Now, after our Father's Day Break, let’s take a look into the court proceedings of William “Bill” Naves. In our There’s Trouble Across the Line - Part 1 post, we discovered Bill Naves from Ozark County, Missouri, in a heap of trouble in being accused of murder. This first article is the first court proceedings Bill will face.
18 September, 1903
Baxter county circuit court convened Monday morning, Judge Meeks presiding.
The forenoon was spent charging the grand jurors, and on account of the speaking in the afternoon court was adjourned till Tuesday morning.
Wednesday Morning the case of State vs. Will Naves was called. The forenoon and the greater portion of the afternoon was consumed in securing a grand jury. At 3:05 the last one of the twelve men was secured and the attorney for the prosecution called their witnesses, and after they had taken their oath they were placed under rule and the state began its side of the case. The state has about 45 witnesses while the defense has about 35 or 40 witnesses.
At this time the Bulletin Boys will say nothing as to the innocence or guilt of the man on trial for his life, as we might say something that would be out of place at this time, but leave it with the 12 men who are sworn to give him a fair and impartial trial. The following is the jury: G. W. Brooks, R. S. Hurst, Isom Stinnett, J. O. Leonard, W. T. Talbert, J. C. Wheat, John W. Baker, N. A. Tucker, J. P. Wheat, L. S. Talbert, A. H. Hite, and F. L. Cole.
End of ArticleThe Next Week
100 Years Ago, the wheels of justice turned swiftly.
25 Sept. 1903
The grand jury of Baxter county in the name and by the authority of the state of Arkansas, accuse Will Naves of the crime of murder in the first degree, committed as follows to-wit: The said Will Naves in the county and state aforesaid, on the 23rd day of July, 1902, did unlawfully, feloniously, willfully maliciously, deliberately, of his malice aforethought, and with premeditation, make assault upon one Frank Lantz, being then and there living in the peace of the state, with a certain gun had and held in the hands of him, the said Will Naves, and said gun being then and there loaded with powder and leaded bullets, and shot, and him, the said Frank Lantz the said Will Naves did then and there unlawfully, feloniously, willfully maliciously, deliberately of his malice aforethought, and with premeditation, then and there, kill and murder by then and there shooting him with the gun loaded, had and held as aforesaid, inflicting on the Frank Lantz’s head, body, arms and legs, forty wounds and five mortal wounds, of which the said rank Lantz then and there did die, against the peace and dignity of the state of Arkansas.P. H. Crenshaw,
Such was the indictment against Will Naves as he entered the court room last week, there to learn his fate. The twelve men who were selected to give him a fair trial were closely questions by the shrewd lawyers for both the prosecution and defense, and every inch of the ground was closely contested from start to finish.
All through the process of the trial the courtroom was packed by people who listened with bated breath to every word of testimony. Many expressed sympathy for the man while others were eager to condemn.
Thursday afternoon the lawyers began their plea to the jury, and never before have we listened to such pleading, now eloquent now dramatic with pathos, following each other in such a masterful way that at times one could almost hear the pitiful sobs of the mother as she wept for her erring boy. But pity and sympathy must not find lodgment in the heart of the one sworn to try a case on the law and evidence. The prosecution closed their argument Friday night and the jury retired to find a verdict. After being out an hour they returned and were turned over to the sheriff until morning, when they again retired to the jury room. After deliberating all day Saturday until about 5:30 they finally reached a verdict – “We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty.”
Such was the verdict returned by the men selected for the purpose and Bill Naves stood before the world once more free.
When the verdict was read, many took Naves by the hand and congratulated him and that he had been saved from a death on the gallows, while some thought he should have hung.
Be that as it may the verdict has been rendered, the courts have pronounced him innocent and by that decision we must abide. Whether Bill Naves is guilty or innocent of the crime of murder only he and his Maker know, and so it will have to stand until he reaches that court where he shall receive the sentence of eternal damnation or peace forever at God’s right hand.
That Bill Naves has been saved from the gallows we are glad. Not that we want to see justice defeated should he have been guilty, but because we are opposed to taking human life to satisfy the law that the crime of murder might be avenged. While we do not oppose as Christians or critics, we fail to see how those who profess to be Christians can demand a man hang for murder. They hold up their hands in holy horror at lying, stealing, blaspheming, adultery, etc., yet they clamor for the life of a man who is charged with murder. Has not God lain down a commandment that far surpasses the Ten Commandments, when He said: “Take that not from him which ye cannot give.” You can take a man’s liberty and restore it, but you cannot restore life.
We do not wish to be taken a upholding murder; on the contrary we wish every murderer to receive the most severest punishment, but “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”
William Naves is a young man, scarcely 28 years of age; a bright, intelligent looking fellow, and does not look the hardened criminal or villain that some would prove him to be. He has served a term in the Missouri pen for cattle stealing and, of course, this speaks against him, but let us all hope that he may yet become a man among men, a credit to those with whom he may come in contact and be a blessing and help to his widowed mother in her declining years. “He was my friend and brother who had mercy on me.”
End of Article
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There’s Trouble Across the Line - Part 3...Coming Soon
Works Cited:“Baxter County Circuit Court September Term, 1903.” Baxter Bulletin 2.52 (25 Sept. 1903) A1-1. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Dec. 2009.
“Circuit Court.” Baxter Bulletin 2.52 (18 Sept. 1903) A1-1. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Dec. 2009.