Czolgosz Pays the Penalty
WE propose to make this chapter brief, for the trial
of the assassin was brief, yet, dignified and solemn. Justice was
rendered surely and swiftly. All the forms of law were complied
with, as would have been done for the slayer of the humblest citizen.
First was the indictment before the
grand jury. Czolgosz was arraigned in court on September 16th, immediately
following the death of his victim.
Bereft of the power of speech, white-faced,
haggard and disheveled, Leon Czolgosz stood before the officers
of the law to answer for the crime which had robbed the nation of
a noble and generous ruler. Standing at the bar of justice, arraigned
on the charge of murder, this blue-eyed, mild-faced youth moved
his lips as if to speak, but no sound issued forth. There was the
shadow of hopeless despair in his eyes, and on his brow the pallor
of awful terror, for what he knew he could not escape. Death must
be his portion, as surely as the sea of faces that hemmed him in
showed not one countenance with a sign of mercy or pity.
When brought before Justice Edward
K. Emory, in the County Court of Buffalo, Erie County, New York,
the prisoner stubbornly refused to answer questions repeatedly asked
of him by District Attorney Penney as to whether he had counsel
or wanted counsel. The District Attorney then suggested that inasmuch
as the defendant refused to answer counsel should be assigned. Judge
Emory assigned Lorin N. Lewis and Robert C. Titus, former Supreme
Court Justices of Buffalo, whose names had been suggested by the
Erie County Bar Association. 
Aside from the surgeons and physicians
in the case, no witnesses were sworn other than those who were in
the Temple of Music and witnessed the shooting.
Late in the afternoon, just exactly
ten days after the shooting, the Grand Jury voted unanimously to
indict Czolgosz for murder in the first degree, and the indictment
was presented to Judge Emory in the County Court.
After indictment was
reported the prisoner was driven from the penitentiary, a mile from
the City Hall, to the jail across the street from the hall. Czolgosz
was then taken under strong guard from the jail through the tunnel
under Delaware Avenue to the basement of the City Hall and up the
stairs to the court-room on the second floor.
The prisoner was shackled to a detective
and another detective held his other arm. Assistant Superintendent
Cusack marched in front and a number of patrolmen behind. When the
prisoner was taken before the bench the crowd in the court-room
surged about him on all sides. They were compelled to resume their
Czolgosz was of medium height, of
fairly good build, and had light curly hair, but a ten days’ growth
of beard on his face gave him an unkempt appearance. Apparently
he feigned insanity, not stupidity, and his glance roamed about,
but his eyes were always downcast. Not once did he look the county
prosecutor or the judge in the face.
Judge Emory asked the prisoner if
he had counsel, but there was no answer, despite the fact that the
peace officers told him the judge was speaking and that he must
answer. Czolgosz trembled like a leaf. His eyes dilated and his
face twitched all over. Then his eyes wandered to the steel band
glistening on his right wrist.
The court then said:
“Czolgosz, you having appeared for
arraignment in the court, without counsel, the law makes it the
duty of the court to assign counsel. The Bar Association of your
county has considered the 
matter and suggested the names of certain gentlemen of high character
for such assignment. The court has seriously considered the question,
and after much consideration has concluded to follow the suggestion
made by the Association. The Court therefore assigns Lorin L. Lewis
and Robert C. Titus as your counsel.”
These gentlemen, both distinguished
members of the bar and able lawyers, felt it their duty to accept
the commands of the Court and defend the prisoner. This insured
dignity and decorum for the trial.
On Monday, September
23d, the assassin, Leon F. Czolgosz, was placed upon trial in Buffalo
charged with the murder of President William McKinley. He entered
a plea of “guilty,” which was subsequently changed to “not guilty”
by direction of the Court.
The Court convened at 10 o’clock,
and within two hours eight jurors had been secured. Technicalities
were not raised by the examining counsel, but it was significant
that every man who had said he had not formed an opinion on the
case was excused by the District Attorney. Those who acknowledged
they had formed an opinion, but admitted that their opinion could
be changed by evidence, were accepted by each side.
Justice Truman C. White, one of the
oldest and most experienced of the Supreme Court Judges, was on
the bench. Immediately after the opening of the Court, and after
the prisoner had pleaded, Justice Lorin L. Lewis, senior counsel
for the defendant, announced that he, with his colleagues, ex-Justice
Robert C. Titus and Carlton E. Ladd, was ready to act in behalf
of the prisoner.
The work of completing the jury was
then undertaken with a celerity that was amazing. Before the day
was over the entire panel had been sworn, the jurors had listened
to a description of the Temple of Music, where the crime occurred,
had seen photographs of the interior of that structure, and had
been told by three  surgeons
what caused the death of the President, and the effect of the assassin’s
shot upon the various organs of the body. They had also learned
why the fatal bullet had not been located.
The presentation of the Government’s
case followed, shortly before three o’clock, when Assistant District
Attorney Haller began, with much deliberation, to address the Court.
After stating what the prosecution expected to prove, he summoned
witnesses to testify to the facts in the case.
All the testimony for the prosecution
had been received soon after noon of Tuesday, the 24th. The counsel
for the defence had but few questions to ask, as their client had
stubbornly refused to assist them. The eminent alienists summoned
by the Erie County Bar Association and by the District Attorney
to examine Czolgosz and to determine his exact mental condition
had declared him to be perfectly sane, and thus destroyed the only
system of defence that Judges Lewis and Titus could have put together.
Judge Lewis arose slowly, and, addressing
the Court, said that the sudden close of the case against Czolgosz
was a surprise to him and his colleagues. They had no witness to
call for the defence. He asked the Court that he be allowed to address
the jury at once. The Court consented, and the venerable jurist
began an address that will long be remembered by those who heard
In it he gave a clear
and concise statement of the legal right to trial and defence of
every person accused of crime. He also dwelt upon the importance
of deciding whether the prisoner were in his right mind. When he
had closed, Justice White charged the jury upon all the points of
law involved, and dismissed the jurors to their room for deliberation.
Czolgosz had been seated in his chair
all the afternoon, his hands clasped on the arms of the chair, and
his head bent forward and a little to the left. The room was not
warm, but he frequently took his handkerchief from his pocket, and
mopped the perspiration from 
his forehead and cheeks. At no time during the absence of the jury
did he raise his eyes or lift his head, or seem to know that he
was the object of interest to several hundred men and women.
After an absence of the jury of less
than half an hour, the crier rapped for order, and the jury filed
into the room. The clerk read their names, each juror responding
“present” as his name was called.
No time was wasted. The jurors did
not sit down. Addressing them, Justice White said: “Gentlemen, have
you agreed upon a verdict?”
“We have,” responded foreman Wendt.
“What is your verdict?”
“That the defendant is guilty of murder
in the first degree.”
There was a moment of silence, and
then a murmur arose from the lips of the crowd. It ended there.
There were no hand clappings; no cheers. Justice White’s voice could
be clearly heard in every part of the room when he thanked the jurors
for their work, and allowed them to go.
Czolgosz was immediately handcuffed
to his guards, and hurried from the court room downstairs, to the
basement, and through the tunnel under Delaware Avenue to the jail.
He appeared to be in no way affected by the result of the trial.
Thus had the wheels of justice moved
swiftly. The trial of the assassin consumed eight hours and twenty-six
minutes, and covered a period of only two days. Practically all
this time was occupied by the prosecution in presenting a case so
clear, so conclusive that, even had the prisoner entered the plea
of insanity, it is doubtful if the jury would have returned a verdict
different from the one given.
On Thursday afternoon,
September 26th, Leon F. Czolgosz received his sentence. He was duly
asked if he had any legal reason why sentence should not be passed.
He gave no reason, but declared in a feeble voice, through his counsel,
that no one else  knew anything
of the crime but himself. The Judge then uttered these solemn words,
while Czolgosz stood erect, looking straight at the Judge. He did
not tremble; not a muscle quivered.
“In taking the life of our beloved
President, you committed a crime which shocked and outraged the
moral sense of the civilized world. You have confessed that guilt,
and, after learning all that at this time can be learned from the
facts and circumstances of the case, twelve good jurors have pronounced
you guilty, and have found you guilty of murder in the first degree.
“You have said, according to the testimony
of creditable witnesses and yourself, that no other person aided
or abetted you in the commission of this terrible act. God grant
it may be so! The penalty for the crime for which you stand convicted
is fixed by this statute, and it now becomes my duty to pronounce
this judgment against you.
“The sentence of the Court is that
in the week, beginning October 28, 1901, at the place, in the manner
and means prescribed by law, you suffer the punishment of death.
“Remove the prisoner.”
As soon as the death sentence was
finished Czolgosz took his seat in the same indifferent manner that
had characterized him throughout the trial. He was brought to his
feet quickly by the officers, who shackled him and led him away
to the jail to await his removal to Auburn prison, there to pay
the penalty of his crime, but in no sense to lessen the sorrow and
grief of the people whose chief and friend he had slain.
We need not dwell upon the scene enacted
in the death chamber, where the slayer of the good man took his
seat in the death chair. Only a few witnesses—those allowed by law—were
present to see the majesty of the law vindicated, and with this
chapter closed the fearful tragedy which startled the world on September