Tweet Follow @PlanetSlade

Pearl Bryan: chapter six continued

<<<Previous Chapter  –   Page: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5   –   Next Chapter>>>
Pearl Bryan
Secret London
Murder Ballads

The second bought witness was William Trusty of Urbana, Illinois, who Crawford produced at the last minute. Trusty swore on oath that he, not George Jackson, had driven Pearl across the river to John Lock's orchard, and that she'd already been dead when he took charge of the carriage on the Cincinnati side. He said Jackson and Walling told him she died in a botched abortion carried out by the elderly doctor who accompanied them all to Fort Thomas in the carriage.
That still left Jackson as having apparently agreed to help dispose of the body, but at least it suggested someone else had killed Pearl, and that she was already dead when her head was cut off. Whoever paid Trusty for his testimony must have hoped it would plant just enough doubt in the jury's mind to prevent them calling for a death sentence.
In fact, Trusty's account was disproved almost the moment he uttered it. "He broke down on cross-examination, and it was revealed that he had been coached by his uncle John Seward, a detective," Crim writes. "Subsequently, they confessed, and were sent to the Kentucky Penitentiary, one for perjury and the other for subornation." Somewhere along the line, it seems, one of Jackson's friends or relatives had found a bent copper and persuaded him to get his nephew involved in the scheme.
By May 12, both sides were ready to give their closing statements. Nelson summed up for the prosecution with a speech Barclay says was "intensely dramatic and spell-binding in its eloquence". Crawford responded ably enough for the defence, but could do only so much with the case Jackson had given him to argue. As the jury retired to consider its verdict on May 14, police stationed guards throughout the courtroom and around the building to prevent any trouble if Jackson was acquitted or the jury found itself unable to agree.

'Walling was the most unconcerned man in the crowded courtroom when the verdict was given.'

They needn't have worried. After a short consultation, the jury returned to announce Scott Jackson was guilty of first-degree murder and should hang for it. "Jackson slumped in his chair, all the colour drained from his face," Doran writes. "Alonzo Walling, when he was told of the verdict, merely said: 'I am not surprised. That's the way I thought it would go'."
After the trial, Jackson rejoined Walling at Newport jail to await news of his execution date. Two days later, at about 8:00pm on May 16, the other inmates there sawed through the hinges on the tiny jail's rear door and fled into the night. "All escaped except Jackson and Walling," next day's New York Times reported. "The alleged murderers of Pearl Bryan refused to leave, thinking they might be lynched." (40)
That sounds a little far-fetched, but the accounts I've read of Newport jail at around this time suggest it was no bigger than a couple of modest terraced houses. I doubt it held more than about a dozen prisoners even when it was full to capacity, so the idea of all but two escaping is quite plausible. The really striking thing about the episode is that, even with a judicial death sentence over his head, Jackson preferred to take his chances with the legal system rather than face Kentucky's people in the street.
As Newport's jail now lacked a back door, Jackson and Walling were transferred to nearby Covington jail instead. By that time, however, the concern was less keeping them in than keeping the lynch mobs out. Jackson's bid for a retrial was turned down, and his execution date set for June 30. Meanwhile, Walling still had his own trial to look forward to.

Jury selection for Walling's trial began towards the end of May, and the hearing got under way on June 2. Walling was represented by Washington again, this time aided by another prominent and capable attorney called Shepherd. The prosecution team was the same one Jackson had faced and, once again, it was Judge Helm who presided. The court was packed with curious spectators, who competed keenly for the best seats.
The case against Walling was essentially the same one Jackson's jury had heard, and much of the same evidence was produced for a second time. Jackson's efforts at his own trial to implicate Walling in the murder did nothing to help Washington's case. "Walling's defence was made the more difficult because Jackson had taken the stand and tried to throw suspicion on his erstwhile pal," Crim writes. "This did not help Jackson, but it did not do Walling any good. It was a typical Jackson stunt."
The trial concluded on June 19, when the jury returned after only a few minutes deliberation to give their verdict. "We find the defendant Alonzo Walling guilty of the murder of Pearl Bryan, and fix the punishment at death," the foreman announced. "Walling looked straight before him, not deigning to glance at the jury or the spectators who gaped hungrily at him hoping for a sign that he was affected," Doran writes. "He was led back to his cell."
This scene struck home with the New York Times' reporter watching too. "Walling was the most unconcerned man in the crowded courtroom when the verdict was given," he wrote next day. "He smiled and, when asked if he had anything to say, replied with an oath.
"His brothers, Charles and Clinton, broke down and wept bitterly for nearly an hour. [.] Walling's venerable mother heard the verdict at her home in Hamilton, Ohio, was completely prostrated, and is in a precarious condition. The verdict is generally approved, though many believe that the evidence did not warrant the extreme punishment." (41)
Crim for one. "I am glad I did not instigate [Walling's] arrest," he wrote many years later. "I have always felt that he was only a simple country boy who fell under the blighting influence of an older and much more sinister man, for whom he became a more or less willing tool. His weakness was his enemy. "