry Thaw

Formally Charged with Killing Stanford White.

Defense To Be Insanity

Stories of Insults Offered to the Wife

White Wrote Mrs. Thaw

Lawyers, at Least, Are Said to Have a Recent Letter—Handcuffs on the Prisoner.

After going through the legal preliminaries prescribed for prisoners accused of murder, Harry Kendall Thaw, the young Pittsburg man who shot and killed Stanford White, the architect, on the Madison Square Roof Garden on Monday night, was locked up yesterday, without the privilege of bail, in Cell 220, Murderers' Row, of the Tombs Prison, where he will probably remain until his fate is decided by a jury.

The treatment accorded him yesterday by the police, the Coroner, and the Acting District Attorney in no way differed from that ordinarily meted out to men in his position. He was carried to Police Headquarters, after a night in the Tenderloin Police Station, in a patrol wagon, handcuffed to a detective. He was herded with a miscellaneous lot of crooks and criminals at the Detective Bureau, and was photographed and measured with no more consideration than was shown the rest of them.

From Headquarters he was hustled, still handcuffed, to the Jefferson Market Court and from the Jefferson Market Court to the Coroner's office. When the Coroner had finished with him he crossed the Bridge of Sighs to his cell. Throughout the trying ordeals he succeeded in maintaining his composure, and not once did he open his lips as to the motive for his crime. Indeed, he refused to discuss the crime at all after he reached the police station, saying that he would have no statement to make until after he had been instructed to do so by his attorneys.

Work as they might, the police could evolve no positive theory to fit the case. That the relations of the murdered man to Mrs. Thaw prior to her marriage had become known to her husband, the detectives detailed on the case are positive. They go further, saying that the chances are that Thaw knew when he married her that Stanford White had been very friendly to Evelyn Nesbit, the artist's model and actress, who later became Mrs. Thaw.

There the puzzle comes. If Thaw did know what his wife's relations to White had been they argue that there must have been some recent development--some development following the marriage--which planted the seed of murder in Thaw's heart.

Mrs. Thaw is as silent as her husband. She refuses to discuss the shooting at all, saying that it is too terrible for words. She visited the office of Lewis L. Delafield, her husband's regular counsel, yesterday afternoon and turned over to him a sheaf of letters. Among these letters, it is said, is a letter received by her from White in the last few weeks. It may be that this letter will prove the key to the situation.

Letter the Last Straw.

One story in circulation among theatrical people last night was that the letter was an invitation and that in it the writer practically ignored the existence of the former Evelyn Nesbit's husband. It was also current gossip among the set in which young Thaw and his wife moved that before this, remarks about the wife, purporting to have been made by her former friend, had reached the husband's ears and aroused his bitter wrath. It was even said that one such comment, overhead when the two parties were dining in Martin's, was the last straw in a load of repeated insults which really caused the murder.

That the lawyers for the defense will advance the plea of insanity is already settled. Mr. Delafield gave Acting District Attorney Nott this information in so many words yesterday morning. Both Mr. Nott and Coroner Dooley say that there is absolutely no evidence to prove insanity and agree with the police that the murder was deliberately planned--that Thaw had been waiting his chance for several weeks.

The Coroner’s inquest will be held tomorrow morning at 9:30 o’clock.  Counsel for the defense have agreed to produce Mrs. Thaw at the Criminal Courts Building.  It is improbable, however, that she will be called on to testify before the Coroner.  It more likely that she will be sent before the Grand Jury, which will take up the case immediately after the inquest.

“I have the right under the law,” said Mr. Nott yesterday afternoon, “to call Mrs. Thaw as a witness.”  It is true that she may refuse to answer questions regarding privileged communications made to her by her husband, but she can be forced to testify as to matters which do not come within the sanctity of marital life.

“The inquest will be a most formal proceeding.  I do not propose calling more than three witnesses.  I will introduce evidence by a physician to show the Stanford White died of gunshot wounds, and will put on two witnesses to testify that the shooting was done by Thaw.  That is all that is necessary.

“This office is already examining all the witnesses available, and there is no lack of them.  This part of the case is in the hands of Assistant District Attorney Turnbull.  We are looking up Thaw’s antecedents, his mode of living, and his reported dissipation and indelgences to combat the insanity theory.  that is not insane now.  He was not insane at the time of the murder, and we ill be prepared to show it.

“Assistant District Attorney Garvan will conduct the proceedings at the inquest.  I expect an indictment without delay.  I am unprepared to hazard any conjecture as to the probably date of Thaw’s trial.  Personally, I see no reason for treating him any differently from the ordinary murderer, but that is a questions for Mr. Jerome to decide.

“From the evidence already before me I have no hestitation in saying that I never knew of a more deliberate murder.  There can be no doubt that Thaw had everything planned in advance.  There is not the slightest evidence, however, to connect Mrs. Thaw with the killing, and no attempt will be made to arrest here.  I have as yet no theory as to the motive in the case.  That will all come later.”

There were all sorts of rumors afloat yesterday regarding an alleged meeting recently between Mrs. Thaw and White, but none of them could be traced to an authoritative source.  That the Thaw family will spend ever cent of its money, if necessary, to clear Harry Thaw was the declaration of William Thaw yesterday, and already a notable array of counsel has been procured.

In addition to his regular counsel, Lewis L. Delafirld, there have been retained the firm of Black, OlCott, Gruber & Bonynge and George B. Gordon, the Thaw family attorney in Pittsburg.  Daniel O’Reilly, who was the first lawyer to see Thaw after his arrest, seems to have been dropped.  He said yesterday afternoon that he had a mass of evidence tending to prove Thaw’s insanity, but that he did not propose to make it public, and that if the other Thaw lawyers wanted it they would have to see him.

Acting District Attorney Nott said late last evening that the matter of fixing a date for the trial would, in all probability be left for District Attorney Jerome.

“In one way,” he said, “it is very desirable that Thaw be tried at once.  Justice should always be speedy.  In another way it would be unjust to try Thaw ahead of other prisoners who have been in the Tombs for weeks, and in some instances months.  To do so would pave the way for criticism.  People might say that his case was shoved up because he is a rich man.”

Thaw passed well through the ordeal of a night in the Tenderloin Police Station, with drunken men and women of the lowest type for his neighbors.  His cell in no way differed from those of the other prisoners.  he had hardly been shut in when a boisterous prisoner, half crazed by drink, was taken in and put in the next cell.  This prisoner began yelling at the top of his voice.  It was nothing new for the policemen, but annoyed Thaw.  At last Thaw sent for Doorman Barrett.

“Say, Mr. Officer,” he said, “can you not oblige me by having that roomer next me removed?  He is making a frightful racket.”

Liked One Police Cigar.

Barrett removed the man to a cell as far away as possible from that occupied by Thaw.  A little later Thaw became thirsty and asked for a drink of water.  Barrett took him a pailful of ice water and Thaw drank greedily.

“It’s awfully kind of you,” he said.

“I’ll remember you.”

Then he wanted to smoke.  Barrett obligingly furnished a cigar.  Thaw lighted it, took a few puffs, and said:

“That’s a fine cigar, office.  I’d always heard that policemen smoked good cigars.  Now I know it.”

He had occasion to change his mind later in the night when he asked for a second cigar.  This time he criticized the cigar saying it reminded him “of a bunch of transfer checks with a Sumatra wrapper.”  Barrett said he was sorry, but that it was the very best he could do.

At last Thaw decided that he would try to sleep.  When arrested he was wearing evening clothes an carried a raincoat over his arm.  He folded the raincoat, and , using it for a pillow, stretched himself on the bench in his cell.

The nap was interrupted soon after 3 o’clock by the arrival of Coroner Peter Dooley and Capt. Hodgins, who is in command of the precinct.  The Coroner endeavored, as did the Captain, to induce Thaw to talk of his crime, but he declined, saying that he had made up his mind to say nothing until he had seen his lawyers.

“Where is your wife!’  Coroner Dooley asked.

“Let her alone until morning,” Thaw said.  “She’s no going to try to get away.  She’ll turn up when she is wanted, and I would not like to disturb her to-night.”

The Coroner did not remain with Thaw very long.  When he left the cell he said that he had found the prisoner sleeping soundly, and that he seemed quite comfortable.

“Was there anything about Thaw,” he was asked, “to indicate that he was under the influence of drugs?”

“Nothing,” was the reply.  “He seemed perfectly rational.  His eyes were shifty and bleared, but he talked like a sane man, and I am convinced that the killing was deliberately planned.  I have ordered that the be arraigned in the Jefferson Market Court, and that he then be produced before me in my office in the Criminal Courts Building.”

A Restless Sleep.

As the night wore on Thaw grew restless. He moved uneasily on his narrow bench, and once or twice half rose.  Day broke, and as the light sifted into the corridor in front of his cell he got up and paced its narrow confines.  Doorman Barrett, noticing his condition, asked him if he would like to walk in the corridor.  Thaw said he would, very much, and accompanied by Barrett he paced its length half a hundred times before he quieted down.

Burr McIntosh, one of Thaw’s closest friends, was at the station a very short time after the arrest, and asked to be permitted to see the prisoner.  The permission to was withheld by Capt. Hodgins.  That was notified that the was upstairs, and asked that McIntosh be instructed to telephone for a lawyer.

“Get Lewis L. Delafield or Joseph H. Choate,” he said.  “Delafield is my regular lawyer.”

McIntosh sent back word that he would attend to the matter.  About an hour after dawn the Captain decided to let McIntosh see the prisoner.  There was much emotion displayed at the meeting.

“I thought the men were going to kiss each other,” Capt. Hodgins said, in describing it.  “The were just like brothers.”

Inspector Schmittberger, who had arrived at the station house a little while before, was present during the conversation between Thaw and McIntosh.  Lawyer Daniel O’Reilly, who learned of the murder early in the morning, made a bee line for the station, so as to be handy in case his legal services should be desired.  When the night passed and neither Delafield nor Choate had appeared, Thaw came to the conclusion that the might as well see Mr. O’Reilly.  The only thing Mr. O’Reilly did as to advise him to say nothing.  This advice Thaw followed religiously.  Except for Burr McIntosh he saw no one besides Mr. O’Reilly, and an alleged interview with the prisoner, in which he was reported as having told of a scene in the Café Martin, just before the shooting, was denounced by the police as false.

“The only time he talked to newspaper men,” said Capt. Hodgins, “was when he was lined up in front of the desk and asked for a smoke.  One of the newspaper men gave him a partly filled package of cigarettes.  There was no interview at all.”

Throughout the night there were dozens of well-dressed men in front of the station house, all of whom declared that they were friends of his.  In each instance admission was denied by Capt. Hodgins.

About 8 o’clock Doorman Barrett took Thaw into the courtyard behind the station house.  He was still in his evening clothes, and his shirt front was rumpled while his coat and trousers showed the effects of having been slept in.  A little after 8 o’clock a dapper young fellow, bearing a suit case, appeared at the station house.

“I am Mr. Thaw’s valet,” he said.  “I have with me a change of clothing for him.”

The police took charge of the clothing and examined it to see if there was anything concealed in it which the prisoner should not be permitted to have.  The clothing was then turned over to Thaw, and he changed his attire in his cell.

Not long before the time for taking Thaw to Police Headquarters, for the purpose of photographing him and taking his measurements according to the Bertillon system, Mr. McIntosh asked if it would not be possible to make the journey in a carriage.

“It would be very helpful,” he explained to Capt. Hodgins, “for Mr. Thaw to be carried through the streets in a patrol wagon.”

“I can’t help that,” Hodgins replied. “He will have to stand for the same treatment that is accorded all the rest of the prisoners.  I do not propose to make any exceptions in his behalf just because he is rich.”

At 9 o’clock Thaw as told what was in store for him.  For a moment he seemed on the verge of a breakdown.  His knees trembled and he looked about helplessly.  he tottered as he walked to the front room of the Tenderloin Station.

Shrank from the Handcuffs.

There Detective Matthew Brown was waiting for him.  There was something shiny in the detective’s hands.  As the prisoner appeared the object was disclosed to view.  It was a pair of handcuffs.

“Hold out your right arm,” he said to Thaw.  The prisoner shrank back.  Inspector Schmittberger was looking on, and to him the prisoner turned with appealing eyes.

“Is this necessary?” he asked.  “I am not going to try to escape.”

His words were uttered with difficulty.  As he spoke he moistened his dry lips with his tongue.

“Yes,” said the Inspector, “it’s necessary.  We treat all prisoners charged with murder in this way.”

The handcuffs were slipped on, and as they closed with a click, linking Thaw to the detective, Thaw Shuddered.

There was a large crowd in front of the station when the patrol wagon backed up.  There were newspaper photographers by the score, their instruments pointed and ready for action.  suddenly the station doors swung wide, but instead of the prisoner a squad of reserves from Mercer and Charles Street poured out.  In a minute they had swept the crowd back and cleared a path from steps to curbing.

When Thaw appeared and saw the cameras aimed at him—the photographers had refused to be driven back any further than was absolutely necessary—he threw up his free arm and thus shield his face.

At headquarters, which was reached at 9:30 o’clock, Thaw had to run the gauntlet of eager eyes again.  He was hustled back to the detective room and there, with a job-lot of criminals—pickpockets, second-story men, and everyday thievers of both sexes and several colors—he was lined up for inspection.  He stood silently while the detective—fifteen or twenty of them—filed by mentally photographing him with the other prisoners.  His description was read aloud by Detective Fourrot, the last words being “Arrested for murder on the Madison Square Garden Rood.”

Deputy Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo, who knows Thaw quite well, was present, but Thaw did not even look in his direction.  When ht inspection was over, Inspector McLaughlin, from behind his big desk, gave the order to take all of the prisoners up stairs.

Police Picture Taken.

Thaw was hustled along with the rest. It was not until the Bertillon room was reached that any preference was shown him.  There the officer in charge singled him out to be photographed and measured first, but even then the man in charge explained that he was picked out first because he was wanted in court for arraignment.

The successive ordeals to which he had been subjected seemed to have dazed Thaw.  He stood like a man in a trance, and when he was posed for front and profile photographs, which are to go into Rogues’ Gallery, he submitted without comment.  The weary task fo measuring him completed, he was once more chained to Brown.  The detective took him to the rear door, where the patrol wagon was waiting.  there were camera men to be faced again, and again the prisoner shielded his face with his unfettered hand.

On the ride to Jefferson Market court Thaw did not open his lips.  When the wagon drew up in front of the building there were reserves in waiting to keep the curious in place.  Capt. Hodgins, who had been with the prisoner throughout his journeyings, took the handcuffs from Thaw’s wrist, and , locking arms with him walked up the steps and into the presence of Magistrate Barlow.

The arraignment took a very short time.  the Magistrate was waiting.  Thaw again showed signs of weakening.  His face was white a sheet, and he repeatedly moistened his lips with his tongue, as he had done before leaving the Tenderloin Station.  He stared straight ahead of him.  To all appearance he saw nothing and heard nothing.

“This man is Harry Thaw, charged with murder,” said Capt. Hodgins, in a voice which rang thought the courtroom.

“Remanded to the Coroners’ office,” ordered the Magistrate.  The formality was over.

Immediately after the arraignment, Lewis L. Delafield, the lawyer for whom Thaw had first asked, appeared.  Burr McIntosh was waiting for him in the courtroom, and the two mean asked that they be permitted to confer with the prisoner and Lawyer O’Reilly, who was still standing by Thaw.  They were shown into Sergt. Casey’s room, where they sat down for a talk.

“I’m hungry,” Thaw said to McIntosh, when they had seated themselves.  “I have’nt had a thing to eat to-day.”

McInstosh sent a messenger to a restaurant near by and got some peaches and cream, two slices of bread, a cup of coffee, and a glass of milk.  The food was not served in the style to which Thaw is accustomed.  The Jefferson Market court is not situated in the most exclusive section of the city, and the chinaware was thick, while the linen might have been cleaner.

The hungry man made no comment however.  He ate the peaches and bread and drank the coffee.  The milk he left untouched.  Breakfast had been offered to him at the Tenderloin Station soon after he got up, but he had declined it.

After breakfast Thaw was taken in the patrol wagon directly to the Criminal Courts Building.  His coming had been heralded, and there was a gathering about the building such as has not been seen since the days of the Nan Patterson trial.  Coroner Dooley was already in conference with Acting District Attorney Nott and Assistant District Attorney Turnbull.  On leaving court Thaw had been again handcuffed to Brown.  The detective led him through the basement on the Lafayette Street side of the building directly into Coroner Dooley’s office, where he was led to a seat in the corner furthest from the door.  His fettered hand was freed for the second time.

Two More Lawyers.

He sank into the chair as if he had about reached the limit of endurance.  Burr McIntosh walked over and took a seat beside his friend.  He had been driven rapidly from court with the two lawyers in the case, and was on hand when his friend appeared.  In the Coroner’s office Mr. Delafield and Mr. O’Reilly were joined by two other lawyers, Frederick A. Delafield and Henry J. Goldsmith.

Before the proceedings began two young men who gave their names as Wharton and Harrington, and said they knew Thaw, sent in their cards to the prisoner.  Thaw glanced at the names in weary fashion and nodded that he would see them.  They entered, shook hands with him, whispered a few words into his ear, and then went out.  On their departure Thaw settled back in his chair as if there was nothing further to interest him.  His lips were sealed from that time until after he had left the room for the prison.

The Policeman’s Affidavit.

There were seven witnesses present, Policeman Debes, who made the arrest; Roundsman Howe, who assisted in taking Thaw to the Tenderloin Station; Fireman Bruden, Lionel Lawrence, Edward Conway, Warren Faxton, Harry B. Rubenstein, and Dr. M. Pechner, all of whom were ready to testify.  The Coroner said that he would not examine them at that time, but would do so later, and would hold Thaw on a short affidavit.  This is the affidavit sworn to by Policeman Debes and not in the possession of the Coroner.

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