Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Indictment

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune Illustration

Murder in Bourbon

"We understand that on Monday, a difficulty occurred in the bar room of the Bourbon House (Mrs. Thurston's) at Paris. Jacob Spear, Esq., a well-known citizen, threw a glass of whisky in the face of  Thos. Probert, the bar keeper, who instantly drew his revolver and shot Spear (sic) three times through the head. The wounds caused immediate death. Probert was arrested and lodged in jail to await an examination."

Louisville Daily Courier, 4-26-1986. p. 1, col. 4.

I find this short synopsis interesting, because it contradicts the larger narrative in several subtle ways:
  • It speaks of a "difficulty" without any background.
  • It claims Probert drew his revolver as if it was his, instead of one kept on the counter of the bar.
  • It claims Spears was shot "three times through the head"
  • It claims Spears died immediately
  • It totally ignores the fact that Probert asked to be taken to jail for his own protection
The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia)

The shooting was newsworthy enough to justify a blurb in the Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, Virginia), on April 28, 1856:

"Jacob Spear, Esq, a well-known citizen of Paris, Ky., was shot dead on Monday in a bar room by a man named Probert."  

Courts were not held daily as happens now. In fact, they typically met once every three months. This is evidenced by this article published in the Louisville Courier on July 19, 1856.

Kentucky News

The July term of the Bourbon Circuit Court for the trial of criminal and chancery cases opened on Monday. On Tuesday, the grand jury brought into court an indictment against Thos. Probert for the murder of Jacob K. Spears, and in the afternoon of the same day the trial was commenced. A jury was obtained by 12 o'clock on Wednesday of the term, which closes on Saturday.

The prosecution is conducted by F. Kennedy, attorney for the Commonwealth, assisted by Capt. Hawes, R. W, Woolley, of Lexington, R. H. Hanson and Capt. Simms. The prisoner is defended by Mr. Davis, Mr. Alexander and Col. Martin.


This had to be a BIG trial -- four prosecutors and three defense attorneys?  More on that in the next post.

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