Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thriller Thursday - Wrapping Up the Villers Trial, Part 10

The Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
Continuing with the coverage of the Villers trial from the Jamestown Weekly Alert. We have finally made it to page two and the story certainly stays interesting!

This first image was at the top of page 2 although it covers what we already knew, since page 1 talked of the verdict and sentencing. My guess is that this was because the information for this issue was being compiled as the trial was winding down. It's not like our daily papers where all the information for the days news got in there within hours. The paper was weekly and this trial was sensational. They were getting every detail in there!

"Evidence all in

Arguments in Villers Case Made By Attorneys to Jury.

Unexpected Ending of Evidence - Important Testimony for Defense

End of Trial Approaching - Mrs. Villers, Not Placed Upon the Stand."

The Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
As we saw in last week's post the prosecutor mentioned how Villers' wife wasn't present at the trial. Seeing this would have made me wonder if she was instructed not to be there in case she had to testify...and then just didn't. Is that how things really are or is that just in movies? Also, wasn't it widely practiced that a wife couldn't be compelled to testify against her husband? Perhaps her testimony wouldn't have been helpful, but potentially could have been hurtful or twisted to be hurtful against her husband. There could have been good reason to not have her testify and if she did then she would have been available for cross-examination. Just like today the lack of testimony tends to be looked at by the opposing side and inferring guilt even though that isn't necessarily true.

The Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
"The first and only murder trial in Stutsman county approached its close at 2:17 p.m. Monday when Judge Fisk ordered the attorneys to proceed with their arguments to the jury. States Attorney Baldwin reviewed, commenting upon the evidence, directing attention to the most material points. He spoke less than three-quarters of an hour and then gave way to Attorney Ellsworth who made a strong plea for his client, M. J. Villers."

This clipping looks like it would have done better on the first page, but at least it teases us into knowing that whatever plea the defense made, it was a good one.

"Monday's Proceedings.

Louis J. Villers, son of Mr. Villers, corroborated the testimony of his father, saying he was at Comber's Sept. 14th. The next day he took his father's rig and came to Jamestown for some cylinder rings. He returned about 8 p. m. to Jno. Comber's where he saw his father; he supposed Mr. Villers slept in Comber's house that night. His father was troubled with a disease of the bladders since '93.

The Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
Mr. F. Carley of Montpelier, testified he was at Comber's to about sundown Sept. 14; said Villers bore a good character so far as he knew.

Peral Wright knew Mrs. Tromer in '92 when he (sic) saw her taken with a more violent nervous attack than any here in court. At the time she was at the store getting breakfast when she fell backward on the floor, frothed at the mouth, sobbed, cried and screamed and was not able to do any work afterward for three days. Also saw her in a nervous attack in '93, but not so severe. Photographs of the grave and surrounding topography, showing building, etc., taken by the witness were identified and introduced in evidence.

No cross examination."

I wish they would have clarified the "violence" more and why they phrased it that way. I don't think they were trying to say that she would have been the one to hurt her husband, but there doesn't seem to be a purpose to it. What was their point?

The Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
"Slept with Villers at Combers.

Louis Comber, son of John Comber, said he was at his father's place Sept. 15th, '94, and saw Villers there then. The cook shanty remained there until Sunday; didn't see Viller's bring any provisions to it. Villers slept that night in the kitchen, he (sic) sleeping with him. The witness is a sound sleeper but he remembered Villers getting up several times awakening him some of the times and was there Sunday morning.

No cross examination.

Jno. Comber said Villers threshed at his place Saturday, the machine next going to his brother's place, Joseph Villers was present at the machine, the cook shanty remaining to Sunday fore noon. Villers was at his house Saturday night, talking with him and family before going to bed. Louis Villers came during the evening bringing some cylinder rings with him. Louis Comber slept in the kitchen with Villers that night.

No cross examination."

So far none of the witnesses have been cross examined. I wonder if that was because their was nothing to gain and cross examination would have only helped to strengthen the alibi. They are set on that date too. I can only imagine that was because it's the date Mrs. Tromer claims that her husband went missing. Of course, Mr. Tromer could have been held and killed on another date. No saying it played out that way, but blowing holes in the case as it is presented in the newspaper is too easy. Especially when looking back from current times.

The Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
"Prosper Naze, Villers' son-in-law, was at Villers' home Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16th; saw Villers drive away southwest in his democrat wagon; was asked to accompany him to Tromer's for a sheep - did not go. Saw Villers return in same direction with meat or a sheep.

No cross examination.

Here it was stipulated by counsel that a mortgage, of which Exhibit 5 is a copy, was written Sept. 19, '93, by W. B. S. Trimble, and signed in his presence by Aug. Tromer, and the same day Trimble wrote a note of the same date for $296.96 payable to Octavia Villers which August Tromer executed in his presence.

Dr. Baldwin, recalled by the defense, said Mrs. Tromer first met him in his office the middle of July, 1893. Her health was then poor, she having spells of unconsciousness at times. He didn't know what was the cause of them. In summer of '94 she was brought into his store from Strong & Chase's where it was said she had fainted while trading. The day was warm and the doctor thought she had overtaxed herself. She was unconscious but a few minuted with no excitement or hysteria. Mrs. Tromer was much improved after her first treatment which was somewhat incidental, she not having come to the city for treatment. There was a deficiency of red corpuscles in her blood, she was very white and he prescribed accordingly. Hysteria is a disease of the nerves. First time he saw he she didn't speak any English and Mr. Tromer did the talking; now she can understand common English.

No cross examination."

I know I've mentioned it before, but her "nervous condition" is very irritating. A disgrace to women everywhere. Not that the men were much better. Oh how I wish I could really know what was wrong with her. Was there something wrong or was she just nuts? "Hysteria is a disease of the nerves"...oh for a proper diagnosis!

"Here the defense said it was ready to rest the case providing they were granted the privilige (sic) of placing Mrs. M. J. Villers, their last witness who was then unfortunately sick and quite nervous on the stand later. The prosecution did not readily consent to this, the defense rested and the state began the introduction of testimony in rebuttal no agreement for the taking of her deposition being secured."

Oh please not more nervousness! I hope that this was just that Octavia was nervous about taking the stand and was also sick. Two separate issues, but with the way women were and were viewed it's hard to tell. I found it amusing in a very hypocritical sort of way that the prosecution would be so against delaying Octavia Villers' testimony when they delayed the trial for Mrs. Tromer's hysteria. I supposed that's their job though. Still, with the comment about how Octavia Villers didn't testify I've got to wonder whether it was due to her being ill. Surely if they wanted to bring her back and the prosecution fought to prevent it that they would have noted that in the closing statements.

Next week I'll start on the prosecution's case which is much longer than what the papers presented for the defense. we'll see how much we get through. Maybe I'll find out more about the business Villers was in because I always thought it was farming and that he rented land from Tromer, but with all of these posts I'm thinking that may not have been the cut and dry of it.

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