Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, February 26, l903
'GEORGE H. PRICE CONVICTED'
And Sentenced to Five Years in the Penitentiary for Incest, by Judge Parrish at Mt. Ayr.
The sensational trial of GEORGE H. PRICE on the charge of incest with his l4 year-old step-daughter, GERTIE BLACKMORE, occupied five days of Judge Parrish's Court at Mt. Ayr last week, the Jury finally returning a verdict of guilty Friday evening and Judge Parrish at once sentenced PRICE to five years in the Ft. Madison Penitentiary. His attorney, made a motion for a new trial which the Judge overruled and fixed the appeal bond at $2,000 which PRICE gave without leaving the court room, and the case will be taken to the Supreme Court.
This was the second time PRICE had been on trial, having been indicted on two charges, rape and incest. The rape case was tried last November and the jury acquitted PRICE. His attorneys, A.I. Smith, of Mt. Ayr, and Hoffman & Jackson of Leon, made a hard fight to have the indictment of incest dismissed, claiming PRICE having been aquitted of the graver charges he should be discharged, as it would be putting him on trial twice for the same crime, but Judge Parrish refused to dismiss the case.
It was one of the most sensational trials every held in Ringgold County, the attorneys on both sides charging the other side with manufacturing a case. The theory of the defense was that the prosecution of PRICE was the result of ill feeling against him on the part of FRANK LANDRETH, a brother of MRS. PRICE, who admitted on the stand that he had said he would spend $5,000 to convict PRICE. MRS. PRICE, mother of the girl, stood by her husband loyally and testified in his behalf, insisting he was not the author of her daughter's ruin. GERTIE BLACKMORE testified that her step-father was the author of her ruin. The defense introduced witnesses to prove that he was not. One of them, Howard Gray, who worked for PRICE testified that he had witnessed criminal intimacy between the girl and her brother in her home at PRICE's home. Several school children from the PRICE neighborhood built up the defense's claim of suspicious actions by the girl at school. One of these, Daisy Powell, testified that in a conversation with GERTIE BLACKMORE the latter had said that she thought there was nothing wrong about having illicit relations; that she had had such relations with her brother and Bert Reasoner; and that FRANK LANDRETH had told her if she got into any trouble to lay it on her step-father, GEORGE PRICE. The State however, secured some damaging admissions from these witnesses and on the whole their testimony did not materially strengthen the defense.
During the trial of the case, O.W. Wilkie, of Leon was used as a witness for the defense. He spent some weeks in Mt. Ayr last summer selling rugs and testified to having conversations with GERTIE BLACKMORE in which she said PRICE had nothing to do with her seduction and produced a letter written by her, stating in substance she was not going to testify against PRICE. It was afterwards brought out that the letter was one written by PRICE and sent to the girl to copy and sign as her own letter. Wilkie was later arrested for contempt of court in violating Judge Towner's order that no one talk to her about the case. Friday evening the contempt case called and Judge Parrish fined Wilkie $50. He has retained Hoffman & Jackson as his attorneys and they will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
The case was given to the Jury Friday at ll:50 and at 4:30 that afternoon they returned a verdict of guilty.
The Mt. Ayr News of Friday had the following to say in regard to the arguments of the attorneys in the case:
After a brief recess County Attorney F.F. Fuller began at l0:30 yesterday forenoon the arguments for the State. Mr. Fuller spoke over two hours. He reviewed the evidence in detail, arguing that PRICE's guilt was the only hypothesis that would satisfactorily explain all the evidence. He asserted that every attempt of the defense to explain the case of GERTIE BLACKMORE's downfall on any other theory had been met and overwhelmed by a mass of controverting evidence. He severely scored PRICE for his claims to pure and religious life and his previously good reputation. The total depravity of both MR. and MRS. PRICE, Mr. Fuller claimed, was shown by their permitting the witness, Gray, to go on the stand and swear to the shameful relations of their own children in their own home. He denounced Gray as a perjurer.
At 2:20 yesterday afternoon A.I. Smith began the arguments for the defense. He presented the theory that from the first County Attorney Fuller had been simply carrying out the designs of FRANK LANDRETH to get possession of GERTIE BLACKMORE. He dwelt at length on the uncertain and conflicting nature of the girl's own testimony.
C.W. Hoffman made the concluding argument for the defense. He made a fierce attack upon FRANK LANDRETH and Frank Fuller. Persecution, perjury, and intimidation were some of the offenses he charged upon the prosecution. He asserted that the State had been in constant communication with the prosecuting witness in spite of the Court's order. He, as well as Mr. Smith, poured out vials of wrath upon Miss Dell Nelson, teacher at the Zwick School House, who had contradicted their witnesses on the point of FRANK LANDRETH calling at the shool house for GERTIE BLACKMORE. He referred repeatedly to LANDRETH's statement that he would spend $5,000 to convict PRICE.
V.R. McGinnis began at 9 o'clock this morning the final argument for the State. He devoted a large part of his time to presenting the theory that the whole conduct of PRICE since the legal action began, and the plan of defense indicted consciousness of guilt. His effort was to convince the jury that guilt was proved even without the evidence of GERTIE BLACKMORE. At times he amused the jurors as well as the spectators by his sarcastic threats at the defendant's attorneys, which however were made without bitterness. In the next part of his speech he explained the discrepancies in the testimony of the prosecuting witness. He repeatedly charged perjury upon Wilkie, Gray, Miller and Daisy Powell and Miss Buell, and highly praised MR. and MRS. LANDRETH for their efforts to protect their niece. Mr. McGinnis talked over two hours and a half, and at times grew intensely eloquent.
The Court's instructions were delivered beginning at ll:30. Besides the formal and usual instructions in all criminal cases the Court instructed the Jury that the girl's immaturity of mind and any evidences of attemps to influence her testimony should be considered.
FRANK LANDRETH, uncle of GERTRUDE BLACKMORE, the prosecuting witness in the PRICE case, was made the girl's guardian yesterday afternoon by Judge Parrish. This action was taken upon the request of the girl herself, after Thomas Dull had resigned his guardianship.
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
"With permission from the Leon Journal Reporter"
March l5, 2003