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March 25, 1926

The Trial of Robert O. Haviland
March 25, 1926



Progresses Rapidly at Special Term of Circuit Court. Commonwealth Rested Yesterday Afternoon. Defense Begins. Will Probably End Today.




            Robert O. Haviland, deputy field agent for the Burley Tobacco Cooperative Association, indicted by the February grand jury for the shooting and killing of Joseph W. Arnold, at the Lebus Warehouse in Cynthiana on February 3, was arraigned at the special term of the Harrison Circuit Court, which convened Tuesday, with Judge J.C. Dedman presiding and Commonwealth’s Attorney T.E. King prosecuting, assisted by County Attorney M.G. Land, Wade H. Lail and Wallace Muir, Lexington.  The circuit court room was filled to overflowing, mostly with men, but scattered through the crowd were a number of women.

            All Tuesday’s session was occupied with selecting a jury from the panel of thirty-six names which had been drawn from the wheel to serve during the special term.  At the close of the session ten men had qualified:  G.T. Beckett, E.L. Renaker, Jesse Faulconer, L.T. Anderson, Wesley Williams, Herman Brookins, Willie McCauley, Thomas Northcutt, Edgar VanHook, [and] W.F. Renaker.  Twenty-six of the panel jury and two bystanders had been rejected.  Judge Dedman in open court drew from the wheel fifteen additional names and W.R. Jones and Stone Perkins were selected yesterday morning to complete the jury.  While the questions, “Are you a member of the Burley Association,” and “Are you a tobacco grower” were asked the jurors the questions were not used as grounds of disqualification for service.

            Jurors were questioned by Hanson Peterson for the defense and T.E. King for the Commonwealth.

            Forty-two witnesses were summoned to testify in the case, twenty-six for the defense and sixteen for the Commonwealth.  Defense counsel includes Stephen L. Blakely, Covington; Peterson & Peterson[,] and Daniel Durbin, Cynthiana.

            Mr. Haviland is at liberty under previous bond while the case is being tried.

            Judge Thomas E. King, Commonwealth’s Attorney, made the opening statement for the defense yesterday morning.  The first witness for the Commonwealth was Rev. Robt. H. Jones, who testified substantially as at the examining trial.  He stated in substance that he was about ten feet from Haviland and Arnold when the difficulty occurred.  Arnold was leaning against a basket of tobacco, a group around talking.  Heard something about “a lot of women raising tobacco,” and Haviland accusing Arnold of inducing growers to dump.  Arnold called Haviland a “damned liar,” or something stronger, and the shot was fired.

A.L. Jennings

            A.L. Jennings testified as at the examining trial that he and Arnold were on a basket of tobacco, Arnold sitting.  When Haviland came up he and Arnold were talking about how much tobacco would be sold on the loose leaf floor.  Turned away a moment and when he turned again toward the parties heard the damned lie passed and the shooting followed.

Others Testify

            Urias Price, Clarence Tolle, Dr. Swinford, Duke Smith, J.S. Jones[,] and L.R. Kearns, gave testimony similar to that at the examining trial, none of which differed materially from the above.

            Martin Nagel said that Arnold was standing up when the shot was fired, with hands extended.  Understood Haviland to pass the lie first.

Defense Opens

            The opening statement for the defense was made by attorney Blakely who said it would be shown that Haviland’s life had been threatened and he had reason to fear Arnold would do him violence.

Haviland Testifies

            Robert O. Haviland was the first witness for the defense.  After the usual preliminary questions, he stated in substance that about a year ago he had been told by Sam Feeback that Arnold had said he, Haviland, was meddlesome and if he did not quit what he was doing he would kill him.  A short time after that, Haviland said, he saw a pistol in Arnold’s hip pocket while at the LeBus warehouse.  Said he, Haviland, had gotten a pistol from his brother-in-law, Dr. Midden, the latter part of October or first part of November last year and had carried it since.  The Court over-ruled an attempt to show that Haviland had a permit to carry a pistol, as no one in this State has authority to issue a permit, it is said.

            Concerning his presence on the floor the morning of the shooting, Mr. Haviland said he had been instructed by the Burley Association to look for a certain lot of tobacco and walked up and down four or five rows trying to locate it.  The end of his inspection brought him to the group where Arnold was.  They talked together, all joining more or less.  Arnold asked him for a chew of tobacco, but as he had none he gave him a cigarette.

            After a while the talk drifted to the amount of tobacco that would be sold on that loose leaf floor, how much would be dumped, women raising tobacco, etc.  Arnold said you didn’t have to induce them to dump–you’d have to take a club to keep them from dumping.  Haviland charged that Arnold had induced some to dump.  Arnold called him a G—d—liar, jumped up and advanced on him with hands extended.  He backed away, Arnold continued to advance and he fired.

            Mr. Haviland was cool and collected on the stand, in no wise frustrated or excited and told his story in a straightforward way.

Defense Witnesses Dismissed at Noon

            Under the impression that the Commonwealth would occupy the whole afternoon, the Court at noon excused the defense witnesses until this morning.  When the Commonwealth rested, without calling a number of witnesses who had been summoned, the defense found itself with few witnesses available.  After Mr. Haviland testified there was some delay in getting another witness.

            Braden Stevens was found, and on the stand said he was attracted to the group by hearing the lie passed and when he looked around saw Haviland backing away, Arnold going toward him, and the shot was fired.

W.P. Renaker

            W.P. Renaker was called and said he was four or five feet from the men.  Arnold was sitting on a bas[Page 12, column 5]ket of tobacco.  Heard Arnold say four million pounds of tobacco would be sold on that floor, and Haviland asked how much would be pooled tobacco.  Haviland said he knew Arnold had been in barns endeavoring to get pooled tobacco dumped.  Heard Arnold call Haviland a vile name.  Then he jumped up in angry manner and advanced on Haviland and the shooting followed.  Saw no weapon on Arnold.

            J.W. Shields, of Nicholas county, was about ten feet away, heard the epithets and when he looked around Arnold was standing, heard him call the name and saw him advance on Haviland.  The pistol cracked.

            Efforts were made by court officials to located Sam Feeback and other witnesses for the defense without success and court adjourned until this morning.

            At the rate the case has progressed it should be finished today.

SOURCE: The Cynthiana (Ky.) Democrat, Thursday, March 25, 1926, Page 1, Cols. 5 & 6 (Cont’d on p. 12, col. 5):

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