Iowa Old Press
The Trial of Johnson
For two days the principal business of the District Court for Scott county, Iowa has been the paneling of a jury to hear the testimony in the case of the Statve vs Lewis Johnson indicted for murder in the first degree. The regular panel of twenty four jurors was exhausted then a special venire for fifty-nine citizens was ordered and when this was exhausted on Wednesday evening another special venire for twenty-five citizens was issued. The Sheriff did his duty. And at half past ? o'clock yesterday forenoon after one hundred and fourteen persons had been questioned as to whether they had read the papers or not and were competent to form an ? judicial opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant a jury was sworn. The names of the jurymen are:
F. Kautz, of Buffalo township
Geo W Robinson of Davenport township
C.J. Meyer of city of Davenport
John C. M'Cullough of city of Davenport
Chas. Hoffman of Buffalo
The case for the State was stated by
Hon. J.C. Bills who appears with District Attorney Ellis - and there was
adjournment at 3 PM when Hon John W Green counsel for defendant with W.A. [?]
Esq. made a statement of what defendant [? ?] to establish his innocence.
We [?] not state the particulars of the murder of Mrs. Alex W. Brownlie and child which was perpetrated at Long Grove in this county on night of the 18th day of last March [Note: murder was in Feb., not March]. The details of the tragedy were given in the GAZETTE next morning and subsequently the testimony before the Coroner's jury which was published in full in these columns made our readers familiar with the circumstances of the case and of the suspicions which led to the arrest of Lewis Johnson the hired man in employ of Mr. Brownlie.
Louis Johnson is a mulatto of tall form and rather good head though he has high cheek bones piercing black eyes and curly [can't read]. He had been at work for Mr. Brownlie at the time of the murder for a long period.
The first witness called was Sarah Brownlie daughter of the murdered woman. She was in the room playing with her little brother and sisters when her mother was shot through the window of the kitchen. The only new testimony given in her examination was that she looked at the clock just after her mother was shot and that it was ten minutes to 8 - and that Lewis Johnson had talked improperly with her on several occasions and had attempted improper liberties with her person on two occasions. She had promised him - she a mere child - that she would not tell any person of his [can't read] her personally and concerning the two other colored men in the neighborhood had told him of their doings with the little daughters of their employers....[cannot read rest of article.]
--- The Davenport Gazette; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; October 2, 1874
The Trial of Johnson
When the District Court adjourned on Friday
afternoon Mr. Dosh was on the stand, and a question as to the right of the State
to introduce the portion of Lewis Johnson's evidence before the Coroner's jury
which related to his purchase of shot without giving the whole of his testimony,
was pending, the Judge having taken it under advisement. When the Court opened
yesterday morning the State's attorneys withdrew the question, and announced
that their evidence was all in, save perhaps one witness that they might wish to
call. The trial opened on Wednesday, the 1st inst., and forty-five witnesses
have given testimony since then.
The defense now called their witnesses. Moses Bush (colored) testified as to the time that Johnson left his house near the fair grounds, on the afternoon of the murder, and also that Johnson's reputation among the people of his color was good. Then several residents of Long Grove and vicinity were called to prove Johnson's good character. David Harding, Wm. Robertson, Sr., John Pollock, John Hell, Thomas Martindale, J.A. Knouse, John Greve, James Brownlie, A.W. Brownlie, Alexander Brownlie, James Clapp, Wm. Robertson, Jr., John Hardy, and Robert Johnson all testified that he had a good character of the Grove up to the 18th of March, the day which Mrs. Brownlie and son were murdered. Sheriff Leonard testified as to Johnson's good conduct in jail. Rev. Henry Exley, pastor of the church at Long Grove, testified that he was present at the prayer meeting, the evening of the murder, when Johnson came in, that the room was not brilliantly lighted, but that he noticed nothing unusual in Johnson's appearance; afterwards he shook hands with Johnson, the latter's hand being bare, and that it was free from moisture. Henry Evans testified that Johnson took dinner at Schomberg's about 3 o'clock that afternoon. Washington Wilburn, a colored teamster, swore that he saw Johnson a little beyond Duck Creek at a quarter to 5 o'clock on the evening of the 18th of March.
It was now three o'clock and being Saturday, and some of the Jurymen wishing to go to their homes in the country, and Tuesday being election day, the Court dismissed the Jury until 9 o'clock Wednesday morning.
It is likely that the defense will rest on Thursday and that the case will be argued on Friday and Saturday, and be given to the Jury on the latter day.
Court remained in session until after 4 o'clock, when there was adjournment till Wednesday morning.
--- The Davenport Gazette; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; October 11, 1874
The arguments before the jury in the
Johnson trial were commenced yesterday morning by District Attorney Ellis, who
spoke till the noon hour, and then again to the hour for evening adjournment.
The court room was filled with spectators all day, who listened with the
greatest interest as the case was presented as the State understands it -
listened all day without a thought of tiring. It was one of those efforts which
have given Mr. Ellis popularity as an advocate, and assisted in keeping him in
the office he fills so well. He made an analysis of the testimony, and set forth
every feature of it which could help to fasten the guilt upon the prisoner, with
almost terrible earnestness. He went into a keen search for motives, and
fastened upon the prisoner's desire to conceal his improper conduct and
conversation with little Sarah, the eldest daughter of Mrs. Brownlie, from the
mother, as one; he feared the counsel claimed, that Sarah would tell her mother
- yes, and he charge her with revealing his conduct to her mother, for the
latter had changed in her conduct towards him. With exposure would come
blackened character in the neighborhood in which he was respected by all, and
treated accordingly, the color of his skin making no difference with the people
there. If he could put the woman out of the way, and still cover his tracks so
that the crime would never be imputed to him, then his course for the future
would be clear, and his chances for a home and maybe a farm improved. So the
speaker went on, showing the preparations of defendant for the deed, and
following his supposed plans and steps till the fatal shot was fired at the
window, making especial use of the ammunition purchased in the city, the
disappearance of the gun from James Brownlie's and the unaccounted for time in
making the six miles between the six-mile house and the church in which the
prayer meeting was held which defendant attended, and the appearance he
presented to old "Aunt Lucy" when he entered the room. From beginning
to ending the argument was granted.
Hon. J.W. Green follows for the defence to-day. W.A. Foster closes for the prisoner and it is not likely that he will get through before this evening. Hon. J.C. Bills will make the closing argument for the State to-morrow - and the case will probably be given the jury late in the afternoon.
--- The Davenport Gazette; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; October 16, 1874
The Trial of Johnson
The trial of Lewis Johnson for the
murder of Mrs. Brownlie, which commenced in the District Court on the 20th ult.,
came to an end at half past five o'clock yesterday afternoon, having been in
progress nearly three weeks. Hon. J.C. Bills made the closing argument for the
State and of the case yesterday. The Court room was crowded all day - a goodly
portion of the audience being composed of ladies. And there the people remained,
closely packed, through the hours, as on the argument days of last week, with
the closest attention. None of our readers need be told that Mr. Bills'
statement was solid and stupendous. It was for him to meet the able, ingenious
and eloquent efforts of the prisoner's counsel; he attacked all their main
points, exposed what he esteemed their sophistries, endeavored to undermine
their construction of testimony; to parry their hard hits and put in harder ones
in return, to shatter the foundation of the theory of innocence of the defendant
which they built - and then he turned to the evidence as he understood it, took
up each piece of it, connected all like a chain, and wound it about the prisoner
at the bar, and so handed him to the jury, claiming a verdict for the State. It
was an argument that will long be remembered by all who heard it.
Judge Brannan delivered his charge to the jury, occupying some fifteen minutes in reading it. It was complete in instructions as to their duty under the evidence and the law. He said at the close that the form of their verdict might be guilty or not guilty, as charged in the indictment, but they had the physical power to find guilty of murder in the second degree, or of manslaughter.
The jury retired with the charge and various documents and things offered in evidence during the trial.
At three o'clock this morning the jury was still in consultation with little or no prospect of agreement.
EXCITING DAY IN COURT
There was another day of interest and
excitement at the Court House yesterday. Monday closed with the giving of the
case of the State vs. Lewis Johnson for the murder of Mrs. A.W. Brownlie, into
the hands of the jury that had listened closely to the evidence and the pro and
con of the arguments of the attorneys for nearly three weeks. And the morning
GAZETTE had informed the people that the jury had not agreed in the night. So
when the court opened a large number of people thronged the court room, all
anxious to hear something from the jury, and expecting they would ask a hearing
and seek advice from the Judge, concerning matters upon which they disagreed.
But when the Court was ready for business, cases which diverse lawyers had in
hand were brought up, and rulings announced - ...
... Towards noon the
entered, and their foreman stated that they had not agreed, and
that it was impossible for them to reach an agreement. The Judge made the usual
inquiries as to any advice they might wish, and the result was that they went
back into the jury room...
... Just as he finished, there came word to the Sheriff that the
JOHNSON JURY HAD AGREED!
The news quickly spread, and the crowd about the Court House thronged into the room and filled it. Johnson was brought in. Then the jury filed into their seats - a convenient apartment in that new jury room. The foreman of the jury passed a package into the hands of the Clerk White, who quietly unfolded it ,and raised a slip of paper to his eyes. There was the silence of death in the crowded room, and every head was inclined forward, every eye strained as if eyes could hear as well as see. The Clerk read: "We, the Jury, find the defendant
The stillness continued for a moment, then there was a murmur of applause, and then - Johnson sprang to his feet, grasped the hands of the attorneys, Messrs. Foster and Green, and shook them earnestly. And well he might - they had pulled him safely through a perilous trial. Then Egglesht, at Johnson's side, arose and grasped Johnson's hands, and the two shook, and the prisoner to be tried for forgery congratulated the prisoner who had been tried for murder. They had been together in the jail for long months and their now farewell "shake" as they supposed it to be, was but natural. But it was not a final goodbye, for the Judge broke the rustling and hum that prevailed with the words - and silence reigned again - "gentlemen, there is
against the defendant Johnson, for the murder of the
"Yes, your Honor," quickly responded Mr. Ellis, "and we propose to try him on it, too."
Messrs. Foster and Green rushed to Ellis' side, and there were hurried but earnest whispers. Ellis shook his head, as the negroe's attorneys whispered to him, and the latter went back to jail with the Sheriff. A crowd followed him and thronged about the jail entrance as he disappeared, expecting him to come out soon, a free man. But they had misunderstood the cause of his going back, and went away when told that he was to be held for another trial.
--- The Davenport Gazette; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; October 20, 1874
Submitted by: C.J.L.
Iowa Old Press