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Source: Leslie’s Weekly
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Justice Swiftly Dealt to the President’s Assassin”
Author(s): Coe, Franklin
Date of publication: 5 October 1901
Volume number: 93
Issue number: 2404
Pagination: 305, 308

Coe, Franklin. “Justice Swiftly Dealt to the President’s Assassin.” Leslie’s Weekly 5 Oct. 1901 v93n2404: pp. 305, 308.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (trial); Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response); Leon Czolgosz (indictment); Leon Czolgosz (arraignment); Thomas Penney; Leon Czolgosz (incarceration: Buffalo, NY: relocation); Leon Czolgosz; Leon Czolgosz (legal defense); Loran L. Lewis; Robert C. Titus; Robert C. Titus (public statements); Loran L. Lewis (public statements); Leon Czolgosz (mental health); William S. Bull; Leon Czolgosz (trial: preparations, plans, etc.); Leon Czolgosz (trial: news coverage).
Named persons
William S. Bull; Floyd S. Crego; Leon Czolgosz; Joseph Fowler; John J. Geary; Charles J. Guiteau; Carlton E. Ladd [first name misspelled below]; Loran L. Lewis; William McKinley; Thomas Penney; Albert Solomon; Robert C. Titus; Truman C. White [middle initial wrong below].

The article (below) is accompanied on page 305 with eight photographs captioned as follows:

  • Presiding Justice T. J. White.
  • Court-Room Where Czolgosz Pleaded Guilty.
  • District Attorney Penney, the Prosecuting Officer.
  • The Erie County Jail.
  • Ex-Justice Lewis, Who Defended Czolgosz.
  • Ex-Judge Titus, Who Defended Czolgosz.
  • The City Hall, Where the President’s Body Lay in State, and Where the Murderer Pleaded Guilty.
  • Czolgosz, the Assassin.


Justice Swiftly Dealt to the President’s Assassin

     BUFFALO, September 27th, 1901.—In the same city hall at Buffalo where thousands shed tears over the remains of the martyred President, and where mourning emblems in profusion still decorate the rotunda in which the body lay in state, Czolgosz, the assassin, went to his fate like a thing insensate. Justice was both swift and certain in the case of the murderer of President McKinley. In the language of the law he is already a doomed man. Actually, his miserable life will be snuffed out as soon as the law allows. Under the statutes he may not be executed until at least four weeks after sentence was pronounced.
     Czolgosz’s indictment, trial, and conviction are the best examples of summary justice afforded by the Empire State in recent times. An indictment was reported to the court in thirty-eight hours from the death of the President. This time leaves out of consideration the intervening Sunday, as not affording an opportunity for court work. An hour after the indictment was presented, the assassin was arraigned on Monday, September 16th, for the purpose of assigning him counsel. Tuesday, the next day, he was formally arraigned, and on the Monday following, September 23d [sic], a week and two days after the death of his victim, Czolgosz, the murderer, was placed on trial and his conviction followed in the unbroken process of law.
     While answering to a demand that was insistent and general for quick justice, the prosecution sacrificed neither the dignity nor the majesty of the law. The District Attorney, Thomas A. Penney, is a lawyer who has imbibed somewhat the inspirations of the old school. He is unemotional, duty-loving, and vigorous in action. His way was clear to him from the beginning of the case to its climax, and he followed it out. He appreciated the public desire, stripped of all excited impulse, that the trial of Czolgosz should not be, like that of Guiteau, an occasion for notoriety-seeking, pettifogging lawyers. His perspicacity went still further, and the bar of Erie County came to his aid, appreciating that a deformity of justice in the case would breathe scandal and be an insult to the memory of him whose first utterance was for his assailant, “Let no one hurt him.”
     Justice, therefore, not only worked without delay in the punishment of Czolgosz’s atrocious crime, but, what was equally important, with dignity, eminent fairness, and in strict conformity with established form and precedent. In this determined prosecution of the case, moreover, anarchy and its disciples, and a sensational press, were cheated of the theatrical effect which they glory in, and the State and the nation were saved from the spectacle of a prostitution of criminal law.
     This trial had its own peculiar setting. Czolgosz presented a figure which the world may look upon without solving any more than they have solved it who prosecuted him, defended him, and have studied him every hour and every day since he was arrested. Czolgosz, who talked to his jailers when it was absolutely necessary, became a mute when he entered the court room. His preliminary arraignment was rather unexpected. During the excitement, when it was feared that the President’s death might bring down violence upon the hapless wretch, he was secretly removed to the penitentiary. During the days that intervened nobody but the people connected with the case knew whether he was at police headquarters, in the penitentiary, or in the jail.
     There was a distinct purpose in removing him to the jail, which was done a short time before his arraignment. The imposing fortress which stands across the street from the city and county hall, is connected with the court building by what is called the “tunnel of sobs,” a damp, reeking passage-way which was built for emergencies such as the Czolgosz case presented. Czolgosz passed to and from the court through this tunnel, handcuffed to the two officers who arrested him, Detectives Geary and Solomon, of the Buffalo department. His first arraignment did not attract the usual crowd. But to those who saw Czolgosz for the first time, standing there before the bar of the court, his appearance was more than a surprise; it was a shock. He has been called a brute and undoubtedly he is. But his looks defied completely the opprobrious names heaped upon him.
     There was no fire in the countenance, not even a trace of impulse or of viciousness. In general his appearance was slovenly. He is rather tall, somewhat slender, slightly stoop-shouldered and loose-gaited; and his clothes hung from his scant figure rather than fitted it. His face and head were like those of peasant heads one sees in the Metropolitan Art Gallery—dull, submissive, and “bowed by the weight of centuries.” His light-brown hair, which had grown rather long during his incarceration, lay in a confused, half-curly mass about his head. Large blue-gray eyes looked dumbly out of the window or at the ceiling, as if totally oblivious that with every tick of the clock the earth was slipping from under his feet. His features, which are regular, were neither striking nor obtrusive, but a half-growth of dark beard about the chin, contrasting strangely to the brownish hair and an extreme waxen pallor, gave the face almost an uncanny look. Czolgosz is either a studied actor or a specimen of innate stupidity and stubbornness. This attitude and totally negative expression, which never deserted him throughout the trial, remains and will remain until the case is buried in history, an unsolved puzzle.
     Czolgosz received the most distinguished consideration ever given a prisoner of his class, charged with a similar crime. His counsel, Hon. Loran L. Lewis and Hon. Robert C. Titus, both former justices of the Supreme Court, were assigned to the defense at the request of the trustees of the Erie County Bar Association, and while entering into the case involuntarily and with a feeling of the utmost repugnance, they none the less did so with a determination to do their duty. “I am not a coward,” was Judge Titus’s own comment in accepting the appointment. “Your Honor knows,” Judge Lewis said, “that we accept this with great reluctance, but we do not see our way clear to shirk our duty.” What this duty meant presents a grand spectacle of heroism from civil life, where heroism is too infrequently recognized.
     Both lawyers are well advanced in years. Judge Lewis, a patriarch with snow-white hair and beard, had even been out of active practice for some time, except to act as counsel for his sons. Judge Titus’s retirement from the bench was comparatively recent. At the request of the counsel a younger man was assigned to the case to assist them—Carleton E. Ladd, Judge Titus’s partner. These arrangements were effected not forty-eight hours before the commencement of the trial. Meantime Czolgosz refused to confer with his lawyers by word or sign, and maintained relatively the same attitude of indifference to his fate throughout the trial.
     Czolgosz’s trial took place in the criminal [?]erm of the Supreme Court, Part III., Judge Truman J. White sitting, to which it was transferred from the county court where the indictment was reported. Consequently the court and the personnel of the case were of the highest, Judge White having been on the bench for over sixteen years. In the prosecution the district attorney handled the people’s case virtually alone, assisted only by his office staff. Czolgosz was indicted on two counts, drawn with a fullness of form to cover every point in the case. The jury was readily obtained. The evidence for the people was embraced in three divisions: First, showing by measurements, photographs, and eye-witnesses the location and manner of the shooting; second, proof of the death of Czolgosz’s victim resultant from the shoot- [305][308] ing; third, proof of premeditation in anarchistic affiliations and utterances, and in testimony touching upon his own statements and movements.
     This was brought out conclusively through practically the same witnesses, although fewer in number, who gave evidence before the grand jury. The question of the prisoner’s sanity did not figure in the case with any degree of prominence for the reason that Czolgosz’s stubborn attitude practically precluded any defense whatsoever. The most his counsel could do was to see that he had every right to which he was entitled in law. Furthermore, the prosecution had prepared itself with the evidence of alienists of eminent standing, including Dr. Floyd S. Crego and Dr. Joseph Fowler, to establish his sanity beyond disproof.
     In one other particular this cause célčbre offers an example. Superintendent Bull, of the Buffalo police department, took the press arrangements of the trial into his own hands, and successfully resisted the attempt of the yellow newspapers to convert the occasion into a sensation mongering enterprise. Badgering was of no avail, although generously employed, and in place of a court room packed with a senseless number of reporters and “special commissioners,” to say nothing of artists, to meet the fictitious requirements of a certain class of journals, out-of-town papers were allowed only a single representative, and “snap-shooters” were excluded from the court room entirely. Local newspapers were allowed two men, the Associated Press two men, and the other news associations one man each. It was a courageous measure and drew upon him the wrath of the journalistic ogres, but General Bull is a man with a mind of his own, and did his duty well. It was a service to both the State and the nation, and might properly be applied wherever similar occasion arises.



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