Chief Guilty on Two Counts

Tulsa Daily World/July 23, 1921


Verdict Returned After Six Hours of Deliberation

After six hours’ deliberation the jury in district court before which John A. Gustafson, deposed chief of police, who has been on trial for the past two weeks, returned a verdict of guilty on the charge of failure to take proper precautions for the protection of life and property during the rioting here May 31 and June 1, and the verdict of guilty on a second count charging conspiracy to free automobile thieves and collect rewards, at 9:50 o’clock Friday night.

Jury Asked for Added Instructions

This action followed a request by the jury at 7.15 o’clock for added instructions from Judge Redmond S. Cole as to the conspiracy charge. The court instructed them that as a matter of law, the chief must have had knowledge of an unlawful act about to be engaged in by others, and had acted upon this knowledge in furthering the alleged conspiracy. Without this knowledge, the court said the defendant could not be found guilty of conspiracy.

The jurors, after receiving the interpretation of the conspiracy instructions from the court, returned to the jury room and continued to deliberate until the verdict was reached.

Chief Gustafson Was in Courtroom

Gustafson, who was in the courtroom, unaccompanied by his attorneys, received the word “guilty” with the stoicism of an Indian but in his eyes was shown disappointment.

Gustafson told a World reporter that through his attorneys, A.F. Moss and T.J. Leahy, he would immediately file a motion for a new trial. If that is overruled, he said he would appeal the case to the state supreme court.

Police Head Deprived of His Office

While the conviction carries no criminal conviction with it, the chief is automatically ousted from office. In the case of a new trial being granted he would occupy the same position he did on the first trial. If the case is carried to the supreme court and the verdict reversed, although the position as chief would no doubt by that time have expired, Gustafson would receive all pay as if he had served the entire term.

The jury voted a unanimous verdict on the riot count of the accusation. John D. Richards was foreman. He was also foreman of the jury which convicted C.O. Brady, police “undercover” man.

On the conspiracy count 10 men voted to convict. They signed the verdict. In the order of signing they are: J.R. Freeman, F.M. Scott, H.E. Bart, H.V. Price, Frank Edwards, J.T. McDonnell, A.J. Randolph, E.J. Bowman, John D. Richards and Dan M. Setser. The only two men who voted to acquit on this count were S.L. Johnson and F.E. Hardesty.

The jury sent word to Judge Cole that they had reached a verdict at 9:45 o’clock and five minutes later the men were in the jury box. The verdict on the conspiracy count was read aloud by the court clerk about two minutes after the jury had taken its seats.

Probably 100 spectators were seated in the courtroom when the verdicts were read. A hush of intense expectancy spread over the room. No one stirred until after the word “guilty” was pronounced on the second count. Then the spectators arose to their feet, many of them appearing amazed at the verdict. It was apparent that a great majority expected them to be entirely the opposite of those that were read—that they were confident after hearing the evidence introduced throughout the trial that Chief Gustafson would be acquitted within a few minutes after the jury had retired to deliberate. Several onlookers even expressed their belief that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

Blaine May Be New Chief

George H. Blaine, formerly a police captain, but now during the suspension of Gustafson was made acting chief, will remain in that position, at least until further plans have been completed. J.M. Adkison, police commissioner, said last night Blaine will probably take up the duties of chief permanently, however Adkison said, but this would not be positively known until after a consultation with the city attorney.

The case went to the jury at 3.40 o’clock, at the concluding argument for the state by John Goldsberry, assistant county attorney. The jury sent out word from the counsel room about 6 o’clock they had not yet reached a verdict. They resumed deliberations at 7 o’clock.

The instructions, read to the jury at 9 o’clock by Judge Redmond S. Cole, were generally regarded as favorable to the accused chief. The instructions stressed the point that willful negligence must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and willful negligence was defined for an evil or bad purpose. They jury was also instructed that the chief could not be held responsible for any unlawful or wrongful acts committed by police officers or special commissioned men on the night of the riot unless such actions were a result of orders issued by him or when he was present when the acts were committed.

Woman Addresses Jury

For the first time a woman Friday addressed a Tulsa county jury. And the event was responsible for the largest crowd of the trial. Lawyers and spectators elbowed each other for standing room, and when Mrs. Kathryne Van Leuven, assistant attorney general, took the floor to present the state’s opening argument, the room became oppressively quiet. Throughout her hour talk she was given the closest attention by the jury.

She spent little time on the fifth count of the indictment, but did deliver a few blows at the defense case.

In her opening statement Mrs. Van Leuven said the case was not one instituted by the county attorney nor by the attorney general, but by a grand jury.

“While this accusation does not prove the defendant’s guilt,” she said, “I wish you to bear in mind that a grand jury returned it.”

She spent the greater part of her argument in analyzing the third count of the accusation, charging the chief with conspiracy. She also charged that the chief could have disarmed the blacks at the courthouse and could have prevented the riot, arson and murder which followed.

She retold the story of Dan White who, after losing his car, searched the city for it, finally locating it in a local garage. She went into the testimony regarding the theft of the W.M. Ruwwee car to which theft Ray Dickens confessed. Dickens’ testimony, according to Mrs. Van Leuven, convicted the chief on the third count.

“The state has never contended that any law was violated after that trouble at the courthouse,” she concluded. “After those armed negroes had started shooting and killed a white man—then those who armed themselves for the obvious purpose of protecting their lives and property violated no law. The chief neglected to do his duty and the citizens after seeing their police fail took matters into their own hands. No, we don’t contend they violated the law.”

Leahy Opens for Defense

T.J. Leahy, of Pawhuska, in the opening argument for the defense, made a careful analysis of the evidence and in his talk appealed for the acquittal of the chief. His entire argument was devoted to an analysis of the law based on the instructions of Judge Cole.

“It seems passing strange to me,” he said early in his talk, “and it is one of the peculiar phases of this prosecution that the only force in the city who attempted to quell the riot on that fateful night, the only one who did anything and did his best is now presented to you subject to a removal from office. It is passing strange.”

Throughout his talk he stressed the fact that the court had instructed that the chief to be guilty on either of the counts just have acted with willful purpose. He reminded the jury that willful meant evil or had intent.

Must Connect Chief With Acts

“It matters now what you think of Ward, Meacham and Brady” he said, in an analysis of the conspiracy testimony. “You may regard them guilty—they may be—but you can’t convict the chief unless you can definitely connect him with the acts committed by those men.”

He commented briefly on the testimony of insurance men called to the stand.

“By their testimony,” he declared, “you have the most efficient police force in the state. You can’t get away from it.”

He complimented the chief highly for what he termed foresight when the chief concluded that it would be suicide to attempt any disarmament of the blacks gathered at the courthouse. Leahy said that by that action or inaction, the slaughter of many women and children was prevented.

A.F. Moss closed the defense’s case at 1:30 o’clock, after the noon recess. He did not dwell at length on the conspiracy charge stating that it didn’t amount to enough to consume time.

Says Charge Not Proven

“I told you in my opening statement,” he shouted in his skyrocket style of talking, “that the state could no more prove the conspiracy charge than they could prove the hour of noon was deep black night. They have come just that near.”

He, too, in his argument on the riot count, stressed the point that to be guilty the chief must be guilty of willful neglect of duty.

“Wilful,” cries Moss, “means with an evil or bad purpose. Will anyone here say that he was possessed of any evil or bad purpose that night. To be so he would have to share the ambitions of that black mob. Who will dare say that he was guilty of such an act.”

“This man whom you are trying,” he concluded, “isn’t a diabolical fiend—his heart isn’t upside down—he doesn’t, for the purpose of seeing human blood spilled, hold his hands idly at his side. And what else could have made any action or inaction on that terrible night, which would cause the infuriated men to rush at each other’s throats.”

“This defendant is nearing the half century mark. He is representative of all his past life—a living example of his yesterdays, just as you or I. You can’t send him to the penitentiary but a lonely cell in the walled prison would be a solace to what he will have to face if convicted. Disgraced he would stand before the world, the subject of comment of his fellow men.

“Gentlemen of the jury, the fact that faces you is a momentous one. But I believe that under the evidence you could return a verdict in 15 minutes. Go into your jury room, elect your foreman and then vote your vote and vote it snappy.”

John Goldsberry, who spoke the last word to the jury, made a powerful appeal for conviction. He, however, asked that justice be done. He asked the members of the jury to do their duty as they saw it regardless of prejudice.

“After you have read the instructions, analyzed them carefully and then given due weight and consideration to the evidence; if you think John A. Gustafson is not guilty, for God’s sake, say so with your verdict.

“But if on the other hand you think him guilty, stand on your feet like men, like American citizens who love their country and home and do your duty to your country and to your flag.”

Goldsberry spent the greater part of this time in a detailed analysis of the testimony on the conspiracy count. He said that in his mind the evidence proved a conspiracy and also disclosed a situation unparalleled in history. While he did not stress the Dan White episode, he said that it only proved the deplorable condition which existed.