The Gilded Age Plains City

The Great Sheedy Murder Trial and the Booster Ethos of Lincoln, Nebraska


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Interpretation and Narrative



One Hundred and Forty Men Called and Only Eleven Have Been Chosen.

Nine out of Thirty-Eight Peremptory Challenges Have Been Used - Mrs. Sheedy Exhibits Signs of Ill Health and Mental Depression.

The Third Day's Work.

There were but few spectators in the large court room Wednesday morning when the "Hear ye" of Deputy Sheriff Hoagland stearnly admonished order where order already reined. Great volumes of cherry-stained, terra-cotta colored order pervaded the cool atmosphere of the apartments, pierced here and there by the most decorous streams of subdued light from the clouded sky, which poured modestly through the half opened shutters. Mrs. Sheedy came into the court room accompanied by her sisters. All were attired as on the first day, Mrs. Sheedy in deep mourning. The faithful and attentive guardian uncle, Mr. Biggerstaff, was at her side and sat near her throughout the day, showing her every possible kindly attention while watching with eager interest the examination of jurors.

Monday McFarland sat behind the row of attorneys and kept his gaze roving nervously from the juror under examination to Captain Billingsley, who paid little heed to Monday's watchfulness.

Prior to the opening of court and for some minutes subsequent thereto Mrs. Sheedy kept her face buried in her handkerchief, and occasional glimpses revealed the fact that she was weeping with considerable fervor. When the handkerchief was laid aside her eyes bore evidences of her lachrymal indulgence. After a half hour, however, the handkerchief was removed, and for an hour more the prisoner sat motionless with her arms folded and her eyes riveted upon the floor as if in deep thought. Later on she raised her head and for an hour kept her eyes bent steadily toward the chair wherein the jurors were being examined. Still later and up to the noon hour adjournment she held her head erect and appeared to be dividing her attention between the proceedings around her and her inmost thoughts. At times she was biting her lips to restrain the outward evidences of emotions that moistened her eyes with half-formed tears. Not a smile was seen to brighten her troubled features during the entire day, which was the more remarkable because of her evident good humor of the preceding day. Nothing was apparent to the observer in the proceedings of the court to the effect such a reversion of spirits, unless it was the endless succession of the jurymen called who had read the confession and parts of the evidence and had confessed the formation of opinions that unfitted them for jurors. This was certainly calculated to appal one who realized that the effect of such testimony as would be adduced in the case was a matter of life and death to her. In fact the spirits of her attendant relations appeared to have been saddened or disturbed by some invisible force of circumstances, for the kindly appearing old maternal uncle bent eagerly forward to catch ever word that fell from the lips of the jurors and the two sisters were apparently more depressed by the gravity of the situation than heretofore. There was very little whispering done yesterday during the morning session between the three sisters sitting there so close together. Heretofore observant spectators had noted that the fair prisoners would occasionally sit for minutes at a time with her eyes turned admiringly upon Mrs. Morgan, who sits ever at her right hand, and a smile would reveal the pleasure she found in her presence, while the thoughts of her sister would be upon what was transpiring in the jury box. Mrs. Morgan is indeed, a handsome woman and the prisoner's admiration was, in the opinions of the critical, fully justified. Mrs. Dean appears at all times too deeply absorbed in the proceedings of the court and attorneys to give much attention to her sisters.

Variety was added to the proceedings Wednesday by the fact that the panel of twelve men was at last filled, and then began the process of weeding out the objectionable ones by peremptory challenges, wherefore no reason must be assigned by the party challenging.

The right of the respective parties to peremptory challenges was here discussed. Mr. Lambertson contended that the state was entitled to twelve, and the defense to thirty-two. The defense contended that but six were allowed the state. The language of the statute governing that point is as follows:

Every person arraigned for any crime punishable with death shall be admitted on his trial to a peremptory challenge of sixteen jurors, and no more; and every person arraigned for any offense that may be punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding eighteen months shall be admitted to a peremptory challenge of eight jurors; and in all other criminal trials the defendant shall be allowed a peremptory challenge of six jurors. The attorney prosecuting on behalf of the state shall be admitted to a peremptory challenge of six jurors in all cases where the offense charged is punishable with death, and of three jurors in all other cases.

There being two defendants, the court held that they were entitled to sixteen challenges each, while the state had but six, regardless of the number of defendants. The state excepted to the ruling.

The attorneys for the defense handed in a schedule of the proposed order of challenges, as follows: Six by the defense, one by the state; six by the defense, one by the state; five by the defense, one by the state; five by the by the defense, one by the state; five by the defense, one by the state.

Mr. Strode moved to have the state exercise its peremptory challenge first, and that the order be persevered in that line throughout. The court overruled the motion, defendants excepting.

At 4 o'clock the special panel was exhausted, absentees excepted, and the court announced that an adjournment would be taken until 9 a.m. to-day to permit of the drawing of another 150 names form the box. The court cautioned the jurors to refrain from discussing the case among themselves or permitting others to talk to them upon the subject. He required the officer to take them into custody and keep them apart from intercourse with outsiders.

This is the first instance in the history of Lancaster county where a jury, from its inception, ahs been kept in the custody of an officer and apart from the public, or at least the first with the recollection of the Reporter Mullon, Colonel Philpett or Mr. Lambertson.

Lambertson, Genio M. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
McFarland, Monday [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Philpott, James E. [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, Mary [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Strode, Jesse B. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]

"The Special Panel Drawn For The Sheedy Jury.," Semi Weekly State Journal

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