on the image to read the testimony of Malvern Thompson (approximately 11,000
words). This document will take over a minute to load on a 56k modem.
Click on the image to read the testimony of Harry Gilmer (approximately 22,000 words). This document will take over a minute to load on a 56k modem.
The two key prosecution witnesses who directly linked the defendants—or at least some of them—to the physical act of the bomb-throwing were Malvern Thompson and Harry Gilmer. Their testimony (both run for many pages) can be viewed by clicking on the left (Thompson) and right (Gilmer) images here. Both appeared relatively late in the State's presentation of its case—Thompson on July 27, Gilmer the next day.
Thompson, like so many Chicagoans, had held several different (if related) jobs in the six years since he came to the city from Lewiston, Pennsylvania. Thompson had been a drug store clerk, a salesman for both Marshall Field & Company and Carson, Pirie, an employee of a cigar firm, and a self-employed grocer before returning to Field's, in the hosiery department. Jury foreman Frank Osborne also worked for Field's. Field was strongly antagonistic to labor and political agitators. Whether or not this figured in Thompson's and Osborne's "performances" at the Haymarket trial can only be a matter of speculation.
Thompson's most damning testimony, which appears early in the transcript, is that he overheard bits of a conversation between Michael Schwab and August Spies in Crane's Alley before the rally. The two men appeared to be discussing an attack on the police. Thompson also claimed that he followed them as they then walked toward Randolph Street in search of Parsons. He states further that upon their return to the site of the rally they met a third man, whom Thompson identified from a photograph as Rudolph Schnaubelt.
Thompson stated that he then saw the three of them "get right in a huddle" just south of the alley, at which point "there was something passed between them." Thompson could not identify that something, but from the context of his testimony the clear implication was that it was a bomb. Much of the rest of his testimony consists of a cross-examination by William Foster, in which the counsel for the defense tries to undermine Thompson's credibility.
Foster makes a direct hit when he gets Thompson, who admits he does not understand German, to testify that these men spoke to each other in English, even though they were all native speakers of German and Schnaubelt's English was quite weak. On the stand Schwab would deny this conversation ever took place, and other witnesses would corroborate his claim that, although he was in the Haymarket briefly before the rally, he left well before it began to speak at the Deering works on Fullerton Avenue. It also seems extremely unlikely that, even if such a conversation did take place, and even if the three spoke in English, they would permit a stranger to overhear them.
Harry Gilmer offered even more incriminating testimony about events later in the evening of May 4, 1886. He stated that he arrived a little before ten, while Samuel Fielden was speaking. According to Gilmer, while he was standing in Crane's Alley, he saw Spies come from the wagon and confer with Adolph Fischer and another man that he also identified from a photograph as Schnaubelt. He next testifies that he saw Spies light the fuse of the bomb that Schnaubelt then threw at the police. Under cross-examination, Gilmer became impatient and angry. Near the end of his testimony, he calls defense attorney William Foster "you little sap-head." Foster instructs the court stenographer to be sure the remark is entered into the record.
The defense attacked Gilmer's testimony with relative ease, summoning several witnesses who testified that Spies never left the wagon and establishing that Schnaubelt's physical appearance differed from Gilmer's description. The defense also raised questions about why Gilmer delayed so long in coming forward with his evidence about contradictions between his trial testimony and earlier statements he had made. Black and his fellow attorneys also brought into court a long line of people who stated that they knew Gilmer personally, and that from their experience his word was not to be believed, even under oath. In response, the defense summoned their own witnesses to speak for Gilmer's good character.
In the end, the question of whether the jury believed Thompson and Gilmer did not matter. The heart of the state's case, after all, was that the accused's words and actions had caused the bomb to be thrown, regardless of whether they had any direct connection to the bomb. Given the atmosphere of fear and prejudice against the accused, one could argue that the jury did not require hard and compelling evidence to convict them.
In all the prosecution summoned 111 witnesses, the defense 79. The list varies slightly depending on the definition of what constitutes a witness appearance. A number of witnesses dealt only with technical issues. Among the final witnesses were several police officers who denied, as the defense had asserted, that the shiny objects some witnesses said they saw were the drawn pistols of the police. These claims were introduced in order to refute the defense's assertion that the police had entered the Haymarket ready to shoot, that they had started the gunplay, and that their bullet wounds were self-inflicted.