Advocate Erwin, St. Paul's Noted Legal Giant, Scores a Triumph.
His Plea to the Jury for Sylvester Critchlow a Masterly Effort.
Plaudits of the Bar and the Public Bestowed on the Westerner.
Suspicion That an Earlier Modest Attempt Had a Deep Design.
William W. Erwin, Minnesota's "Tall Pine," who was at first furtively "guyed" by the lawyers and newspaper men of the Smoky city, is at present the subject of admiring comment by all who heard his plea before tUe jury in behalf of Sylvester Critchlow, who was promptly acquitted of the crime of murcier. In its account of the speech and the scene in the court room the Pittsburg Dispatch said in scare headlines: "A Great Speech for Critchlow;" "Erwln, the St. Paul Lawyer, Redeems Himself and Surprises the Natives."
The Dispatch then continues: The sensation in the Critchlow murder case yesterday was the eloquent speech of W.W. Erwin to the jury in behalf of the prisoner. It was a surprise to every body except those who knew him, and they were few in Pittsburg. The St. Paul advocate learned his business some years ago in the trial of the Chicago anarchists, and he no doubt gained considerable experience in his frequent wrestling matches with Ignatius Donnelly for the leadership of the People's party in the Northwest.
The address of the St. Paul lawyer was a revelation and produced a profound sensation. He made a most adroit and masterly argument. His command of English is remarkable, and his wit and sarcasm alike were keen and scathing. He dealt the opposing counsel several stiff body blows that made them wince. Glorious old Tom Marshall leaned back in his chair spell bound, and Judge Kennedy, who was writing when the attorney commenced, soon stopped and became an attentive listener. The speech was the principal subject discussed on the streets last evening.
The part of the court room reserved for the audience was jammed, but as the fame of the speaker spread through the building the people crowded in around the lawyers and judge's stand. The tip-staves became so interested that at times when there was an attempt at applause they forgot to call order. The speech was so far superior to his opening address made to the jury the day before that everybody was surprised, and the impression was formed that it was done by design.
"That is the greatest speech ever delivered in the court house," remarked Thomas M. Marshall at its conclusion. "I want to retire from the bar now, for I have been snuffed out."
Ex. Senator Lee said Mr. Erwin was very adroit, and a master of all the oratorical arts. Maj. Montooth, W. J. Brenhen and John F. Cox were greatly tickled. "It was a great speech," said the major.
At times during the address Mr. Erwin waved his long arm toward Mr. Robb as he paid his respects to the local criminal lawyer. He had a modest way with the jury, and took them into his confidence. Following is a curtailed synopsis of Mr. Erwin's effort:
A Quiet Opening.
Lawyers consider the trial of cases as great battles. Instead of treating them with calm adjudication they often use the arts permitted by the latitude of the courts to acquit or convict, and so you have just witnessed an attempt to carry your consciences by storm. I don't think the address has had much effect. In the quiet of the jury room you won't be swayed by plausible eloquence. You must try the case according to the law and the facts. If the true causes that led to the conflict at Homestead are not before you, except such as rise from presumption, I hold it extremely unfortunate for the republic, this state and city. When the news of the Homestead riot was flashed all over the world, after the applause of enthusiastic admiration had passed away, the world paused for the judicial inquiry, and the world today waits at the other end of the wires to see how it has been done. You are now put into
A Narrow Place,
ironbound by the testimony. You can presume nothing except what is legal and permissible in courts of justice. We of the defense are not responsible for this contraction. A man in these courts is only permitted to defend him self against the testimony adduced. That rule is so strong that if evidence were put in to show that one of you fired the fatal shot, the courts would not permit you to prove that somebody else did it. Courts haven't time to try any thing except the issues presented. We would like to open the case wider, but we are not permitted.
I am not here to befog your minds, to storm down your consciences. I am here to help you honestly. I would not be in your place for the world. Duty alone would force me into that jury box to try a man for his life. There must not be a shadow of a doubt in your minds that Critchlow is guilty. Some one has said that the law stands around a man like a great protecting shield of innocence, and the prosecution must pile up its evidence on it until its very weight bends him back-ward to the ground. It is better for the country that ninety-nine guilty persons should go free than that one innocent man should be punished. When your intuitions are so aroused that you
Do Not Feel the Guilt
there is reasonable doubt. So sacred is life and liberty that we require of him who accuses that the evidence shall be such that every juror feels he is right when he gives his opinion.
Last July there rang out on the shores of Homestead the sound of a battle. You can't presume that there was discontent or a strike in the town. That is not evidence. Here we were limited by the prosecution. We were not permitted to show that this man Frick purchased arms and sent a foreign force to invade the town. It was read from the books this morning that every man who had a gun that day was responsible. I point you to the constitution of your state and country to show that the people always have the right to bear arms in self-defense.
You know there were crowds of men, women and children on the shore of the river, but you don't know it from the evidence. That you can only infer. You know that the men in the boats did not live in the state. You do not know, and there is not a particle of evidence to show, that they were watchmen. In narrowing the scope of the investigation the prosecution forgot to bring out the commonest things necessary for your information. I challenge you to show me in the evidence where it appears that the Pinkertons were guardians.
Nothing was said about the bank around Homestead or whose shore it was, but you do know that on the bank of that river were gathered the common people. You know, too, that the cloven foot that provoked this insurrection was carefully hidden from you. The testimony in this case does not show it. You only know that the blackest name in this country under the flag is Frick, You only know that Frick, whoever he may be, placed armed men on the barges that went to Homestead. You don't know why he did it, unless you go on the stand and testify to it. There is nothing in the evidence to explain this most
Unwarranted, Treasonable Act.
You only know that the boats were supplied with men, arms and food by this great quartermaster, Frick. You do not know how he justifies his conduct. His object must have been so black that he did not dare to bring it out in the evidence. Isn't that important?
The great question that you must ask yourself is, was this battle at Homestead a riot, or an unauthorized invasion. If you answer that it was an invasion without excuse that is the end of it, for the people never delegated away their right to resist armed invasion. It needs no mandate or the court, no sheriff to hoist the flag. I don't see how you can escape from this position, that whatever was done at Homestead was in resisting armed invaders. I would like to hare gone into the authority and character of the Pinkertons, but that is denied us. All you can see is that Flick armed foreign-born men, foreign to your state, steered them stealthily by night past your city, and they fired upon the men, women and children of Homestead. The learned gentleman who tried to carry you by storm neglected to state these preliminaries before the gale began. He tried to blow the gale himself, and became the personification of a riotous person in voice and gesture before you. He neglected to say to you that if Frick hadn't sent armed men to Homestead there never would have been a riot, He winks at you and expects you to infer that, Great God! Did our fathers at Lexington infer that they were oppressed?
The presumption is that the people always act right, and you are bound by it. Unless there is some proof here that the people were wrong you are bound by it. How much safer it is to presume that your people were right rather than the armed invaders. Since they have left that to presumption, you should follow your patriotic feelings.
Riot or invasion.
Now, under the evidence, was it a riot or invasion? The right of the people to the shore of the river can't be denied. They were justified in resisting. Frick may have had some reason, but the state has not brought it forward. What Frick may have thought at the time was a reason that, might not wash before a jury now. Men often do things for self-aggrandizement that they are ashamed of afterward, and are afraid to bring out in court—reasons that would convict them of the crime that they are trying to saddle upon others, and that is "murder.
I don't think it is necessary for me to whip up your patriotic feelings. You must determine whether this invasion was unauthorized or not. The people should not only have shot the Pinkertons down on the shore; they should have followed them on the boats, to their hearthstones, before the altar, and if it were possible to cross the line that divides the living from the dead, they should have passed over and shot them on the burning bosom of the Prince of Hell.
Suppose now you differ from me. Suppose you say that it was not a foreign invasion and the people hadn't a right to resist. Then was this riot of such a character as to hold the armed men on the shore responsible for their acts? Is the evidence such as to make every armed man on the shore guilty of murder? Now notice. The people on the shore had the same right of self-defense as a single individual. There were 300 invaders from the slums of Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, the
Thugs of the Cities.
They were armed with 150 Winchester rifles, the worst death-dealing weapon that the genius of the republic has invented, sixteen bullets in each one. The others had clubs and revolvers. They were in charge of captains and sub-captains -men who had bartered away their honor and judgment. The formation of their army and the firing upon the unauthorized word of an officer show the utter abandonment of citizenship. These marauders conducted an organized and outrageous war in defiance of all law. Who opposed them? The people. Were the people at the gang plank the ones who fired the shots at the boat further down the river? Is there any evidence to hold those at the landing responsible
for what others had done before? If there was a common design, the public prosecutor would have shown it. This would have proved whether Frick or the people are the murderers.
We can't defend except what they put in issue. The people were not there to resist organized watchmen. The point has not been put in evidence whether the places of the men who built this magnificent city should be taken by the paupers of Hungary. That was wisely avoided by the proseoution. The boy who was shot on the plank begged to go on the boat to see who was on it. "This is the position of the two parties.
Next let us look at the character of the witnesses. On the side of the state are Capt. Cooper, Burt, Conners and Capt. Rodgers, the man who hired his boat to this unlawful enterprise. The first three are detectives. What is a detective? He is a man who can't make a living at the ordinary avocations of life. He hasn't wit enough to earn his bread by the sweat of his face. He has a burning for notoriety, and prefers to hunt his fellow man rather than work for a living like honest people. In the days of tyrants detectives and inform are were hired to lie and do dirty work. We have heard of men torn from their homes and thrown into prison by their testimony. You have an antipathy to these hyenas. In this country you can't find enough Pinkertons to carry that jury with their slop testimony.
This is a state founded by Quaker conscience, and it stands around that state today like a great iron band. Remember that both Cooper and Burt now stand indicted for what they did at the landing. Remember how much they stretched the truth to prevent your people from stretching their necks. If they were not opposed. I wouldn't believe them anyhow. But they are opposed by people who live here and whose character is known. We can't, impeach the reputation of Cooper and Burt, for they come from other states, and we don't know them. If our witnesses were disreputable your district attorney would soon show them up. These men testify that the first shot came from the boats, and was tired at the people on the bank. Remember that a crowd has a right to do the same thing in self-defense as the individual. Dynamite and oil could be rained on this unman-fearing and unconscionable crowd of Pinkertons.
The Right to Shoot.
Now for the defendant. Is there any evidence to show that Critchlow countenanced the resistance? Is it known who shot Connors? You do know that your own people were shot down and killed. We are working under the most stilted economy. The moment you know who fired the shot and that there was no conspiracy among the people at the plank, the right of those on the shore to shoot continued. Political laws are silent when arms are raised. People in insurrection are always anxious to be recognized by foreign governments. You speak of cooling time. According to Capt. Cooper's testimony he stopped shooting because he had no portholes. The people had driven the cowards into their holes. [Laughter.]
The only reason why the Pinkertons did not wallow in the blood of the people was because of the magnificent resistance. There were only 8 rifles behind the barricade and 300 in the boat. Think of the absolute cowardice of men with 300 rifles against 8! Such effrontery is only equaled by their cringing fear. Cooper says they shot at every head. Why, that magnificent volunteer witness. Stewart, told a perfidious lie. It stands out boldly. Did you ever see a little squirt come in to look around for the purpose of testifying? Ah, that boy can tell a lie, and you find him in the pay of Frick. On his word would you convict? Oh, no, that game is up. Counsel on the other side stand here and say: "Why didn't Critctilow say on the stand that he did not carry a gun?" Why didn't you ask him? He was there to answer. [Laughter.] You didn't dare. His Honest, Roman face shows what he is. We have had enough of your windy sophistry.
Hero or the Future.
I haven't any heart to speak of the alibi. The boy who received fifteen bullets in his clothes will be more of a hero in time to come than your sacred man Frick. But I am ordered to go over the testimony. How many witnesses were on the ground? Only two. Stewart is the first of this magnificent observation corps of the battle. They recalled Joseph Malley, a Pinkerton. I don't know whether he is under indictment or not. If he isn't he ought to be. Diekson, Hervey, Slocum and Reese are witnesses who saw
him with a gun. Well, now, you saw the thick-tongued artist from New York; his hair parted in the twiddle; so bland to the prosecution and so sarcastic to the other side. He was so precise in his testimony because some man—Mr. Mansfield, I believe—pointed out a Critchlow. Do you think he was a fair witness? Well, Mr. Mansfield comes on the stand and says he pointed to another Critchlow. This man who draws pictures of Robinson Crusoe for New York papers betrayed by his conduct in the witness box the falsity of his testimony.
There is no evidence to skill. A volunteer witness like Stewart can't be very accurate when he crouches behind a barricade on account of the balls, and takes note of men who are shooting. Notice how precise he is. He speaks of the time from 1:36 to 3:45 in the afternoon. His very exactness makes him incredible under the exciting circumstances. Now take the evidence on the other side.
The Wrong Man.
Here Mr. Erwin read the alibi testimony already published. Continuing he said:
Who are these people? They are not relatives, they are not interested. Here are fifteen witnesses, comprising police officers, neighbors and others who testify to the alibi. It would be impossible for these men to fabricate. The testimony covers a great variety of interests. Every witness fits in and makes the evidence stronger. Even the great Pinkerton with his trained lieutenants couldn't invent such a chain of evidence. The fact is that the Critchlow on trial was not the Critchlow on the river bank. It was
I congratulate you that whatever may have been the rights of the people on the bank that morning, the testimony shows that the Critchlow here is the wrong man and your duty is simple. Promptly acquit him. In the jury room don't allow any expression of mine made in the honesty of my heart to reflect against my client. Your splendid district attorney tried this case well. He took the best position, and his attitude was such as to make you bend your consciences to convict. If you write guilty on your ballots you tear him from his wife and children. Let these thoughts be with you in all your deliberations. Responsible is your situation, and I want to thank you for your respectful attention. I leave my client with you, but you I leave in the hands of God.
- St. Paul Daily Globe, Saint Paul, Minn. Monday Morning November 28, 1892. Vol. XIV. No. 333. Pg. 2.