Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1
Affidavit of William P. Black, 1886 Oct. 1-1886 Oct. 7.

Volume O, 99-113, 15 p.
Black, W. P. (William Perkins), 1842-1916.

Affiant William Perkins Black, an attorney for the defense, stated that State's Attorney Julius S. Grinnell made improper remarks in his closing argument to the jury. Includes quotes from Grinnell's closing argument and discourse between the defense and prosecution in regard to the claims being made by Mr. Black.

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CAPTAIN BLACK: There is one affidavit that I expected to have had signed by the short-hand writer, but he is not in attendance. It is a formal matter and I will therefore sign it myself, although I would have preferred to have had him sign it as it relates to the matters which I singled out for presentation and consideration and desire to go into the bill of exceptions in connection with the closing argument of Mr. Grinnell.

Mr. GRINNELL: That is the affidavit you told me you were going to file.


Mr. GRINNELL: The affidavit, as I understood you last night, a copy of which, I have not had of course.


Mr. GRINNELL: I do not care for it so far as that is concerned. I understand it contains a newspaper account of my closing argument in the case. There were one or two exceptions taken during the trial. The record should show simply those in the bill of exceptions and not attempt to get this into the record in this roundabout way. That is the objection that I make to it.

CAPTAIN BLACK: We do not understand, if your Honor pleases- -

THE COURT: I think he can present his affidavit in any shape he pleases.

The affidavit of William P. Black was then read.

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The People, Etc.
August Spies, et al.

Indictment for murder of Degan.

State of Illinois County of Cook ss.

Wm. P. Black being duly sworn, on oath deposes and says; that he attended in said court on the trial of the above entitled cause, and heard the closing argument of the said cause, which was made by Julius S. Grinnell, the State's Attorney; that in the progress of said closing argument to the jury, which argument occupied a number of hours in its delivery, the said Grinnell, among other things, made the statements and expressions hereinafter set forth, and that the proceedings hereinafter set forth occurred in connection with the argument of said State's Attorney, alike the remarks of the court, and of counsel, substantially as follows:

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In this temple of justice, founded upon justice, the closing remark of the counsel (Capt. BLack) compare loathsome murders to Christ. Has the cause for the defense descended so low, so mean, that He who was for peace shall be compared to these wretches here? Not only that, but these men have been compared to the Father of our country; they have been compared with martyrs. Why, gentlemen, let us walk out of this court room here and now, and surround these men with garlands of flowers, and sing paens of praise to their glory because they are Anarchists! Besides a comparison with Christ, the man who was for peace, the comparison of these men with Victor Hugo is another cruel thrust at liberty itself. Victor Hugo, a pure man who never counseled war of this kind, and who was in France the exponent of Republicanism, who desired to have there what we have here-- Victor Hugo compared with assassins! Gentlemen, the very difficulties that we have encountered here in out beautiful city have their remifications in all, parts of this country. Spies at Grand Rapids; Most in New York; Parsons in hiding in the West with some Anarchist; and from the proof in this case other places in this country having Anarchists in them. Notwithstanding all that, that man whom we all admire by historical reading, the man that we love to bring our children up to admire, that man who above all in this country or any other was the exponent of freedom, free thought, and free speech--- that man in his farewell address to the army and to the American people--- Washington in his farewell address foreshadowed these difficulties. The gentlemen upon the other side would allow you to believe this, although they have no confidence in the words they utter, for it is mere rhetoric

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and talk for effect, and to save a possible doubt for a lot of wretches. A comparison is made of the defendants with Victor Hugo How would any admirer of Victor Hugo's pleasant sentences in his books and his spoken utterances like to have his writings and utterances compared with the writings of Herr Most? Herr Most's writings are in evidence here-- some of them. Think of that for an additional comparison! And for what purpose? To save these men, not from punishment, for all the counsel admit in their arguments that they should be punished, but to save them from death. I said to you in the opening, gentlemen, that in this country above all countries in the world is Anarchy possible. As I said there is one step from Republicanism to Anarchism. Let us never take that step. Gentlemen, the great responsibility that is devolved upon you in this case is greater than any jury in the history of the world ever undertook. This is no slight or mean duty that you are called upon to perform. You are to say whether that step shall be taken.

One other suggestion I have to make to you in that connection is this: You have been trying a murder case in which the defendants are charged with the murder of Matthias J.Degan. He was one of the officers killed by the bomb at the Haymarket riot. You have also, as a matter of law, been trying these defendants for the murder of seven officers: because where the act of any individual or any number of individuals causes the murder of one, two, three, four, or seven individuals, the trial of one is the trial of all. In other words, if you should see fit to acquit the defendants of the charge under this indictment they never could be tried again.

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If any individual with a pistol shoots two men-- kills them both with one bullet at one shot-- although two are killed it is one murder, and if the murderer is acquitted on the trial of the murder of A he never can be tried for the murder of B, because one act did both murders. It is the same with a conviction. If you should convict a man for the murder of A in that instance and fix his penalty at a few years in the penitentiary, and the State should not conclude that it was not sufficient, he never could be tried for the murder of B, because he has once been tried for that one act. I think I make myself clear upon that.

"The responsibility, gentlemen, is still greater with you, for a reason which I will state to you. It has been frequently said to you that you were trying these men for the murder of Matthias J. Degan. That is true technically, but really and actually you are trying the eight men for the murder of seven officers, as well as for the injury to these sixty others; and that is why all the proof that you have heard has been introduced. They complain of that proof too. I will suggest another proposition to you. If you should in this case conceive that there was a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of these men, and acquit them, that is the end. There is no appeal by the State of Illinois. If, however, in the trial of this case you should conclude that the defendants are guilty from the proof in this case and under the instructions of the court, you then in rendering your verdict do what the gentlemen upon the other side, from the numerous exceptions they have taken, expect you to do-- find the defendants guilty they can appeal. If they do not like your verdict they can ask this court

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to set it aside or the Supreme Court of the State to review your judgment. The State can never appeal.

You remember Mr. Ingham's analysis of the foolish conduct of a criminal. It was admirable, unanswerable. And in that connection I will say to you, not only out of the compliment to Mr. Ingham but out of compliment to my profession, Mr. Ingham's argument, gentlemen, stands before you untouched. As one of the counsel said to me in the hall, his argument was unanswerable and therefore they would not undertake it."

Capt. Black-- I don't think anything of that sort was said, and if said it is highly improper to state it. It was not said by me or my authority, and I think such a proceeding is utterly outrageous.

Mr. Grinnell-- I have not accused either of you of doing it.

Mr. Zeisler-- I have not said it.

Mr. Grinnell-- The counsel upon the other side, gentlemen, sought to make you believe that Frank Walker, although he had undertaken to abuse them somewhat, or say something about their case, had a friendly regard for them, and that when he met them in the half when he got them away from you (the jury), he would shake hands with them and pat them on the back.

Mr. Foster-- I said we would quit this case friends and shake hands together.

Mr. Grinnell-- Yes, sir; As we shall I hope.

Mr. Foster-- That is all there was of it.

Mr. Grinnell-- I am only giving the compliment to the speech of Mr. Ingham which it deserves, The fact remains they have not

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answered it. They have not undertaken to answer it, and it stands a monument of strength in this case as to the facts.

On the subject of prejudice he said: "Prejudice! Men, organized assassins, can preach murder in our city for years, you deliberately under your oaths hear the proof and then say that you have no prejudice."

Capt. Black here interrupted the State's Attorney. He said: "I wish to make an exception to the language of the State's Attorney. I should not have interrupted him, but the frequent repetition makes it a decided offense against propriety, that he should refer to these defendants, whose guilt is the question under consideration, as assassins."

"Save your exception, replied Judge Gary."

Before I proceed further in the discussion of the case I wish to suggest to you something that may be in some measure personal to the prosecution-- not in the way of extenuation-- in the way of apology. We stand here, gentlemen, as I told you yesterday, already with the verdict in our favor. I mean in favor of the prosecution as to the conduct of this case; but if it had not been for the testimony of Gilmer, what would the defense have done in this case?

Mr. Black-- If the court please, I desire to note an exception to that statement by the State's Attorney: the Statement that there has been given.

A Verdict Already

in favor of the prosecution.

The Court-- Save the point upon it.

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Mr. Black-- It is an outrageous statement.

Mr. GRinnell-- I beg your pardon, Capt. Black. I said of the conduct of the prosecution in this case. I am not here to tell you that anybody outside has passed or has not passed a verdict upon these defendants; and I have not here said and shall not say whether that verdict is for or against them.

Let me give you a little plain history. This case has engaged my personal attention, gentlemen, since the morning of May 5th at 7 o'clock. It has been an engrossing attention, absorbing. It was proper that it should. Great interests were at stake- the law itself was on trial. Government was on trial; a murder had been committed. The question was, who was repsonsible? Gilmer told us the story on the 5th or the 6th or the 7th-- I will not be sure about the date; and has told us all the time the same. Remember this fact, gentlemen, that on the first inception of this business we had,

No Knowledge of the Conspiracy.

Mr. Black-- I want to except to that statement, the statement by counsel that Mr. Gilmer has at all times told the same story. That is not a statement that counsel have any right to make in this case in their effort to bolster up Mr. Gilmer.

Mr. Grinnell-- I am not attempting to bolster up Mr. Gilmer at all. I am not going to discuss Gilmer's testimony here now.

Mr. Black-- I submit that the statement is improper.

The Court-- Well, they have the testimony of Gilmer as to what he did tell them, haven't they?

Mr. Black-- No, sir; they have not.

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The Court-- Why, you cross examined him at great length as to what he did say.

Mr. Black-- I haven't the slightst objection as to their saying anything that Gilmer has testified to here. They may repeat it as from Gilmer. What I object to is Mr. Grinnell's attempt at this juncture in the case to inject into the jury box the statement upon his own personal responsibility that Mr. Gilmer has told,

Them, so and so.

The Court-- Of course that is not competent. But then it is not necessary that counsel when arguing a case upon the evidence shall, when he states that such and such and such things occurred, in all instances repeat the names of the witness by whom he claims that it is proved that it occurred. He argues upon the testimony and makes his inferences from the testimony, and anything but the testimony the jury are not to pay any atention to. And counsel, when drawing his inferences from the testimony, is not compelled to repeat in all instances the name of the witness whom he says proved this or that or the other circumstance.

Mr. Black-- I am not criticising any suggestion from the proof

The Court-- Now, as to his stating whether Gilmer made the same statement all the time, you cross examined him at great length as to what statements he did make. They have a right to argue from what Gilmer said as to,

Whether he did or not.

"When we had Spies under arrest I confess to you then, and after it was developed that a conspiracy existed--

I confess this weakness--

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that I did not suppose that a man living in our community would enter into a conspiracy so hellish and damnable as the proof showed, and our investigations subsequently showed he had entered into, and therefore, notwithstanding Gilmer's statement to us so frequently, he was not shown and not identified.

Honesty of Purpose is the only thing that will determine in every way the right from the wrong.

It may sound to you a little out of place for me to say here that the only mistake I have made, the only mistake that has been pointed out to you that I have made-- and I frankly confess it was a mistake-- was the suggestion in my opening about the bomb thrower. We knew the facts. There was no law compelling me to make any statement; I might have proceeded with the proof if I desired. I did make an opening; I undertook to make it fairly and frankly and broad. I was afraid of wearying you, as I was weary myself from the days and days that we had been working here in,

Getting a Jury,

and the anxiety under which I labored. I said in that opening that we would show to you who threw that bomb; I said in that opening that we would show that the man left the wagon, lighted the match and threw the bomb. That was not absolutely correct. I should have said that the man that came from the wagon, as the proof shows, and as we knew came from the wagon, was in that group assisted, and that the bomb was thrown by the man whom we would show to, you. My associates found fault with me in the office immediately afterwards for not more clearly defining it.

Mr. Zeisler-- Is that in the evidence, Mr. Grinnell.

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Mr. Grinnell-- I have been found fault with here for my opening.

The Court-- That part of it should be ommitted.

Mr. Black-- That part of it should be stricken out, and to that part we except.

"Don't try, gentlemen, to shirk the issues. Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial; the defendants are on trial for treason and murder.

Mr. Black-- The indictment does not charge treason, does it, Mr. Grinnell?

Mr. Grinnell-- No, sir. I will make a suggestion to you, gentlemen, upon that. Under the laws of this State, if an individual is guilty of treason his punishment is death. Punishment for the offense of treason under the laws of this State is death. There is no mitigation,

No palliation,

no chance for the jury to hedge on the offense. For that offense you cannot say that this man shall have a few years in the penitenttiary and that one a few more, and that one shall suffer the extreme penalty of death. No; it is death. But treason, gentlemen, can only be committed by a citizen. You and I can commit treason. None of these defendants, except Parsons and Neebe, according to the statement of Mr. Foster can commit treason under the laws. Why? Because there are none of them citizens. If they had been citizen you (counsel for defense) would have proved it. Or else there was more design in it than that. If they had been citizens you would

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have proved it; or you failed to prove it because, thinking that there might be some possible chance on technicality in the upper court, on the proofs produced here and the law that they kmight be indicted for treason, if we proved the fact that they were citizens, because an overt act had been committed. That is why they prove a case half at a time, first proved no conspiracy, and then finding the difficulty to become great, assert before you that they are citizens. Such assertion Mr. Foster calls with reference to Mr. Walker, Walker's testimony. That was Foster's testimony in regard to Neebe. I do not know whether Neebe was born in Pennsylvania or not; neither does Foster. But, gentlemen, Capt: Black suggested that they are not on trial for treason. That is true. The penalty for treason is death, and it is death in treason whether the individual committing the treason kills a man or not. A man can commit the overt act of treason and injure no individual and it is then death. Is the offense any the less because seven men are dead, and because sixty others, some of them maimed for life? I thank the gentlemen for making the suggestion about treason.

But not content, not content, these revolutionists, these traitors, these men who have committed treason-- I thank again the gentlemen for the word-- these men who have committed treason, are not content with confining their power and influence to the small limits of Cook County, but Spies goes to Grand Rapids and there gives utterances to these same treasonable sentences; and there is no doubt that other proselytes of the humanitarian crowd were at other places in the country doing the same thing.

Another thing. They had prepared before the McCormick meeting;

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they had prepared before the McCormick meeting for this difficulty. How? At Emma Street, on Sunday, a conspiracy meeting of these infamous scoundrels, seeking our lives, seeking the destruction of the law. Courageous men! Herr Most gives the plan, even in the parts translated or re-copied in the Arbeiter Zeitung and also in the Alarm, that paper that,

Black would have you believe

is worthy of your consideration because it prints Herr Most or his sentiments in one column, and in the other the noble sentiments of Victor Hugo. For God's sake has the defense descended so low that men in their graves must be brought up to save the lives of wretches who have attempted to destroy the law?

Foster complains that we have not produced in court bombs enough. We have put in here in proof dynamite bombs enough to have,

Ruined our beautiful city,

if they had been used. And I said to him that I would quote from newspapers. I will quote what is true, weekly not daily; I am making no extravagant statements here--- but weekly since the fourth of May have bombs been found scattered in the North and West and southwest parts of the city, and they will continue to be found.

Mr. Black-- Your Honor, please, there is no evidence of that.

Mr. Grinnell-- That is true.

Mr. BLack-- We wish an exception.

The Court-- The only ground upon which Mr. Grinnell can claim any right to put that in is upon a sort of a bargain between him and Mr. Foster and that bargain is not one that the defendants is bound by.

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As Wirt Dexter said in a speech about that matter-- I wish I could deliver his words to you-- in praising the act of the police in that transaction, how noble was their conduct. Instead of fleeing and running, they said, "Fall in boys," and the town was saved.

Supposing the police had fired first, after the bomb. The man who threw that bomb obtained it from Lingg or Spies, and threw it in accordance with the general plan of conspiracy, and death was the result. I cannot talk to you about families, about wives and children, but if I had the power I would like to take you all over to the Haymarket that night, and with you with tears in your eyes see the death and mingle with the wounded, the dying; see law violated, and then I could, if I had the power, paint you a picture that would steel your heart against the defendants. Captain Black said in argument to you that the State had no right to do that. The State has all the rights that it possibly could possess through so weak an instrument as myself. He has no more right Another thing, One of the officers swears, that he was wounded in the knee. I was not looking at Capt. Black when he motioned to you the place where the wound occurred. For the purpose of correcting myself and making no mistake about it, because the testimony of an officer or any witness who put his finger on a spot can not get into the record; and I found by looking at the record that he pointed his finger, "here and here." Of course there was no significance to that. I had the officer come to my office and examined the wound, and I found that the bullet

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went in there (indicating) and came out above, going around up opposite on the knee cap, and was not from behind.

Mr. Black-- I desire to except to that speech if your honor please.

Mr. Grinnell-- Now, that is only our argument. I have to leave that absolutely with the jury.

Mr. Black-- Mr. Grinnell has no right to say that he has seen that wound again. The officer on this stand, Mr. Grinnell to the contrary, notwithstanding, distinctly pointed to the place in the rear and said it came forward.

The Court-- Well, the jury must take what the evidence is as they remember it.

Mr. Grinnell-- Yes, sir; at came down here (indicating) came forward, and up right over there.

Mr. Black-- We are objecting to that.

W. P. Black.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this first day of October, A. D. 1886.

John Stephens, Clerk.

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