Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Frank James On Western Wednesday...!

Most of the time when we hear about justice is the Old West, we don't think about trials. This wasn't the case when it came to Frank James, however. Even with the records clearly showing he was guilty of many robberies, he did go to trial with a rather surprising outcome.

Trial of Frank James begins in Missouri

The trial of Frank James begins in Gallatin, Missouri. It was held in the city opera house in order to accommodate the crowds of spectators.

After having robbed dozens of banks and trains over nearly two decades, Frank James finally turned himself in October 1882. Discouraged by the murder of his brother Jesse the previous spring, Frank feared it was only a matter of time before someone also shot him in the back for reward money. He decided to try his chances with the courts, hoping that his considerably public popularity would win him a short sentence.

Frank’s trial went even better than he had hoped. Although Frank and Jesse James and their gang of desperados had killed many people, the majority of Missourians saw them as heroes who took money from ruthless bank and railroad companies and redistributed it to the poor. The state prosecutor had a difficult time finding jurors who were not prejudiced in Frank’s favor. Looking at the panel of potential jurors, he concluded, “The verdict of the jury that is being selected is already written.”

After the trial began, several prominent witnesses testified to Frank’s character. General Joseph O. Shelby, who had known him during his days as a Civil War guerilla, encouraged the jurors to see Frank James as a defender of the South against corrupt big businesses from the North. When asked to identify Frank in the courtroom, the distinguished general exclaimed: “Where is my old friend and comrade in arms? Ah, there I see him! Allow me, I wish to shake hands with my fellow soldier who fought by my side for Southern rights!”

Rural Missourians were unwilling to convict the legendary Frank James. The jury found him not guilty. The states of Alabama and Missouri tried to convict him twice more, on charges of armed robbery, with no success. In late 1883, Frank James became a free man. He lived quietly for 32 more years. The only shots he ever fired again were from starter pistols at county racetracks, one of the handful of odd jobs he took to earn a living. He died at his family home in Missouri in 1915 at the age of 72.

This was probably a wise move on Frank's part, knowing how the general public felt about him. So, despite all the evidence against him, Frank was made a free man and lived a mostly peaceful life afterwards.

Coffee out on the patio again this morning.


Mamahen said...

I find it humorous that the people sided with a known theif against organizations they trusted less than him:))

linda m said...

Frank indeed made a wise move turning himself in. At least he got to live life to his natural end. As Mamahen said it is humorous that people sided with a thief over organizations they trusted less than the thief.

Rob said...

It's funny how some of this stuff ended. Coffee on the patio sounds real good!

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
I guess that sometimes folks are quicker to believe the myth ver the truth.
Thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Linda...
I do believe he made the wisest move he had.
Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Rob...
Well, they do say that justice is blind...guess it's true.
Thanks for the visit this morning!

JO said...

Love this story and today I think it's still the same can't trust banks or anyone who is overly rich.

I'll be happy to join in at the patio this morning.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Always love the true stories that you dig up and post. Keep up the great work, Jim.