Things went on in the same way, and one evening while calling there I just thought I would set a trap for her. Mr. Kennedy was calling there quite frequently and I had an idea that he was one of the preferreds. I says, "Lizzie, I have a good joke on you." Of course she wanted to know what it was, and I told her that I had come out one evening and heard voices in the parlor and as one of the shutters was just partially opened I lifted myself up and looked in at the window and saw her and Kennedy on the sofa with his arms around her.She looked confused and said it was not true. I said that it was no use to deny it because I saw it with my own eyes. She then said she never did it but once. I then told her it was not Kennedy I saw, but Frank Hellen. She says, "Well, I don't care if you did."
She told me one day what I was surprised to hear and what I think she did not intend to tell. She said that Jen told her mother that she had looked through the keyhole and saw her sitting on Mr. Kennedy's lap. It seems strange to me that the child would tell such a thing unless it was true.
One evening while I was there Kennedy came and tapped on the window and she began talking to me, and then he rang the bell. Almost since I first knew her she would sit on my lap like a child. I thought she was foolish but her beauty and affectionate manner would disarm the devil himself. I never thought of taking advantage of her innocence, and have such a regard for you that she was wholly safe from harm.
Some time, I think it was last February or March, when Nat. Frey was following her around like her shadow and everybody was remarking the desperate mash that Nat. Frey had on Lizzie at dancing school, he taking her almost every night, a young man intimitated to me that everything was not right between them. I repelled the insinuation indignantly. He says: "You need not be so mad about it; it wouldn't be the first time for her." I says, "What do you mean?" He says, "Jes Bogardus told me that when she used to live on Redstone street she used to meet him out often." I says, "He is a dirty liar and ought to be shot down in his tracks."
I thought I would know about the matter and the next time I called I determined to test her, feeling that she was grossly and outrageously slandered. She came up and placed herself on my lap as usual and after fondling her for some time I made a solicitation. To my infinite astonishment and grief she melted down like wax. Oh, how I pitied her weakness. But where is there a man that could resist the temptation of such beauty and loveliness? You would have done as I did, but what was my horror and heart-sickness when I found the signs of her virginity wanting.
I afterward reproached her with it, and she denied it. I told her it was no use; that I could not be deceived, and that I should think all the more of her if she would tell the truth. After considerable bandying she broke down in a flood of tears and said it was Jess Bogardus, and went on to explain how she met him frequently through a Miss Donaldson; that she was young and did not know any better. Well, about the time of the fatal night I have spoken of, I called again and found young Frey there. I determined to know if possible what his visits there meant. I left first, but came back to the house and tried to see through the windows, but the shutters prevented anything of that kind.
I then hid myself where I could see him when he came out. He finally appeared and stood at the door with his arms about her and kissed her repeatedly. I afterward called and told her what I had seen, but she strenuously denied it. I think she afterwards told him that I had seen him because he told one of his friends that I had watched him tongueing Liz. Nutt. This same brute of a Frey was in Reis' clothing store not long since and quite a number of other young men were present. Lizzie happened to pass with another young lady, and he remarked that Liz. Nutt had the nicest leg in this town. Some one asked him how he knew. He says, "By God, I have felt it from her heel to her hip." I know two young men whom Frey told in confidence that he had all the favors he wanted from her on the floor of the parlor. These young men's names are Will Baily and Will Hellen. I had never heard this until last week. A young lady told me she saw that black-leg Marriott kiss her.
This brings me to the point to which my fore-going remarks are preliminary, and that is, unless precautions are duly used she will become a mother. Just when I am unable to say. She don't really know her condition but she fears it. You can save her from open disgrace, and none but you can. This is why I make you acquainted with the facts within my knowledge. She has often remarked how her father loved her and how she deceived him. She has told me that you often cautioned her to kiss no one but you and that she promised to obey you, and she wondered what you would say if you really knew her.
Please do not be harsh with her for she loves you. Divest her of her weakness and frailty and she is an angel. Her sweet musical voice, her red lips, her pretty face and winning smiles are fascinating. Add to this her musical talent and you have a woman who would be an ornament to grace any home. Save her at any risk. Guard her more carefully hereafter and there is still a happy future before her.
Captain, believe me when I say that this is the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I know this letter seems like stabbing you in the back, but in my humble judgment it is the only means to save both her and you from shameful disgrace. Yours truly, N. L. Dukes
N. L. Dukes:
[Read this in private if it suits you to do so.]
Dear Sir:--I have yours of the 4th mailed to me 11th inst. You knew that I expected to be at home on the 14, 15 and 16 days of December, and yet you were conveniently away, as I believe purposely absent. Your absence only defers, it does not avert the inevitable. While I had expected to speak with you face to face I did not write and at any rate before writing I wished to hear another speak as well as you.
I find you visited my house Wednesday evening, Dec. 6th, after that letter was written and before it was mailed, but I did not know that until I had showered on my poor daughter's head a volley of curses without giving her a chance to say a word. For this I shall hold you personally responsible as well as for my many days and nights of sleepless agony. That Wednesday night visit under the circumstances makes your letter as as unspeakable infamous as your whole conduct. You mistake the temper of the man you have to deal with.
You write to me as if you considered me a shameless coward and even suggest for me the hideous office of the abortionist. I shall convince you that I have the physical courage to espouse my daughter's cause and defend the honor of myself and family, and further, that I have the moral courage to rest secure in the approval of the community in which I live should this whole miserable affair become fully known to the world.
Your letter is the plea of a quibbler and not the open, sincere truthful statement of a gentleman and a man of honor. You conceal important facts in the case. If at any time you discovered she was not a fit companion for you, then was the time to have abandoned her and your letter and mine need never have been written. You say that you have done as I would have done. In this you are a base liar. The daughter or wife of any friend or associate of mine would be safe under any circumstances in my charge. You have no right to suggest that I could possible be a libertine or betray a weak, confiding girl. I have always held that when a man invades the sanctity of a home he takes his life in his hands and under this code I shall act. It rests with you whether this affair ends in a legal farce or a tragedy.
This commonwealth is not big enough for both of us, under existing complications. I will be at home Dec. 23rd. and the two following days when you and I can talk face to face. My return to Uniontown hereafter will not be announced if I fail to meet you this time. My accidental death will not stop proceedings nor gain you impunity, but make the blow suspended not more certain but possible more precipitate. Keeping this matter entirely sub rosa rests with you also. I have verbal statements to make as to details, but I have outlined my course in writing and expect to adhere to it to the end. On the 23rd at 8 p. m., you can see me quitely, peaceably at home. After that if matters are not readjusted I shall precipitate a meeting.
You can call this a threat or what you please. Very respectfully, A. C. Nutt
Office of N. L. Dukes, Att'y at Law
To Capt. A. C. Nutt:
Dear Sir--Yours of the 17th inst. is at hand. I pass by your harsh epithets as terms manufactured (for) the occasion. You charge me with quibbling and at once enter upon that role yourself. You pass by all the main facts at issue and affect indignation at my call to your home on Dec. 6. That call was for no other purpose than to reassure myself of the real existence of the difficulty. There is much of your letter that is either so obscure in language or my comprehension is so obtuse that I fail to make clear your meaning. I understand, however, that you offer me the party spoken of or death. I, therefore, hereby indicate to you that I choose the latter alternative. I cannot accept for a wife the toy of the town and thus become the butt of the town's mocking derision. Death is far sweeter.
I declare in all soberness that I doubt if I am the author of the present difficulty. It I were, I have committed no such heinous offense as you charge; because the girl is not what she ought to be. Had she been a chaste woman, and I had seduced her, then your anathemas and proposed violence would have been perfectly justifiable. Had such, however, been the case the present circumstances had not existed, because she would have been my wife without controversy. It is not your daughter I refuse to marry. There is no reason why I should object to an alliance with a pure daughter of yours, but you insist that I shall marry a wanton woman simply because she is your daughter and has been unfortunate. The demand is unreasonable to my mind.
I feel none of the guilt of the seducer and you know I am not such. She told me herself that you had received an anonymous letter warning you of her erratic conduct. You say that when I found out that she was not a fit companion for me that I should have abandoned her at once. I agree with you. Such was my intention but immediately thereafter (pardon) her monthly sickness failed to appear and she was alarmed. I was confident there was nothing wrong and assured her of the fact and kept calling to comfort her. They never appeared since some time in March. Her anxiety of mind explains my visits there since that time. I wanted no scene with her and intended to abandon her, as soon as she recovered from the effect of her cold.
You affect horror at becoming an actor in a peccadillo and at the same time appoint yourself a muderer and assassin with all the deliberation of a savage or a thug. Your letter would clear me if I should take your life on sight, but I don't want your blood. I shall not harm you in any instance. You may murder me if you will. I shall not arm myself, but don't lay to your conscience the flattering unction that the sentiment of the community will sustain you in your assassination. The woman in better known by the community than you know her, and her name is scarcely ever mentioned without a sneer. Why don't you go shoot Frey, and Bogardus and Kennedy and all the tribe?
You want her reputation veneered at my expense. You want to blight my life forever for a cheap little cloak. No, sir; my honor is as dear to me as yours is to you and I prefer to die rather than live a life of such shame. I could look (ed. Couple of lines illegible here)...understand why you want a meeting with me. I must decline the one proposed. I don't care to walk into a death trap, but if you want to see me you can call upon me at my office at 8'clock, December 23, or at my room at the same hour, whichever you may indicate, and you shall see me "quietly and peaceably." Very truly yours, N. L. Dukes.
(ed. Several paragraphs here dealt with additional testimony regarding the foregoing.)
Here the prosecution rested, at 10:30 o'clock, and R. H. Lindsey, Esq., opened for
He stated that no one regretted more than the defendant himself the sad consequences involved in this case. With him it was only a matter of the last necessity, and Dukes shot Nutt only to save his own life. The only question for the jury to consider whether Dukes was guilty of the charge of murder; all extraneous matter must be disregarded. Mr. Lindsey went on to argue the case at some length, enlarging upon the general plea of self-defense. It was not necessary that a man's life should be in absolute danger, but only that he himself should believe his life to be so endangered. Dukes was assaulted in his own room, where he was especially justified in protecting himself from bodily harm.
Mr. Lindsey stated that Nutt went into Dukes' room armed on Sunday morning, speaking to nobody as he walked in, and soon as he entered a scuffle ensued. Who in all reason was the aggressor in this struggle? Evidently the invading party. Mr. Breckenridge's conduct at the time was inexplicable. Why did he stand at the door and not go in when he heard the struggle, but wait until he heard the cry for "Clark, Clark?" When he entered and the men were separated, Dukes was pushed back as far as he could get into the corner, and then having no means of escape and being confronted by both men, fired a random shot which, as one in a hundred, killed Nutt.
Counsel told the jury that Breckenridge's testimony was inconsistent with what he stated at the hearing, and reminded them that witness was a nephew of Nutt, and that Feather was prejudiced against Dukes. They would show by the testimony of Henry Jennings that when he entered the room Feather was standing at the foot of the bed, just where Williams placed him, and that Dukes had retreated to the corner. They would also show that Dukes' life was threatened, Nutt having informed him that the commonwealth was not broad enough to hold both of them.
The defense then opened their testimony by calling Julius Shipley. (ed. Several lines omitted describing Mr. Shipley's preparation of a plot of the room. Other witnesses were called to confirm the articles in the room and to report hearing of scuffling in the room overhead.)
(ed. Additional testimony from lesser witnesses followed and court adjourned till 2 p. m..)
On reassembling the crowd had become a literal mass. Henry Jennings, proprietor of the hotel, testified that he saw the parties go up stairs and soon heard scuffling and then shooting. He rushed up the stairs two steps at a time and entering the room saw Dukes standing back against the trunk against the wall. Feather was rather between Dukes and Nutt and around the foot of the bed, and seemed much excited. Feather said, "Now you have killed him. You had no business to do it; you could have whipped him without." When I went into the room I said to Feather, "What does this mean?" Feather said, "Dukes has shot Nutt." I said, "Mr. Dukes, did you shoot Nutt?" He said: "If I did, I did it in self defense." Dukes gave the cane to me; I turned to go out and left the cane behind the door.
(ed. More testimony from witnesses, about six column inches, is omitted here. The defense testimony was primarily for the purpose of establishing that Capt. Nutt did in fact have a cane with him and that he took a Colt revolver from the National bank on Nov. 1 More testimony established that the threatening letter was written by Nutt, and that the "considerable" bruise on Dukes' arm could have been caused by Nutt's cane)
Mr. Boyle read the testimony given by Feather and Williams before the coroner, to show that they had then testified differently from what they did in court, and had therefore contradicted themselves. He called Jonathan Moore, who swore he had heard Williams say in Clark's livery stable that he had heard Dukes cry murder during the fight with Nutt. With this the defense rested.
In rebuttal the prosecution called Williams, who denied point blank the truth of Moore's statement. Moore then reiterated it. Dr. J. B. Ewing then testified emphatically that the ugly wound on the top of Nutt's head could not have been made by falling on a spitoon by any means. (ed. This had been suggested in earlier testimony.) Dr. Smith Filler, Jr., corroberated this idea.
After a little cross-firing both side announced that all their evidence was in. The jury was then dismissed, with a caution not to talk about the case until they had heard the argument of counsel and the charge of the court. At 5 o'clock court adjourned until morning.
When court opened this morning Mr. Playford replied to a question of the court that they had nothing further to offer. When the same question was asked the defense, Mr. Boyle desired to know just what the commonwealth claimed.
Mr. Playford--We charge the defendant with being guilty of murder in the first degree.
Mr. Lindsay then read nine points in which the defense wished the court to instruct the jury. These are in substance:
1. If there remains in the jury a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant, the jury can not convict.
2. A reasonable doubt would be such a state of mind as would prevent the jury from arriving at a satisfactory conclusion as to the guilt of the defendant.
3. The jury must exclude all clamor and prejudice and find the verdict solely on the law and evidence.
4, Good character, when satisfactorily proved, is a fact which in itself may raise a doubt.
5. The burden of proof never shifts but remains always upon the commonwealth.
6. It is not necessary that a man be in actual danger of his life, but if even he believe the danger so to exist at the moment and afterwards find out his mistake, it is sufficient that he believed it and he should be acquitted.
7. If the jury believe Capt. Nutt made a felonious assault on defendant in his room, then defendant had a right to defend himself and to choose his weapon, and is not responsible for the consequences.
8. Each circumstance must be proved, and if a single one remains unproved the jury can not convict.
9. The court is requested to charge the jury upon the effect of the letters.
Counsel stated that the letters could not be considered as any part of the tragedy and they expressed themselves as being at a disadvantage, not knowing how the court would charge the jury on this point.
Mr.Boyle then addressed the jury in behalf of the defendant. He cautioned the jury repeatedly about allowing themselves to be influenced by the public prejudice against defendant, and then explained the .....He did not claim anything for Dukes because he had been honored by his county with a seat in the legislature, anymore than ..... were the lowliest citizen. He reminded them that Dukes' letters had nothing to do with the making up of their verdict, but he would refer to them and....that in the opening letter there was...ing that bore on the tragedy.
(ed. Mr. Boyle here entered upon a defense summation speech which takes up some 15 column inches of fine newsprint and which largely reiterates and emphasizes what was said above.)
(ed. Mr. Playford then did the same for the prosecution, his summation taking up about six full columns of fine newsprint. I will not repeat it here but it can be made available. Nothing new or especially influential was brought out.)
Judge Wilson charged the jury, beginning at about 3 o'clock. He stated that the jury must find from the evidence whether defendant was guilty of any crime; if so they should determine whether it was murder of the first degree, second degree, or voluntary manslaughter. The definitions of murder and manslaughter, and the distinction between the different degrees were dwelt upon at length. He read from Judge Agnew's opinion in the Drum case, of Westmoreland county, upon the law defining these different degrees, whic has already been published in the STANDARD in connection with the Low trial. There must be malice and a fully framed purpose to kill in order for the offense to be murder. His Honor reviewed the testimony and called attention to the fact that witnesses are liable to become confused and excited, and hence differ in some things. But the jury must not reject the evidence because of minor discrepancies but try to reconcile it.
(ed. About four col. inches of the judge's charge is omitted here.)
The charge was able and exhaustive, and when finished, the general remark was that the jury ought to have no difficulty in making up their verdict. The charge occupied an hour and fifteen minutes.
When the case was given to the jury at 4:30 p. m., Judge Wilson instructed the tipstaves that if a verdict was found by 9 o'clock the court house bell should ring, otherwise the jury should stay out all night. Everybody was on the alert, expecting to hear the bell at any time. Public opinion was nearly unanimous that the verdict would be one of murder; the cautious reservation being sometimes added: "But I am afraid of that jury." At about 8 o'clock Judge Wilson was sen passing hurriedly along the street in the direction of the court house, accompanied by a tipstave. He was soon followed by an excited crowd, which, when the bell rang, was swelled almost to a rabble.
When silence was partially restored the jury filed in and the frivolous expression on some of their faces betokened the nature of...out the trial. He arose, faced the jury, and to the question of the clerk, Foreman McIntyre answered, "Not Guilty."
the crowd in the court room were so shocked that silence ensued for a short time, and then an effort was made to give some kind of expression to their feeling, but was with difficulty restrained by the officers. Dukes sat down with great composure. Judge Wilson looked amazed t the announcement of the verdict and said: "Gentlemen of the jury, I suppose the verdict that you have rendered is one that you thought you should render under your oaths, but it is one that gives dissatisfaction to the court, because we thought the evidence was sufficient to justify you in rendering a different verdict. If you have committed an error it is one that we cannot correct, but can onlly express our condemnation of it in this mild way. The prisoner is discharged."
Copyright © 2006 Arthur Brenton Wiggins