Monday, July 31, 2017

We have our man!

If you are long-time reader of my blog, you know that our nephew died a little over a year ago. What we were initially told was a house fire turned into a grisly murder of five friends where the murderer set the house on fire before going to buy breakfast for everyone as an alibi. It's been a difficult process trying to both digest and, in the same breath, reinvest in our family. I watch my sister-in-law go through the waves of grief with unknown triggers pricking at her, reminding her of what she lost.

As I research this murder of Dr. Hickman, Jonathon's murder is always at the back of my head as a cruel comparison with 106 years between the two. When it took 11 months for a grand jury to convene in Colquitt County - I learned that the DA must be very sure of his case for a grand jury to convene that quickly. The grand jury- strangers to anyone not in the room, and surely not a published list in then newspaper. The man being held for the murder in present day was arrested about a week after the murder and is represented by a public defender, funded by a non-profit agency as he has no means to afford an attorney on his own dime.

Either times are different or things just moved faster in the judicial system 107 years ago, because the sad case of John Mathis will conclude in less than a months' time. The grand jury convened April 18, 1910 and the jury will make their decision by May 5, 1910- with a trial taking place in that time between the two. For those of you that don't have a calendar in front of you-- that's two weeks and three days.

That's it.

An article published on Sunday, April 17th, 1910 states that the grand jury will convene on Monday (April 18) and that the regular session of the superior court for the trial of criminal cases will begin next Monday (April 25). Judge Hammond was in charge of the grand jury convened that day.

The following is a list of those who comprise the grand jury:

Charles F. McKenzie        
H.R. Perkins
Marlee Walton                  
C.G. Keely/Reely
E.W. Berman                    
J.J. O'Connor
C.M. Harrington              
T.S. Gray
J.J. Farrell
W.M. Dunbar
D. Sancken
D.S. Holmes
J.H. Bredenberg
E.C. McCarthy
G.H. Gercke
P.A. Brenner
G.P. Welch
J M C Murphy
Carlton Hillyer (?)
R G Tarver
W K Kitchens
Abram Levy
J M Smith
E B Hook
E J Doris
A G Jackson
L H Charbonnier
J A Anderson
Frank Spears
John P Mulherin

Grand Jury aside-- we have a lot of people out there and I had to make a list of all the people that were on the scene, who were the pallbearers/processioners at the funeral, the ushers at the wedding, the people who were on the coroner's jury, which convened at 3:30am the night of the murder. There are some people that overlap.

Back to the grand jury.

Some of these names are classic hometown names--

Doris? It was the oldest jeweler in town until Windsor took over in that market.
Spears? Went to school with his great-great-grandkid. Dad owns an insurance agency now.
Hook? Went to school with his great-great-great-grandkid, too. He grew up in a massive house near where the murder took place. No idea where "this" Hook from 1910 lived.
Sancken? Yes, you guessed it-- went to school with one of his kinfolk, too. The Snackens made their name, and their dollars, in the dairy world.
Dunbar? His sons' granddaughter married a Marks and, yes, went to school with her.
Mulherin? Welch? McCarthy? Old Catholic families... though that seems a little obvious.

Charles F. McKenzie ran the company started by his father, J.H. McKenzie & Sons at 463 Broad Street, just five blocks down from Tunkle Pawn. McKenzie was a member of the mystic Shrine, the Knights of Pythias, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. He was a member of the clark Light Infantry and the Clinch Rifles.

The Coroner's Jury had the following present to view the body and initial review of evidence found on Dr. Hickman:

E J Costello
John C Harper
E W Overton
W F Eve, Jr.
Dr. W W Battey, Jr
F.W. Capers

Less than 24 hours after the death of Dr. Hickman, a private conference was held in the office of Solicitor Reynolds that included Judge Eve and Judge Hammond. Judge Eve would serve as an honor pallbearer in coming days for his friend.

Back to April 18-- John Mathis is indicted on the murder of Dr. Hickman. The village and the city will have the trial for their golden boy as they have hoped for. Justice will finally be served. One week later, a "STRONG COUNSEL" is set to defend Mathis.

How Strong?

Pretty strong.

William H. Fleming and A. L. Franklin are appointed by Judge Hammond. Fleming, a former congressman, and Franklin, an able young attorney will serve as Mathis' attorneys. The article concludes with the following, "Few men who have been arraigned in the superior court here have been so well represented or have had their cases in more competent hands than has this alleged murderer of one of the most prominent and popular citizens of Augusta."

It has to be asked-- this is before the Miranda Rights became the norm. (Thank you Miranda v. Arizona) How easy it could have been to let this negro [sic] think he had to represent himself and just throw him under the law-bus. But, they didn't. Someone out there gave this guy every fighting chance he had to save his skin.

Or did they?

I have to go back to when Jonathon's murderer was indicted and formally charged a few months ago. The judge had a conversation with Mr. Peacock:

Son, are you pleased with your attorney?

Yes sir.

Son, I'm going to be asking you this a lot. Are you satisfied with the way your case is being handled?

Yes sir.

Mr. Peacock, I need you to understand that you have the right to choose a different attorney. Do you wish to have someone else represent  you? Do you feel that you are getting the best possible defense for your case?

Yes sir.

Good. Because let me be perfectly clear: If you are found guilty, I do not want you coming back to me saying that you were poorly represented. Get used to this question about your attorney, you're going to be hearing it a lot.

Yes sir.

It wasn't until that last sentence I heard that I understood why he was asking that question. In comparing that murder trial to this murder trial, were they giving Mathis the very best because they did not want him popping his head back up, saying that he was unfairly treated? This is 1910, nothing about being a person of color is fair.

So, why the former congressman? Why William Fleming? Mr. Fleming, an enthusiastic Mason and member of Webb Lodge No. 166, Chapter No. 2 R.A.M. and Georgia Commandery No. 1 was also a Knight of Pythias and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Knight of Pythias? I'm going to have to find out more about this and if there are any other members that are involved in this murder. (a quick phone call to someone within the group in California, corrected me-- it is pronounced pithe-e-as, not pah-thigh-as)

The kids are awake and are at my feet, wanting snacks. Children!

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