Contributed by Gigimo
Description: Cunningham Acquitted. A Jury of Twelve Men Declare He is Not Guilty of Murder as Charged.Date: November 24 1905
Newspaper published in: Farmington, MO
The case of James W. CUNNINGHAM, which was begun in the Circuit Court at Farmington last Friday, terminated by a verdict of acquittal at 4:25 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, the jury being out just twenty minutes.
As is well remembered, James W. CUNNINGHAM killed Hon. John SHERRLOCK, his father in law, on June 1st last by striking him on the head with a fence stick, crushing his skull. The State's theory supported by a testimony of a person and circumstantial character, was that Cunningham and SHEARLOCK were biter personal enemies, this feeling growing out of business and domestic relations; that SHEARLOCK passed along where CUNNINGHAM was at work on the day before the killing (May 31st) on the way to Esther and Flat River; that CUNNINGHAM has reason to believe deceased would return the same way on the afternoon of the day of the killing; that CUNNINGHAM had quarreled with his two sons, Harry and Firman, the evening before and the morning of the homicide, and said that he had forbid SHEARLOCK to come upon his premises, and if he did they (the boys) would "hear something drop;" that defendant went to the place of the homicide expecting and hoping that his enemy would come along; that he did come on his usual way home from Esther, and seeing him coming defendant hid behind a large dead elm tree, and as SHEARLOCK climbed the fence CUNNINGHAM assassinated him; that he position of the body, the location of the tree and the fence and the physical facts all tended strongly to establish murder in the first degree.
The attorneys for the defendant set up a plea of self-defense, and established by CUNNINGHAM, the only living eye witness, and corroborated by others and the physical facts, that just as CUNNINGHAM had finished closing up a gap of two panels of the fence, SHEARLOCK was seen by him in the act of climbing the fence; that CUNNINGHAM forbade him to come over on his premises, but that SHEARLOCK climbed over, and when over said to defendant, "G--d-- you, I see I have to kill you, and I'd as well do it now," and started toward CUNNINGHAM, pulling his 38-caliber Colt's revolver; that CUNNINGHAM jumped to the tree for protection, and seeing the fence stick grabbed it, swung around the tree and dealt the fatal blow. The defense further showed by the testimony of witnesses that SHEARLOCK bore a bad reputation as a turbulent and dangerous man, and that he had previously made dangerous and desperate threats again the life of CUNNINGHAM; that CUNNINGHAM had borne a most excellent reputation.
The instructions were in the usual form for murder in the first and second degrees. Prosecuting Attorney George M. WILSON, assisted by Jasper N. BURKS and Jerry B. BURKS, represented the State, while Madison R. SMITH, Benj. H. MARBURY, Walter L. HENSLEY and Charles RANDLE represented the defendant.
An unusual thing occurred just after the verdict of acquittal was returned - the singing of the doxology, Rev. Van B. CUNNINGHAM, brother of the defendant, leading the singing.
The trial jury were Daniel O'SULLIVAN, H. E. EVANS, J. F. HINKLE, Claud J. HILL, Richmond COLE, John MULLEN, Joseph BANKS, Albert BELKIN, David PAINTER, J. H. LUPKE, C. W. SANDFORD and Chas. W. JOHNSON.