Part 22 - The Lumber Trust Wins the Jury
On Saturday evening, March 13th, the jury brought in its final verdict of guilty. In the face of the very evident ability of the lumber interests, to satisfy its vengeance at will, any other verdict would have been suicidal--for the jury.
The prosecution was out for blood and nothing less than blood. Day by day they had built the structure of gallows right there in the courtroom. They built a scaffolding on which to hang ten loggers--built it of lies and threats and perjury. Dozens of witnesses from the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion took the stand to braid a hangman's rope of untruthful testimony. Some of these were members of the mob; on their white hands the blood of Wesley Everest was hardly dry. And they were not satisfied with sending their victims to prison for terms of from 25 to 40 years, they wanted the pleasure of seeing their necks broken. But they failed. Two verdicts were returned; his honor refused to accept the first; no intelligent man can accept the second.
Here is the way the two verdicts compare with each other: Elmer Smith and Mike Sheehan were declared not guilty and Loren Roberts insane, in both the first and second verdicts. Britt Smith, O.C. Bland, James McInerney, Bert Bland and Ray Becker were found guilty of murder in the second degree in both instances, but Eugene Barnett and John Lamb were at first declared guilty of manslaughter, or murder "in the third degree" in the jury's first findings, and guilty of second degree murder in the second.
The significant point is that the state made its strongest argument against the four men whom the jury practically exonerated of the charge of conspiring to murder. More significant is the fact that the whole verdict completely upsets the charge of conspiracy to murder under which the men were tried. The difference between first and second degree murder is that the former, first degree, implies premeditation while the other, second degree, means murder that is not premeditated. Now, how in the world can men be found guilty of conspiring to murder without previous premeditation? The verdict, brutal and stupid as it is, shows the weakness and falsity of the state's charge more eloquently than anything the defense has ever said about it.
BUT LABOR SAYS, "NOT GUILTY!"
But another jury had been watching the trial. Their verdict came as a surprise to those who had read the newspaper version of the case. No sooner had the twelve bewildered and frightened men in the jury box paid tribute to the power of the Lumber Trust with a ludicrous and tragic verdict than the six workingmen of the Labor Jury returned their verdict also. Those six men represented as many labor organizations in the Pacific Northwest with a combined membership of many thousands of wage earners.
The last echoes of the prolonged legal battle had hardly died away when these six men sojourned to Tacoma to ballot, deliberate and to reach their decision about the disputed facts of the case. At the very moment when the trust-controlled newspapers, frantic with disappointment, were again raising the blood-cry of their pack, the frank and positive statement of these six workers came like a thunderclap out of a clear sky,---"Not Guilty!"
The Labor Jury had studied the development of the case with earnest attention from the beginning. Day by day they had watched with increasing astonishment the efforts of the defense to present, and of the prosecution and the judge to exclude, from the consideration of the trial jury, the things everybody knew to be true about the tragedy at Centralia. Day by day the sordid drama had been unfolded before their eyes. Day by day the conviction had grown upon them that the loggers on trial for their lives were being railroaded to the gallows by the legal hirelings of the Lumber Trust. The Labor Jury was composed of men with experience in the labor movement. They had eyes to see through a maze of red tape and legal mummery to the simple truth that was being hidden or obscured. The Lumber Trust did not fool these men and it could not intimidate them. They had the courage to give the truth to the world just as they saw it. They were convinced in their hearts and minds that the loggers on trial were innocent. And they would have been just as honest and just as fearless had their convictions been otherwise.
It cannot be said that the Labor Jury was biased in favor of the defendants or of the I.W.W. If anything, they were predisposed to believe the defendants guilty and their union an outlaw organization. It must be remembered that all the labor jury knew of the case was what it had read in the capitalist newspapers prior to their arrival at the scene of the trial. These men were not radicals but representative working men--members of conservative unions--who had been instructed by their organizations to observe impartially the progress of the trial and to report back to their unions the result of their observations. Read their report:
3. Was there a conspiracy to raid the I.W.W. hall on the part of the business interests of Centralia? Verdict, "Yes."
There was evidence offered by the defense to show that the business interests held a meeting at the Elk's Club on October 20, 1919, at which ways and means to deal with the I.W.W. situation were discussed. F.B. Hubbard, Chief of Police Hughes and William Scales, commander of the American Legion at Centralia, were present. Prosecuting Attorney Allen was quoted as having said, "There is no law that would let you run the I.W.W. out of town." Chief of Police Hughes said, "You cannot run the I.W.W. out of town; they have violated no law." F.G. Hubbard said, "It's a damn shame; if I was chief I would have them out of town in 24 hours." William Scales, presiding at the meeting, said that although he was not in favor of a raid, there was no American jury that would convict them if they did, or words to that effect. He then announced that he would appoint a secret committee to deal with the I.W.W. situation.
4. Was the I.W.W. hall unlawfully raided? Verdict, "Yes." The evidence introduced convinces us that an attack was made before a shot was fired.
5. Had the defendants a right to defend their hall. Verdict, "yes." On a former occasion the I.W.W. hall was raided, furniture destroyed and stolen, ropes placed around their necks and they were otherwise abused and driven out of town by citizens, armed with pick handles.
6. Was Warren O. Grimm a party to the conspiracy of raiding the I.W.W. hall? Verdict, "Yes." The evidence introduced convinces us that Warren O. Grimm participated in the raid of the I.W.W. hall.
7. To our minds the most convincing evidence that Grimm was in front of and raiding the I.W.W. hall with others, is the evidence of State Witness Van Gilder who testified that he stood at the side of Grimm at the intersection of Second street and Tower avenue, when, according to his testimony, Grimm was shot. This testimony was refuted by five witnesses who testified that they saw Grimm coming wounded from the direction of the I.W.W. hall. It is not credible that Van Gilder, who was a personal and intimate friend of Grimm, would leave him when he was mortally wounded, to walk half a block alone and unaided.
8. Did the defendants get a fair and impartial trial? Verdict, "No." The most damaging evidence of a conspiracy by the business men of Centralia, of a raid on the I.W.W. hall, was ruled out by the court and not permitted to go to the jury. This was one of the principal issues that the defense sought to establish.
Also the calling of the federal troops by Prosecuting Attorney Allen was for no other reason than to create atmosphere. On interviewing the judge, sheriff and prosecuting attorney, the judge and the sheriff informed us that in their opinion the troops were not needed and that they were brought there without their consent or knowledge. In the interview Mr. Allen promised to furnish the substance of the evidence which in his opinion necessitated the presence of the troops the next morning, but on the following day he declined the information. He, however, did say that he did not fear the I.W.W., but was afraid of violence by the American Legion. This confession came after he was shown by us the fallacy of the I.W.W. coming armed to interfere with the verdict. Also the presence of the American Legion in large numbers in court.
Theodore Meyer, Everett Central Labor Council; John O. Craft, Seattle Metal Trades Council; E.W. Thrall, Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, Centralia; W.J. Beard, Tacoma Central Labor Council; Otto Newman, Portland Central Labor Council; P.K. Mohr, Seattle Central Labor Council.
The above report speaks for itself. It was received with great enthusiasm by the organizations of each of the jurymen when the verdict was submitted. On March 17th, the Seattle Central Labor Council voted unanimously to send the verdict to all of the Central Labor Assemblies of the United States and Canada.
Not only are the loggers vindicated in defending their property and lives from the felonious assault of the Armistice Day mob, but the conspiracy of the business interests to raid the hall and the raid itself were established. The participation of Warren O. Grimm is also accepted as proved beyond doubt. Doubly significant is the statement about the "fair and impartial trial" that is supposed to be guaranteed all men under our constitution.
Nothing could more effectively stamp the seal of infamy upon the whole sickening rape of justice than the manly outspoken statements of these six labor jurors. Perhaps the personalities of these men might prove of interest:
E.W. THRALL, of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, Centralia, is an old time and trusted member of his union. As will be noticed, he comes from Centralia, the scene of the tragedy.
OTTO NEWMAN, of the Central Labor Council, Portland, Oregon, has ably represented his union in the C.L.C. for some time.
W.J. BEARD is organizer for the Central Labor Council in Tacoma, Washington. He is an old member of the Western Federation of Miners and remembers the terrible times during the strikes at Tulluride.
JOHN O. CRAFT is president of Local 40, International Union of Steam Operating Engineers, of which union he has been a member for the last ten years. Mr. Craft has been actively connected with unions affiliated with the A.F. of L. since 1898.
THEODORE MEYER was sent by the Longshoremen of Everett, Washington. Since 1903 he has been a member of the A.F. of L.; prior to that time being a member of the National Sailors and Firemen's Union of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Sailors' Union of Australia.
P.K. MOHR represents the Central Labor Council of Seattle and is one of the oldest active members in the Seattle unions. Mr. Mohr became a charter member of the first Bakers' Union in 1889 and was its first presiding officer. He was elected delegate to the old Western Central Labor Council in 1890. At one time Mr. Mohr was president of the Seattle Labor Council. At the present time he is president of the Bakers' Union.
Such are the men who have studied the travesty on justice in the great labor trial at Montesano. "Not Guilty" is their verdict. Does it mean anything to you?
Torn and defiant as a wind-lashed reed,
Wounded, he faced you as he stood at bay;
You dared not lynch him in the light of day,
But on your dungeon stones you let him bleed;
Night came…and you black vigilants of Greed,…
Like human wolves, seized hand upon your prey,
Tortured and killed…and, silent, slunk away
Without one qualm of horror at the deed.
Once…long ago…do you remember how
You hailed Him king for soldiers to deride---
You placed a scroll above His bleeding brow
And spat upon Him, scourged Him, crucified…?
A rebel unto Caesar---then as now---
Alone, thorn-crowned, a spear wound in His side!
---R.C. in "N.Y. Call."