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Pearl Bryan: chapter six continued

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Pearl Bryan
Secret London
Murder Ballads

That set the tone for much of the first day, as Allen Johnson, George Jackson, Coroner Tingley and John Hewling all told what they knew of Pearl's fate. Johnson explained how he'd seen the defendant drug Pearl at Wallingford's saloon and then leave with her. George Jackson described being forced to drive Scott and Pearl across the river at gunpoint. Tingley provided the medical evidence showing she'd been alive until the moment her head was severed, and Hewling gave vivid testimony of the state her body was in when he found it.
This account built quickly into a sense of utter revulsion towards Jackson, which showed itself in one small but telling incident. At some point in the day - perhaps at the lunchbreak - Jackson left his seat to return to the ante-room adjoining the court. To do this, he had to pass closely by three well-dressed women sitting on the front bench of the spectators' area and, even for these respectable ladies, the provocation was too much. "One of the women suddenly reached out and kicked Jackson twice," Barclay says. "She put all her strength into the blows. Jackson flushed and then smiled a smile which, in his case, is better evidence of internal anguish and agitation than is a tear on the face of most men."
Meanwhile, Deitsch's men were engaged in a constant struggle to maintain order, both inside the courtroom and on the surrounding streets. "Every day the police fought to keep the courtroom from overcrowding and to control the crowds on the outside," Doran writes. "One by one, the witnesses in the show paraded on the stage, spoke their lines and passed back to the wings."

Prosecutors set up a headless dummy dressed in Pearl's blood-stained clothes for the jury

Day two brought a particularly theatrical moment, as the prosecution produced a headless dummy dressed in Pearl's blood-stained clothes and set it up facing the jury. Nelson insisted innocently that this was intended only as a educational tool, but Crawford challenged the stunt's legality, and Helm ordered the dummy removed. The clothes were laid out soberly on a table instead, where Mabel Stanley and her mother confirmed they belonged to Pearl. Mabel also identified the handkerchiefs police had found in Jackson's abandoned coat, and recalled the day Pearl bought them in a Greencastle store.
Mayor Caldwell and Inspector Deitsch told the court what they'd learned from questioning Jackson, and set out the tale of Pearl's valise and its strange progress round Cincinnati's bars. The saloon keepers John Legner and John Kugel appeared too, confirming their own part in the valise story. While watching Caldwell speak, Barclay says, Jackson "became flushed and nervous", fixing his eyes on the witness box "with an intensity that became painful".
All this was really just a prelude to Cal Crim's appearance. "For three days and more, he sat in the witness chair while first the prosecutors and then Crawford fired questions at him from all angles," Doran writes. "The answer to one scarcely had left his lips before he was faced with another. And, through it all, he unfolded steadily the story of that grim trail he had followed with Jack McDermott and Sheriff Jule Plummer."
Crim recalled the experience in his CE piece 50 years later. "It was not a new role for me," he writes. "I stuck to facts and carefully avoided opinions and inferences, for which there were many opportunities. As a result, the cross-examination was no ordeal. In fact, after I had finished and come over the river for lunch, I met Colonel Crawford of the defence, and he took occasion to commend me for a straightforward testimony of facts, without frills. He insisted on taking me to a leading store and making me a present of a fine hat."
Crim's testimony joined with that of the other witnesses to give the jury the full account of Pearl's downfall which I've detailed so exhaustively here. Now it was the defence's turn. Crawford began his case by placing Jackson himself on the stand, and inviting him to tell the court his own version of events. "All the man's natural shrewdness came to his aid while on the stand," Barclay says. "His words were clear, frankly spoken, and there was no hesitation in his manner. He acted the innocent man to perfection."
Jackson's story was that William Wood had actually been responsible for sending Pearl to Cincinnati. His own role, he said, had simply been to try and find the girl some better accommodation when he discovered her at the city's Indiana House hotel. He'd been seen with her valise because he'd taken it with him on the search, intending to leave it in the new room before returning for Pearl herself. His room-mate Alonzo Walling had become confused and panic-stricken when the first reports about Pearl's body emerged, and insisted that Jackson help him dispose of all the girl's remaining belongings.
Jackson stopped short of any outright accusation that Wood had made Pearl pregnant, or that Walling had agreed to perform an abortion at Wood's request. But the implication was clear on both counts. "His narrative was very smooth," Barclay says. "Neither does he accuse anyone of the murder. He merely adheres to his theory that Walling is guilty - that is all."
The two main witnesses called on Jackson's behalf both seem to have been bribed to appear by his friends or family, and strictly coached on exactly what they must say. Rose McNevin, the landlady at his boarding house, testified that Jackson had been home in his room on the night of the murder, insisting that she always knew exactly when every one of her 14 roomers entered or left the house. The papers marvelled sarcastically at what a phenomenal memory she must have to achieve this feat, and no-one took her evidence remotely seriously.