Publication information
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Source: Evansville Courier
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “On the Way to the Chair”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Evansville, Indiana
Date of publication: 28 September 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: none
Pagination: 4

“On the Way to the Chair.” Evansville Courier 28 Sept. 1901: p. 4.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (trial: criticism); Leon Czolgosz (legal defense); Loran L. Lewis; Robert C. Titus; Leon Czolgosz (mental health); Leon Czolgosz (psychiatric examination); Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz.


On the Way to the Chair

     As a matter of form two eminent lawyers made an effort to stand between Czolgosz and death. As a matter of fact they stood aside, facilitating rather than retarding his progress to the chair. Practically, not a word was said in behalf of the murderer. It was a strange spectacle. A young and not ill-favored man was on trial for his life. There was sympathy not for him, but for the jurists associated with the defense. He could turn in no direction and look into the eyes of a friend. So utterly detestable has his name become that it is hazardous to breathe it anywhere without words of condemnation. His advocates out of court take their lives in their hands when they speak above a whisper. Even his advocates in court became, by virtue of the horrors of the case, intrusted to them, part of the machinery of the prosecution. They took issue with literally nothing. They assented tacitly, if not in words, to the digging of the grave. And yet they were assigned to espouse the cause of one presumed to be innocent, of one entitled to all the benefits of that presumption until guilt has been established. It is an impoverished case that ties the hands and seals the lips. It is an impoverished case that cannot prompt an extenuating word. There is perhaps no parallel for what was seen in a Buffalo court room [sic] a few days ago. It will not soon happen again that every face will be averted where a life is at stake and where no power on earth can save it.
     The record of the Czolgosz trial includes what purports to be a plea interposed for the defendant. It is doubtful whether anything even remotely resembling it can be found in the history of capital cases. It is a long apology. Not an apology for murder or murderer, but an apology for the formality of representing Czolgosz. Nor for this apology is apology in order. No murder was ever committed in colder blood. Never was there a clearer case of premeditation. There could be but one excuse for such a deed, and this explains why alienists were sent into the murderer’s cell. Insanity experts were not called to the witness stand, which is perhaps to be regretted. That Czolgosz knew what he was doing goes without saying. He furnished proof enough. He was animated by what he has been pleased to call a sense of duty. When he proclaimed this warrant for what he did, he made it clear that he came within the legal definition of a sane man. But the alienists have had a chance at him. Obviously, the results of their investigation furnished no encouragement to his lawyers. As there is absolute sanity nowhere it is sufficient to say, that to all legal intents and purposes the criminal had and still has his wits about him. A loophole for possible criticism might have been closed had this been formally established by the evidence of experts.
     It was, of course, not incumbent on the prosecution to offer proof of sanity. It was for the defense to claim irresponsibility and for the prosecution to meet the claim if presented. Nothing of the kind was attempted, though the jury was asked how could a man with a sane mind perform such an act? The question fell from the lips of one of the murderer’s lawyers. With it the defense of Czolgosz virtually began and ended. All the rest was form. Fortunately, it was answered before it was asked, answered by Czolgosz himself. It is fair to presume that he will carry to the grave the delusion that he has been of service to the country—delusion is deep seated when it is paid for at the price of life itself. However, with or without errors of omission as the case may be, the trial has gone into history. It stands to the infinite credit of the country. A red-handed assassin, caught in the very act of murder, has been denied none of the resources at the disposal of the innocent. Every right to which he could lay claim has been protected. Penniless, in his behalf the services of front rank lawyers were reserved. The fact that he will go to the chair robs this service of little of its luster. The miserable wretch whose life is such a poor exchange is sent to his doom with not a sign of passion. Cold-blooded, in cold blood he will be put to death. That his life is to be deliberately taken is scant consolation, but that its taking should be lawful was of paramount importance. What has been done was well worth doing well. What remains to be done will be in keeping with it.



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