Court adjourned about 8 o'clock Tuesday night, as soon as the records
could be made up in the murder trial of L. O. Cooper, for killing
Thomas Dillin, on the 20th of July, 1883.|
The jury in this case was selected on Wednesday evening previous, and the evidence began Thursday morning, consequently the trial occupied a little more than five days. The trial was attended by a large number of people the entire time, the court room being filled with ladies and gentle men who paid close attention to the evidence and argument on both sides. The prosecution was conducted by State's attorney A. H. Taylor, assisted by Messrs. Tripped & McCullough, and Traylor & Hunter and B.F. Posey. The defense was managed by Hon. C. A. Buskirk, W. R. Gardiner, and Ely, Bretz & Townsend. A special venue of 40 citizens, in addition to the regular panel was summoned, from which to select a jury, and only about two hours was taken up in selecting the following jurymen: David Morgan, foreman: James Ellis, John Beike, James Sanders, Wm. Harbison, John Flick, J. Pinnick, John Ellis, Robert Denbo, Daniel Sutton, Solomon Clapp, Henry Harris.
The evidence on behalf of the state was very strong, showing that the killing was brought about by a dispute as to the disposal and ownership of some wheat raised in partnership by the murdered man, the defendant, and Samuel Dillin, and that in the difficulty the defendant was struck with a "billy" by Samuel Dillin, when he shot Sam and turning fired at Thomas the shots that proved fatal, although the evidence showed Thomas to have been about twenty feet from him at the time, not taking at that moment any part in the difficulty, and being totally unarmed.
The theory of self defense as against Thomas Dillin was totally unsustained by any evidence except that of the defendant himself, although several testified to gross abuse in language of the defendant by the murdered man, during the afternoon preceding the murder. All the evidence was closed Saturday night and the jury was permitted to separate over Sunday, the counsel agreeing to two speeches on each side. On Monday the prosecution opened by Mr. F. B. Posey in a speech of but little over an hour in length: he was followed for the defense by Mr.W.F. Townsend, who occupied a little over two hours, dinner breaking in on his speech; then came Mr. C.A.Buskirk, who addressed the jury for about three hours, when court adjourned until Tuesday morning. The addresss of Hon. J. F. McCullough and the charge of Judge Welborn took up Tuesday morning, and the case was given to the jury about 12 o'clock Tuesday.
In the jury room the first ballot showed the jury practically united on a verdict of guilty of manslaughter, though two of the were in favor of murder in the first degree. Repeated ballots were taken all the afternoon as to the length of punishment to be inflicted, a majority being for from 12 to 21 years in the State's prison, and two for only two years imprisonment. Finally, about 7 o'clock a compromise was effected, and it was agreed the sentence should be for nine years. The bell was rung: court, prisoner, attorneys, and a large audience was soon collected; while waiting for the announcement of the verdict, the prisoner could not conceal his nervousness, though cheerfully conversing with several friends, but the relatives on both sides seemed deeply dejected, and some could not restrain upon the announcement of the verdict. Mr. Bretz made a motion for a new trial, which was overruled by the court; the prisoner was asked the customary question if he desired to say anything in his own behalf why sentence should not be pronounced in accordance with the verdict, and he replied that he had nothing to say. Sentence was passed, and probably the most exciting trial in this county for thirty years was ended. Court then adjourned for the term.