Murder & Massacre
Reason one: James and Mary (Hutchinson) McMullen were shot. John Coffey would never use a gun. He was too soft-hearted. John loved to go hunting for the camaraderie of being with brothers, Christian and Zeke but Christian would shake his head and say, "What good are ya' brother John, you wouldn't shoot a bear if he was attacking you."
Reason two: The plan was intricate. John Coffey was border-line retarded and could not have made these plans.
Reason three: John Coffey had no money but a coin he freely admitted to taking. The reason for the McMullen murder was that Jim McMullen had sold a large amount of cattle that day. No money was found on Coffey nor on any premises where he had been. He had not spent any, either.
Reason four: Lazy is a word often suggesting John Coffey's personality. The killing of the McMullen's took a great deal of work. Bashing in Jim's head; chasing and killing (Mary) Mattie McMullen and the firing of their home would have been stressful and using a great deal of strength, neither of which John Coffey would have tolerated.
Reason five: John was "invited" to the McMullen home, either by the McMullens (this is unlikely) or the person (he names the person in the trial) who instigated and likely carried out the dasterdly deeds. John just didn't show-up with a preplanned idea of killing Jim & Mattie.
Reason six : Yes, John changed his story, but it was for the reason that he was afraid of the real murders ? !
Reason seven: NO one who really knew Coffey would even hint that he would commit such a crime. He was a soft-hearted-soft-thinking, sweet young man, not a glorified murderer. The man Coffey pointed to toward the end had been seen buying boots just like Jim McMullens. He had wanted McMullens but they didn't fit so he gave them to John Coffey, likely John's most damaging evidence against him.
"Double Murder." Montgomery County Remembers. Crawfordsville: Montgomery County Historical Society, 1976. This part of one of the most interesting of Montgomery's many county histories overviews the murder of the McMullens in great detail.
"James P. McMullen." Crawfordsville Weekly Journal. 10 Jan 1885 p5. http://www.ingenweb.org/inmontgomery/bios/m/mcmullen-james.htm.
"Rotary Jail Museum." http://rotaryjailmuseum.blogspot.com/2011/06/hanging-of-john-henning.html. This blog spot, done by the curator of the Old Jail Museum in Crawfordsville, overviews the deaths of both John Henning and John Coffee, the only two hangings from this jail.
Saturday Evening Journal. 4 April 1885 p. 1. Convicted of Murder. A description of the trial which obviously according to the title, was a conviction, even though much was circumstantial evidence as to his guilt.
Saturday Evening Journal 23 May 1885 p 1. Given Death Sentence. Many were outraged that such a crime could happen in our area, two nice 50ish folks, childless, kept to themselves, and murdered. Not only murdered, but in a horrendous way. This group believed the death penalty was the only answer, while there were just as many who believed the poor young semi-retarded man was the ruse for the real criminal.
Saturday Evening Journal 17 Oct 1885 p 1 c 3. Executed -- the astounding blow-by-blow account of how John Coffey was hanged, hanged again and finally and sadly, the third time was the charm
Zach, Karen Bazzani. Crawfordsville: Athens of Indiana. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2003, p. 139. A brief description of the murder of the McMullens and a hint of the injustice given to Coffey is highlighted in Zach's book.
Zach, Karen Bazzani. Montgomery Murder Mysteries. Unpublished. Zach's fictionalized accounts of the first 13 murders in Montgomery County are all based on facts, as is Coffey's story.
Note: Clipart designed by: Lena Carlson Harper - thanks so much for letting me use it on the site, Lena - Suzie