Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Verdict Is In

Photo Credit: www.gizmodo.com.au
By now I'm sure you've figured out that the man who was accused in this shooting is in our family tree. For those in my generation, Thomas Probert is our gg-grandfather. He would have been Norine's grandfather had he lived long enough to meet her. This story, like the man himself, has many interesting twists and turns. Thomas was indicted for killing Jacob K. Spears in Paris, Bourbon Co., Kentucky. The fact that he killed Spears is not in dispute. The question is, was it self-defense? What were the underlying conditions of the time?

This was a BIG trial. People in the town packed the court room. The victim, Jacob Spears, was a member of a wealthy, influential Bourbon Co.family who ran a distillery and apparently coined the term "bourbon." In future posts, I'll fill you in on the details of the trial, the prosecutors, the defense team and the Spears family.

I hate to disappoint you, but the jury could not decide. The Louisville Daily Courier reported it with this announcement.


The jury was dismissed and Thomas Probert was free pending posting bail in the sum of $2500 in 1856 dollars! I haven't been able to find out whether or not Thomas got out on bail, but I assume he did. His defense team sought and eventually got a change of venue.

I haven't been able to get much information between the "hung jury" and the retrial, but I hope to go to Paris and research their newspapers that have not yet been digitized. However, I know that Thomas was retried in Lexington and this time there was a different outcome.


The Louisville Daily Courier reported on 14 February 1859 that the jury rendered a verdict of acquittal after being out for one hour. What's even more amazing to me is that on 2 February 1859, Thomas, a widower whose first wife died in childbirth, married Catherine Richardson of Paris, Bourbon Co., Kentucky. By 1860, they had relocated a short distance to Mt. Sterling, Montgomery Co., Kentucky.

There's more to tell, and over the next month, I hope you'll follow along and get to know this complicated man. There is much to admire.

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