July 23, 1937
Court Angered by Attorney's Manner in Cross-Examining Mrs. Victoria Price.
REJECTS PERJURY MOTION
Inconsistencies Brought Out in Witness' Testimony at Trial of Weems
By F. Raymond Daniell
Special to the New York Times
DECATUR, Ala., July 22.
Victoria Price, telling her sordid story of a mass attack by nine Negroes before the eleventh jury to sit in judgment in the Scottsboro cases, spent an uncomfortable morning on the witness stand today under a cross-examination by Samuel Leibowtiz, defense attorney.
The duel of wits between the New York criminal lawyer and the defiant mill worker was the highlight of a long court day in which the trial of Charlie Weems began and ended with the State and the defense submitting evidence with record-breaking speed.
This jury, like the one which condemned Andy Wright yesterday to a ninety-nine year sentence in the penitentiary, is barred by law from sentencing Weems to death. There is no limit, however, to the length of the prison sentence it may impose.
Delivering one of the closing arguments for the State, H.G. Bailey, Jackson County solicitor, who wa prosecutor of the original trials at Scottsboro, pressed the thought that this was a case in which a white woman accused a Negro of a crime worse than murder. He declared that when Weems and his companions told Mrs. Price that they were going to "take her North and make her their woman" they hurled a challenge against the laws of alabama, the sovereignty of the State and the
sanctity of white womanhood."
Mrs. Price Is First Witness
When Mr. Leibowitz undertook to cross-examine Mrs. Price she shouted defiant answers.
Within three minutes after her cross-examination started, Mr. Leibowitz had her contradicting herself about when she counted the Negroes who attacked her. Today she said it was after they had piled into the gondola car.
At Scottsboro, the record showed, she swore she counted them one by one as they swarmed into the car. Mrs. Price said she did not remember anything of the kind at Scottsboro and when Mr. Leibowitz insisted that she tell which version of her story she wanted the jury to believe, Mr. Lawson arose to demand that the court instruct counsel to show some respect for the complaining witness.
Then Mr. Leibowitz asked her to take a good look at the defendant, whom she said she had not seen for the past six years. He asked if she could identify him positively as one of the men who attacked her. She said she certainly could. Mr. Leibowitz then asked if she noted any change in his physical appearance since she last saw him. Mrs. Price studied the features of Weems for several minutes and then said:
"He's looking bigger like all over."
"Anything else?" demanded Mr. Leibowitz.
"He's lighter," she said, "a little lighter and ashier looking."
"Take a good look now and see if you can't see any other change in his appearance," ordered Mr. Leibowitz.
Questioned About Mustache
"I won't say," said Mrs. Price, settling back in her chair.
"Do you notice his mustache?" asked the defense attorney, "he asked the defense attorney, "he didn't have that in Scottsboro did he?"
"I don't remember that he did," said Mrs. Price.
Mr. Leibowitz asked Mrs. Price then if she knew Lester Carter, who according to testimony in earlier trials, accompanied her and Ruby Bates on an overnight hobo trip to Chattanooga the day before she says the negroes attacked her.
"If I did I don't remember," said Mrs. Price.
All subsequent efforts of Mr. Leibowitz to probe that phase of the story were blocked by objections from the State which were sustained by the court.
When Mr. Leibowitz pressed her aggressively on her testimony at other trials on injuries suffered in the attack and other points at which she contradicted herself, Judge W.W. Callahan took a hand in the proceedings without waiting for objections from the State. Finally, when Mr. Leibowitz persisted his attack upon the complaining witness's credibility, the court warned him to desist.
It is not too late," said the judge, who is 77 years old, "for the court to enforce its orders. your manner is going to lead to trouble, Mr. Leibowitz, and you might as well get ready for it."
"Isn't it a fact that you decided to accuse these Negroes falsely to save yourself from arrest for hoboing?" asked Mr. Leibowitz in the afternoon session.
"No sir," said Mrs. Price.
Leibowitz Motion Is Denied
Mr. Leibowitz then asked Judge Callahan to excuse the jury in order that he might make a motion. When the door closed behind the jury, Mr. Leibowitz rose and said:
"I move that the testimony of Victoria Price be stricken from the record on the ground that her testimony is so rampant with perjury that the court is constrained---"
Judge Callahan did not let him finish. He denied the motion and ordered the Sheriff to bring back the jurors.
After Mrs. Price had told her story several farmers who saw Negroes and white men fighting on the freight train took the stand as they have at all the other trials. . . .
July 24, 1937
WEEMS CASE GIVEN TO ALABAMA JURY
Another Scottsboro Trial Ends After Leibowitz Charges a Mockery of Justice
HITS COURT 'HYPOCRISY'
Prosecutor, in Reply, Accuses New Yorker of Jeopardizing Own Plea for Publicity
By F. Raymond Daniell
Special to the New York Times
DECATUR, Ala., July 23.
A jury which heard Samuel Leibowitz of New York attack the State's case in the Scottsboro trials as a frame-up, and ridicule the proceedings before Judge W.W. Callahan as a mockery of justice, retired this afternoon to weight the guilt or innocence of Charlie Weems, one of nine Negroes accused of attacking Victoria Price, a white woman.
The jury, drawn from a regular panel after a special venire of sixty five was waived by the defense in consideration of a waiver of capital punishment by the State, was barred from ordering death for the Negro, who is being tried now for the first time since his original conviction at Scottsboro was set aside by the United States Supreme Court. Another jury condemned Clarence Norris to die after a trial last week.
The Weems case jurymen were ordered to their hotel for the night when they failed to reach a verdict after three and a half hours of deliberation.
Answers Leibowitz's Attack.
Melvin C. Hutson, Morgan County solicitor, in summing up the State's case against Weems before it went to the jury, declared that Mr. Leibowitz had insulted not only the members of the jury but the citizenry of this county and declared that Mr. Leibowitz's talk was aimed not at the jury box but at the press row behind it.
Mr. Hutson accused the New York attorney of deliberately seeking a conviction for publicity purposes, and told the jurors that they could give Weems up to 1,000 years.
In his address, Mr. Leibowitz declared his belief that it was hopeless even to try to convince a white jury here that a Negro accused by a white woman might be innocent of the charge.
Says He Is Tired of Hypocrisy.
"I'm sick and tired of this sanctimonious hypocrisy," he shouted. "It isn't Charlie Weems on trial in this case. It's a Jew lawyer and New York State put on trial here by the inflammatory remarks of Mr. Bailey."
H. G. Bailey of Jackson County who prosecuted the original trials at Scottsboro, in summing up for the State yesterday afternoon, dwelt at length on the fact that counsel in this case came from New York.
Mr. Leibowitz referred to the string of farmers called by the State to bolster up the testimony of Mrs. Price as "trained seals" and "performers in a flea circus." He accused Mr. Bailey flatly of supporting evidence favorable to the defense, declaring that this was a further reason to suspect that the whole case against the Negroes was manufactured in Mrs. Price's head to save herself and her hobo companions from vagrancy arrests.
The assertions of lawyers for the State that Negroes fare the same as white men in the courts of Northern Alabama was so much "poppycock," said Mr. Leibowitz, calling the formalities of the trial a mere travesty of justice.
Since taking charge of the defense he had examined more than 1,000 prospective jurors from Morgan County without yet finding one who would admit that he harbored the least bit of prejudice against the Negroes or would treat them any differently than he would white defendants in a court of law, said Mr. Leibowitz.
Yet, he continued, outside the court room on the streets or Decatur white men had told him privately that a Negro did not have a chance and that his life was s worthless as a burned matchstick.
Judge Callahan strode back and forth on the bench, while Mr. Leibowitz continued his accusations against Alabama courts and juries. Mr. Lawson left the courtroom, but Mr. Hutson, the local solicitor, busily took notes and bided his time to have the final word.
Plan to Inflame Jury Charged.
When that time came Mr. Hutson, in a booming voice, charged that for some reason best known to Mr. Leibowitz the defense lawyer was seeking deliberately to inflame the jury against his client to make acquittal impossible.
Once, during Mr. Hutson's closing argument, he asked the jurors how they would liked to have their own daughters or womenfolk upon the freight train with the Negroes. At this point Mr. Leibowitz asked for a mistrial but Judge Callahan denied his motion.
When the oratory of the Lawyers ended Judge Callahan recessed court for lunch and began charging the jury when court reconvened.
Judge Callahan charged, as he has done before, that where a white woman accused a Negro of rape the jury should regard that as presumptive evidence that there was no consent.
July 25, 1937
SCOTTSBORO CASE ENDS AS 4 GO FREE; 2 MORE GET PRISON
Negroes, Released Quietly, Leave Decatur Under Guard, Bound for New York
75-YEAR TERM FOR WEEMS
Powell, Cleared on Woman's Charge, Admits a Stabbing ---Leibowitz is Elated
By F. Raymond Daniell
Special to the New York Times
DECATUR, Ala., July 24.
Four Negro youths, who for six an one half years have lived in the shadow of the electric chair, were set free here today in a dramatic finale of the famous Scottsboro case.
The State, in the person of Thomas S. Lawson, Assistant Attorney General, nolle prossed all the indictments against five of the nine Negroes accused of attacking Victoria Price and Ruby Bates on a freight train bound from Chattanooga to Memphis on March 25, 1931.
Four of the Negro youths, three of whom were convicted and sentenced to death in the original trials at Scottsboro which the Federal Supreme Court reversed, were set free immediately to start for New York under guard with Samuel Leibowitz, their attorney.
The fifth Negro saved from trial by the State's action was sentenced to imprisonment for twenty years by Judge W.W. Callahan after he had pleaded guilty to a charge of assault with intent to murder. It was he who, a year and a half ago, drew a knife and attacked Edgar Blalock, a Morgan County deputy who was taking him to Birmingham . . . .
Release Made in Secret
Mr. Leibowitz regarded the day's developments as a great victory for the defense, and said that it marked the end of Alabama's efforts to send the Negroes to the electric chair.
The whole proceeding of the release of the four Negroes was carried out swiftly and without advance publicity.
As it was, Judge Callahan ordered State policemen to escort Mr. Leibowitz, William Richter, his associate, and the four Negroes to the State line. In two cars provided by Dr. Newman Sykes, a Negro who testified at the hearing which resulted in the order from the Federal Supreme Court for Alabama to include Negroes on her jury panels, Mr. Leibowitz and his four clients raced out of town for Chattanooga by way of Pulaski.
"It is nothing short of a miracle that the boys were saved from the chair, and it's God's wonder that they are actually free," said the New York lawyer. "I can hardly believe it. We'll keep up the fight until all of these innocent boys are saved."
The party was gone before news of the release of the four Negroes spread among Decatur's 17,000 citizens. Victoria Price, peering from a court house window, saw them go.
As the four Negroes ran out of the opened jail doors with their hands above their heads and ducked into one of the waiting cars, Sheriff J. Street Sandlin said to to Mr. Leibowitz:
"Why don't you get in there with your clients you"----
Sheriff Not Told in Advance
Neither the Sheriff nor the prisoners had been told in advance of the State's plan to nolle prosse the indictments against them.
The Negroes did not know that they were free until Mr. Leibowitz told them so. The had thought that they were being taken back to the Jefferson County jail, where they had been kept for the last four years awaiting trial. On said:
"Gee, I haven't been so happy since I was 2 years old." . . . .
Weems Charges Injustice
Thanking the jurors and dismissing them, Judge Callahan remarked that "this ends the business of the court for this week."
Weems was brought around before the bench. Before sentence was pronounced by Judge Callahan, who pointed out that he had "nothing to do with the jury's verdict," Weems said he had not had "a fair and impartial trial."
"I didn't get justice here," he declared.
Mr. Leibowitz moved for an arrest of judgment, charging that the court had no jurisdiction. This was a technical move to protect the record for future appeal from the conviction.
Ozie Powell then brought into court. Mr. Leibowitz talked briefly with him. Then Powell was marched before the bench to hear the indictment charging him with assaulting Deputy Blalock read by the court clerk. Judge Callahan explained that he could plead guilty or not as he chose.
"Don't plead guilty unless you are guilty," said Mr. Leibowitz.
"I'm guilty of cutting the deputy," the Negro said.
In consideration of the fact that the State had consented to nolle prosse the attack indictment against Powell in the Victoria Price case, Melvin C. Hutson, the Circuit Solicitor of Morgan County, told the court that the prosecution would insist on the maximum penalty for Powell. Mr. Leibowitz pleaded with the judge to take into consideration the six and a half years that the Negro has been in jail awaiting trial, but Judge Callahan said:
"If it had not been that the State had dropped the other charge of rape against him I would have given him fifteen years. As it is, I will have to sentence him to twenty years in the penitentiary. The State insists upon it."
The other four Negroes were not brought into court. Mr. Lawson stepped before the bench and in a quiet voice moved to nolle prosse all the indictments charging them with attacking the two white women.
Thus, in a tangle of inconsistencies, ended the famous Scottsboro case.
Group Reaches Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 24 (AP)
Samuel Leibowitz said here tonight that he and the four Scottsboro defendants freed today would try to make connections by train and plane to arrive in New York late tomorrow afternoon.
"Our plans aren't definite," he added, "but the boys ought to be placed in a vocational school where they can be trained in some trade."
The Explanation of the Freeing of Four Defendants
By the Associated Press
DECATUR, ALA., July 24
The text of the statement issued by the "Scottsboro case prosecution staff" was as follows:
The prosecution is convinced beyond any question of a doubt, after going through eleven trials of the Scottsboro cases, that the defendants have been tried are guilty of raping Mrs. Victoria Price in the gondola car as she has recited upon the witness stand. Her testimony is corroborated by reputable witnesses so as, in our opinion, to convince any fair-minded man that these defendants did participate in throwing these white boys off of the gondola car and raping Mrs. Victoria Price.
But after careful consideration of all the testimony, every lawyer connected with the prosecution is convinced that the defendants Willie Roberson and Olen Montgomery are not guilty.
The doctor that examined Willie Roberson the day after the commission of the crime states that he was sick, suffering with a severe venereal disease and that in his condition it would have been very painful to have committed that crime, and that he would not have had any inclination to commit it. He has told a very plausible story from the beginning: that he was in a box car and knew nothing about the crime.
Olen Montgomery was practically blind and has also told a plausible story, which has been unshaken all through the litigation, which put him at some distance from the commission of the crime. The State is without proof other than the prosecutrix as to his being in the gondola car, and we feel that it is a case of mistaken identity.
Mr. Bailey, Mr. Lawson and Mr. Hutson all entertain the same view as to these two Negroes, and in view of the doubt generated by the fact that their physical condition was as stated above, the fact that two men were seen in a box car by a disinterested witness, which tends to corroborate Willie Roberson, we feel that the policy of the law and the ends of justice would not justify us in asking a conviction of these two cases.
Two of the defendants were juveniles at the time this crime was committed. According to a careful investigation by the Attorney General's office, we are convinced that at the time of the actual commission of this crime one of these juveniles was 12 years old and the other one was 13, and while they were in the gondola car; when the rape was committed, counsel for the State think that in view of the fact they have been in jail for six and a half years the ends of justice would not be met at this time by releasing these two juveniles, on condition that they leave the State, never to return.