Monday, June 30, 2014

The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 14: The Verdict Is In!

I am transcribing a series of newspaper articles concerning the 1858 murder trial of Mortimer Seaver published in the Flint, Michigan Wolverine Citizen newspaper.  The series to date:


*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 1: Benjamin Phillips Testimony (10 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 2: Jeremiah Slack's Testimony (11 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 3: Testimony of 4 More Witnesses (12 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 4: Testimony of 10 More Witnesses (13 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 5: Testimony of the Victim's Wife (16 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 6: More Testimony of Sarah Seaver (17 June 2014)

*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 7: Testimony From 11 Witnesses (18 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 8: Prosecution Rests, Defense Starts (19 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 9: Defense Testimony About Rifles and Balls (20 June 2013)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 10: More Defense Testimony (23 June 2014)


The article starts in the right-hand column of Page 1 above, continues on to most of Page 2, and then finishes in the 30 January 1858 edition of the newspaper on pages 1 and 2.  The first page of the 30 January 1858 issue is at http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=9AjqDp0R1qcC.

I am transcribing the articles in a series of blog posts - who knows how long this will take.  I hope my readers enjoy it.  Note that this is a reporter's summary of the trial, not the trial court transcript.

===============================================
[from page 2, column 4, 30 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]
[continued]


The jury retired about a quarter before eight o'clock, and a few minutes before ten -- having been a little over two hours in consultation -- returned a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

===========================================

So, after two days of testimony in this trial, the reporter summarizes the verdict in 30 words.  

Inquiring minds want to know - what was the defendant's reaction?  The prosecutor's?  The mother's?  The brothers?  The girl friend's?  A modern newspaper reporter might have another series of articles about the family, the jury members, etc., the police efforts to find the perpetrator, etc.

My opinion is that this was a just verdict based on the evidence presented to the jury.  The defense identified the actions of all of the parties involved during the day in question.  The testimony about the reaction of Mortimer to his father's death, ownership and presence of the rifles in the house, the rifling in the barrels not matching and the balls made from the molds in the house,the fatal ball, etc. was convincing.  The prosecution presented no explicit motive, or even a theory of how the shooting occurred.  There were discrepancies in some of the testimony that seemed to be typical of what a group of people would recall four months later.  

Left unexplained was what actually happened - did hunters in the woods to the south of the field shoot at something, have the ball glance off a fence and kill Aaron Seaver?  Or was it intentional by a person unknown?  If the latter, who?  Who, if anybody, tainted the water jug that Aaron and Mortimer used when they were scything in earlier weeks?   What actually happened to cause Mortimer to go off to New York, and Aaron to follow him and bring him back home?  Was William Smith a suitor of Kate Steele, the girl Mortimer was said to have married?  

I checked several more issues of this newspaper when I started this project and there were no other mentions of Aaron or Mortimer Seaver in Grand Blanc.  Unfortunately, the newspaper archive for this newspaper is incomplete - there are only 5 out of 42 issues available for 1858.

I will comment more about what I learned from studying and transcribing this series of newspaper articles.  I would be interested in what my readers learned from the transcription of the newspaper articles.  


Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


1 comment:

Michael Harris said...

Based on what I read not guilty made sense.

I don't recall seeing why charges were brought in the first place.