The Wright and Norton Case
Winfield Daily Courier - December 26, 1893
It is gratifying that the cases of Wright and Norton were set on an early day, and that a quick and impartial trial has been had, resulting in conviction of both of them of murder in the first degree. On the day Capt. Siverd was shot, some otherwise excellent citizens urged lynching. Others insisted that the murderers would have a fair trial and be punished; and the tendency to repeat the violation of law by lynching was averted.
What is needed in all cases, is a speedy and impartial trial of offenders, and there would be little occasion and little fear of unlawful hangings. There has been too many such in this county. But the courts and their officers, the lawyers and the juries, have not been without blame. Trials of offenders have not always been impartial. Too often courts and juries have leaned altogether too much in favor of criminals; and almost universally delays of all kinds have been sought and granted, when the only effect has been to weaken the prosecution and strengthen the defense. The rules of the courts were adopted favoring those charged with crime in the cruder conditions of society following the times when Jefferies held the bloody assassins in England, and convicted every man charged before him, administering terrible penalties for minor offenses. The times have changed and the tendency has been toward sympathy for violators of the law—often far too much so. The administration of the law by the courts has also become much less severe. It is time we all, including the courts, cultivate a sympathy for the well being of society at large, and that at least there be some presumption in the courts indulged in favor of law abiding citizens. These cases, so fr, have undoubtedly resulted righteously and the work has been promptly done. It is hoped other steps will follow in all courts and all cases towards giving to society generally a fair chance. Of course, complete reforms do not come at once; but the demand of the times is in that direction. The burning of the courthouse and records and destruction of much other property in Cincinnatti, a few years since, and many a case of lynching in different parts of the country, and much other violence might have been avoided, if attorneys employed in the defense of criminals had, while faithful to their clients, acted the part of citizens desiring the welfare of society around them, more than the escape of a guilty person. Once the courts had always required such conduct of them, and held the scales of justice without tipping them towards those charged with crime. Experience has proved that the policy of the law as administered in this respect has not been sound. Too many criminals have escaped through the tendency to give every question a construction in favor of the defendant, and failure to recognize the fact that society itself has rights. It may well be doubted, in the present condition of society whether the "greatest good to the greatest number" would not be secured by a more cold and absolutely impartial course, or if you prefer to so state it, a sympathy at least as full and hearty for peaceable and law loving citizens and their interests as for those indicted for crimes. Such a tendency, well carried out, both by courts and juries, would save many a lynching, and other effort at righting wrongs by unlawful means.
Quick and certain punishment of the guilty, and similar acquittal of the innocent, is the demand of the times. GEORGE ORDWAY.