Trials and appeals

There is nothing much to say about the trials, at least not at this time. I will get back to some of the testimonies in a later article. Just a short resume at this point.

1st trial and appeal

The fall term for Iredell County opened on Monday, October 15th and the Tom Dooley's case was brought before judge Buxton on Friday, October 19th as ordered. The sheriff was ordered to gather a venue of 100 men to meet at the courthouse on Friday morning at 10.30 AM. 12 jurors were selected for the case. They were presented with the details of what had happened in court in Wilkes County, including the Bill of Indictment. The first thing that happened was, that the Defense requested that the case against Ann Melton was separated from the case against Tom Dooly. The reason for the request was, that if the two of them were tried together, Ann might confess something, that would prejudice the jurors against Tom Dooley. The request was granted and it was decided that the case against Tom Dooley should be tried first. Ann stayed in the Ireville Conty jail for the whole time, Tom was on trial, and until her own case was brought to trial in the fall term of 1868. During the case against Tom she was present in court, but never testified.

Prosecutor in the case was Walther M. Caldwell, District Attorney of the Sixth Judicial District. He was assisted by John M. Clement, who was a local lawyer. Clement spend one term in the State Legislature and in his last years as a prosecutor he refused to prosecute cases where death penalty was a possibility. Second asistant was Nathaniel Boyden. The latter was a veteran of the war of 1812. He served in this war being only 16. In 1822 he moved to North Carolina and began a law study. In 1838 and 1840 he was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons and in 1844 he was elected to the North Carolina Senate. In 1846 he was elected to thr United States Congress as a Whig. He didn't want to be reelected in 1846 and returned to his law practice. After the Civil War, and actually after the Tom Dooley case, in fall 1868 he was once again elected to the U.S., Congress, this time as a Conservative. In 1872 he was elected as Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. As mentioned in the article about the grand jury hearing he defended Governor Holden at his impeachment case in 1871.

Zeb Vance defendingRTom Dooley

The drawing to the left shows Zebulon Vance  defendingTom Dooley as  Edith F. Carter imagines the situation. The original picture is in the Tom Dooley Art Museum at Whippoorwill Academy and Village in Ferguson, North Carolina and is reproduced here with permission from the artist. Tom Dooley is seated at the right edge of the picture.

The defense was represented by former Governor Zebulon Vance, and I've already I've presented him in the Supporting Cast article. He was assisted by Richard M. Allison, a resident of Iredell County. He was the county attorney of Iredell County before the Civil Way. During the war he served as captain of a cavalry company, and after the war he resumed his law busines. Allison was the man behind two of the articles (VII and VIII)  in the impeachment charges against Governor William Holden. Second Assistant was Robert F. Armfield who was admitted to the bar in 1845. During the Civil War he became lieutenant colonel in the 38th North Carolina Regiment of State Troops. After being wounded her served as state solicitor for the Sixth District, but he was removed by Governor Holden. After the war he took up law practice in Statesville. After the Dooley case he was elected to the North Carolina Senate, in 1874 and 1875. He served as  Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1875 and 1876. From 1879 to 1883 he served as a member of the United States Congress (for the Democrats), and later he was appointed Judge of the Superior Court.

I'm sorry I got carried away again here, writing a lot about politics. I do so though, because I think political matters actually influenced the case to a certain degree.

During the two trials around 80 people testified, but unfortunately only the testimonies of about 20 people remains. Of these 15 were witnesses for the procecution and only 5 fore the defense.The testimonies are not recorded verbatim, but in a transcript form, made by the court clerk and the judge, when the case was appealed. A lot of testimonies are missing, and we must suppose, that more than five people testified for the defense. Why judge Buxton left out these testimonies is impossible to tell today, but for some reason he did.

The first trial ended with the jury disuccing all night. Sunday morning they came out with verdict og Guilty. The judge sentenced to him death by hanging on November 9th 1866. Tom called for an appeal to the Supreme Court and this was granted. The Supreme Court Justice found that errors had been made during the first trial, and ruled that Tom Dooley should be tried again.

2nd apperarance in Statesville

The next court appearance took place in the spring term of 1867 on the 15th of April. Judge Robert B. Gelliam was presiding. This trial came to a quick end, when the defense presented an affidavit that stated that Tom and Ann couldn't come safely to trial because three witnesses were missing. The three witnesses were F. F. Hendricks from Caldwell County (one of the many Hendricks' in the area) and Francis Farmer and Mary James, both from Watauga County. None of the three testified in the first trial, but the defense must haved found them important. The Judge postponed the trial to the fall term of 1867, and Tom Dooley and Ann Melton both remained in jail.

3rd apperarance in Statesville

On October 14th, during the fall term, Tom Dooley was once again brought to court before judge Alexander Little. This time the prosecution presented an affidavit stating that three witnesses, essential for the case, was not present. The witnesses were James Simmons and  Lucinda Gordon, neither of which testified during the first trial and also James Grayson, who was at that time attending an assembly of the Tennessee Legislature of which he was a member. Once again the trial was postponed, this time to the spring term of 1868.

Today we do not know why these missing witnesses were so important as they never testified in the final trial. This is a little surprising as their testimonies were so important, that the trial had to be postponed twice, because they were not present.

That Tom Dooley was actually in Statesville Prison at this time is confirmed by a note in Sheriff William Wassons notebook from October 21st, 1867*. In this he names the prisoners incarcerated in his jail. Among the five prisoners he mentions Thomas C. Duly, age 23, Murder. Ann Melton is not mentioned as a prisoner, so maybe she was not acutally kept in the jail, but at some other place.

* From Iredell County Sheriff Links Page

2nd trial and appeal

As a number of cases apparently had piled up in Iredell County, a Court of Oyer and Terminer (a court to "Listen and Decide") was appointed by the governor to try the capital and other cases that fell under the jurisdiction of the Superior Court, but had not been completed.

Before this trial, Robert Armfield left the defense team and was replaced by David M. Furches. Furches was a prominent member of the republican party, which appears strange, as all other members of the defense team was democrats. He had studied law under Richard Mumford Pearson, the supreme court justice, that had handled the first appeal, and would also handle an appeal at after this trial, should it be necessary. Later Furches became a supreme court justice himself in 1894 after having lost the election of 1888 to Ralph Buxton, presiding judge in the first case against Tom Dooley. Furches served as Chieft Justice of the Supreme Court from Januar1901 to January 1903. Furches had moved to Statesville in 1866 and stayed there for the rest of his life.

To preside in the Court of Oyer and Terminer Govenor Worth chose William M. Shipp. Shipp had been a lawyer since 1843, and served as captain in a volunteer regiment in the beginning of the Civil War, but already later in 1861 he left the army, when he was elected state senator. In 1862 he was elected judge of the Superior Court and served as such until sometime in 1868, after the Dooley trial. Later (1870) he was elected Attorney General of North Carolina and served one term, before taking up private practise.

The Court of Oyer and Terminer opened on Monday 2nd of January 1868, and on the second day the Dooley case went to trial once again. Once again Tom Dooley was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged on February 14th, and once again the case was appealed.

Whjen the case was appealed, only the material from the first trial in 1866 was re-sent to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court complained about this and the court clerk C. S. Summers made a summary of the last trial, together with judge Shipp. This summary was sent to the Supreme Court and apparently satisfied the Suprene Court judge, as he made a ruling based on this material. This time the Supreme Court found no reason for a retrial. The date of Tom's hanging had passed though, and another date had to be set. This demanded another judge, and had to wait spring term 1868.

On April 13th 1868 judge Anderson Mitchell set the date and time of the execution to Friday, May 1st between noon and four pm.

I will get back to the rulings of the court in later articles.

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