The Gilded Age Plains City

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


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Spatial Narratives

Interpretation and Narrative

The Trial: State of Nebraska versus Mary Sheedy and Monday McFarland

Mary Sheedy and Monday McFarland sat in the city and county jails respectively since the day they were arraigned and held on the charges of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Meanwhile, various lawyers scrambled to carry out investigations of their own, put together defense strategies, and offer their services to the accused. McFarland was visited by a number of lawyers in the first few days of his incarceration in the city jail.

Eventually, however, those lawyers with previous connections to both defendants prevailed. Mary hired Jesse B. Strode and Royal D. Stearns, John Sheedy's long-time lawyers who had recently been involved in his fight against John Fitzgerald's street railway. Later, just before the case opened, Mary took her uncle's advice, and added a family friend, Judge H. W. Weir of Boise City, Idaho, to her defense team.

Less clear was who would serve as the defense for Monday McFarland. A few days after the murder, it was reported that a young attorney who had been making an impressive name for himself since his arrival in Lincoln in 1887—William Jennings Bryan—would serve as McFarland's defense lawyer.

But at the arraignment on January 28, Monday appeared with L.W. Billingsley as his defense attorney. Billingsley had served with J. E. Philpott two years before as McFarland's counsel when Monday was charged with assault. Apparently on the basis of this experience—they got McFarland off—Philpott was appointed to defend McFarland as well. Billingsley had also been among those incarcerated with the Mayor and Common Council in 1887, a development initially triggered by John Sheedy's complaint.

Meanwhile Dennis Sheedy, John Sheedy's brother, a prominent banker and capitalist from Denver, Colorado, had arrived in town with an interest in pursuing and prosecuting his brother's alleged murderer. Upon arriving in town, he consulted with his law and business associate John Fitzgerald.

Eventually, Dennis Sheedy hired two private lawyers, Frank M. Hall and Genio M. Lambertson, to assist county attorney Novia Snell in prosecuting the case. Both lawyers had legal ties to John Fitzgerald, who was acting with Dennis Sheedy to pursue prosecution against Mary. Snell was a reform advocate—and thus an adversary of Sheedy—who had presented John Fitzgerald's challenge to the results of the mayoral election of 1885.

Pre-Trial Activity

Adjusting the Charges and Preparing the Cases

The wealth of the legal talent assembled for the case further heightened public interest. On January 20, the coroner assembled a coroner's jury to inquire into the cause of John Sheedy's murder in the county courthouse—though the last days of the hearings were shifted to the city council chambers as a result of the county commissioners complaining that the large crowd was damaging the courtroom. ("Sheedy Hearing Resumed.," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) January 30, 1891)

The arrest of Monday McFarland two days before, and his subsequent confession that implicated Mary Sheedy in the murder, focused their interrogations on the two defendants. The others called indicated the extent to which Monday's confession was now the driving "theory" behind the investigation and thus would become the main theory of the prosecution in the trial itself.

When Mary was asked to testify, she arrived with her lawyer Jesse Strode. When his presence was questioned, Strode remarked that he was there to protect his client's interests and prevent her from incriminating herself. After a bit of wrangling, Mary took the stand but refused to answer any of the questions put to her. Monday McFarland's lawyers would not let him take the stand to explain his side of the case. ("Was Poisoned.," Lincoln Daily Call January 23, 1891)

After hearing the preliminary evidence for several days—which included Monday McFarland's confession—the jury decided that there was sufficient enough evidence to corroborate the confession and that both should be charged with murder and accessory to murder. Both pleaded not guilty and were sent back to jail without bail. ("Charged With Conspiracy.," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) January 24, 1891)

The completion of the preliminary hearing sent Mary and Monday back to their respective jails without bail. For a month they sat in jail while the county attorney put together his case that would lead to the calling of a grand jury and the filing of formal charges against both.

On February 27, Jesse Strode entered the court complaining about the delays and demanded that his client be charged or released on bail until the county attorney got around to abiding by the law. The judge decided to give Snell more time, but delays continued and finally the Judge ruled that Snell file "the information" against Mary Sheedy by March 12 at 3:00 p.m. or he would "admit Mrs. Sheedy to bail." ("Formal Charge of Murder," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) March 13, 1891)

Accordingly, Novia Snell "was forced" to formally file information against both defendants on March 12, 1891. They were formally charged with six separate counts of first degree murder, accessory to murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.

By early April, both sides increasingly focused on bringing the case to trial as public pressure to do so increased. In mid-March through April the defense lawyers came into court a number of times to request adjustment of the charges in the case. Of those efforts the most significant was the successful effort to get the first charge of conspiracy "quashed" or dropped on April 1, 1891.

Judge Field agreed with the technical argument—indicating perhaps an error on the state's part—that since these charges were not part of the initial examination in January, they could not be included in the case. With their position, the defense lawyers effectively brought the two to trial together but separately—a move with far-reaching ramifications in regard to the final verdict.

The defendants Mary Sheedy and Monday McFarland were arraigned on April 13.

A week later, the case State of Nebraska versus Mary Sheedy and Monday McFarland was placed officially on the spring District Court docket. On April 21, The Lincoln Call reported that both sides were ready and the case was expected to be called in two weeks. ("The Sheedy Murder.," Lincoln Daily Call April 21, 1891)

As the date approached some of the local newspapers laid out their expectations—clearly drawn from talking to the lawyers—regarding how long and what strategies the lawyers would take to hear the case. It was generally believed that given the notoriety of the case and the degree to which the case had already been tried in public in some of the local and regional newspapers—finding a jury would be a long drawn out several-day affair.

Both sides felt that the trial would be very long by contemporary standards—three to five weeks in court. Many felt that this would further complicate the effort to find a jury as many prospective jurors would simply deny impartiality as a way to be excused. It was expected that as many as three hundred to four hundred potential jurors would be quizzed before a jury of twelve people acceptable to both sides could be found. ("The Hardships of a Jury.," Lincoln Daily Call April 26, 1891)

The trial was to be held in the magnificent new Lancaster County Courthouse south of the downtown district and several blocks due west of the State Capitol at Tenth and K streets. The imposing new building, completed only the year before, was the pride of the county. The trial venue for Judge Field's court was the District Court chamber on the second floor.

The large courtroom was thirty by fifty feet and two stories high, paneled with wood and filled with elaborate wood-carved furniture and wall decorations—it is not clear if the paintings were motifs or some sort of view of Lancaster county, Lincoln, or its history. Images of the courthouse plans and photographs indicate the noble surroundings in which the most celebrated case in the history of Lancaster County would be heard. (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy) (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy) (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy)

Field, Allen W. [Brief Biography]
McFarland, Monday [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, Mary [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Snell, Novia Z. [Brief Biography]
Strode, Jesse B. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]

The Trial

On a spring Monday morning, May 4, 1891, Judge Allen W. Field called court to order before a moderately-sized audience and instructed the bailiff to begin to call panels of prospective jurors to be quizzed by the lawyers on both sides as to their fitness to serve on the jury.

Though some papers discounted this part of the trial as tedious, others took great interest not only because of the strategy reflected in the respective sides use of challenges and who was or was not acceptable, but also—in the historians' view—as evidence of how widespread the news about the case had spread and what general popular opinion about it was. ("The Sheedy Trial.," Lincoln Daily Call May 4, 1891)

A number of newspapers carried detailed verbatim accounts of the questions and testimony and especially the activity of the lawyers on either side of the aisle. In the questions, popular views on race, on gender, and on the popular support or lack thereof for Nebraska's capital punishment laws also surfaced. ("The Sheedy Murder Trial.," Lincoln Daily Call May 5, 1891) ("A Dreary grind.," Lincoln Daily Call May 6, 1891)

In general, most interviewees indicated they had no issues with trying a woman for a capital crime, or employing the death penalty against her, and were unbiased against a black man. Even so, observers were struck by the number of those who objected to the death penalty, to trying a woman for a capital crime, and to feeling that they could overcome their prejudice against blacks to accord Monday McFarland a fair trial. ("Eleven in the Jury Box," The Nebraska State Journal May 6, 2006) ("No Jury Yet.," Lincoln Daily Call May 7, 1891) ("The Special Panel Drawn For The Sheedy Jury.," Semi Weekly State Journal ) ("And Still No Sheedy Jury," The Nebraska State Journal May 10, 1891) ("Still Examining Jurors.," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) May 10, 1891)

Toward the end of the jury selection, the defense created a stir when they submitted a motion acusing one juror, A. B. Norton, of prejudice. The judge removed him from the jury. (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy) (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy) (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy) ("Juror Norton Not Guilty," The Nebraska State Journal June 3, 1891)

Frank Hall opened for the prosecution before a jammed courtroom. In his opening argument he used Monday McFarland's confession as the basis for their case against McFarland, but interestingly, also as the basis of their case against Mary Sheedy. In so doing, it became immediately evident why they had agreed to the defense request to try Mary Sheedy and McFarland together. ("The Trial Begun.," Lincoln Daily Call May 12, 1891) ("Twelve Good Men and True," The Nebraska State Journal May 12, 1891)

The defense obviously hoped that if the case against either defendant was weak, both would be acquitted. Hall, Lambertson, and Snell, of course, recognized this as a risk they took allowing them to be tried together. In short, if one was acquitted, it was likely the other, even if guilty, would be also acquitted.

But as prosecutors they focused primarily on presenting strong cases. The case against McFarland, based on his confession, was strong. But to strengthen the case against Mary they decided they needed the confession to bolster their presentation of circumstantial evidence. But it was only by trying them together that they would they be able to indirectly enter McFarland's confession against her.

In a separate trial it would have been quickly disallowed as hearsay. Even if, as they expected, Judge Field would instruct the jury to disregard the confession as evidence against Mary Sheedy, they hoped therefore that simply the knowledge of the confession would create the framework to strengthen the presentation of circumstantial evidence to corroborate Monday's story.

Frank Hall therefore argued that the prosecution intended to prove that Mary Sheedy and McFarland were both guilty of murder and accessory to murder based on McFarland's confession and supporting circumstantial evidence. To corroborate a theory that Mary Sheedy and McFarland had both murdered John Sheedy and to establish Mary's motives, the prosecution attorneys presented evidence gathered by Malone, Melick, and their own investigators.

The evidence focused on her unhappy marriage with Sheedy, her relationship with Walstrom, her plan, as evidenced by several witnesses testifying that they saw Sheedy and McFarland together near the Sheedy's house shortly before the murder, and her poisoning of her husband—which focused on presenting doctors who testified that the cause of death was morphine poison.

For several days, the prosecution brought forth witnesses that presented various aspects of the story. In pursuing McFarland, they presented his confession—the admissibility of which became a central concern. ("Admitted the Confession," Lincoln Daily Call May 14, 1891)

When it came time to have the court stenographer read the confession—a story "putrid with the odor of moral rottenness," a "smutty" tale of adultery, miscegenation, bribery, extortion, and murder—women left the room, and it was whispered to the jury beyond earshot of most people in the courtroom. ("Monday's Confession Goes," Semi Weekly State Journal May 15, 1891) ("Somewhat Disappointing," The Nebraska State Journal May 15, 1891) ("Vile Confession of Crime," OBME May 15, 1891)

They also presented evidence of McFarland's activities that corroborated his confession, his involvement in the plan, and his purchase of the murder weapon. Hall, Lambertson, and Snell played on illicit sex and rising racial tensions, evidenced by police crackdowns on black establishments and increased complaints of racial incidents uptown, but, in general, the case against both defendants was based on McFarland's confession, the murder weapon, and corroborating circumstantial evidence. ("Sheedy Trial.," Lincoln Daily Call May 16, 1891) ("Death Due to Morphine," The Nebraska State Journal May 17, 1891) ("'Twas Morphine Poisoning," The Nebraska State Journal May 19, 1891) ("Sheedy's Skull in Court.," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) May 19, 1891) ("All State Testimony In.," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) May 21, 1891) ("The State Rests at Last," The Nebraska State Journal May 21, 1891)

Local newspapers declared it an open-and-shut case against McFarland, but wondered if the case was strong enough against Mary. Indeed, many observed that there was actually very little direct evidence presented against Mary Sheedy, other than the confession which—as expected—the judge ruled could not be used against her.

Defense attorneys Jesse Strode, Royal Stearns, L. W. Billingsley, and Judge H. W. Weir of Boise City, Idaho, who joined the defense at the suggestion of Mary's uncle, responded not by creating a counterfactual story line to distract the jurors— though they did implicate two other men, both gamblers, who they said police simply did not pursue—but by choosing to present testimony to refute every detail of the prosecution's presentation.

They focused most of their effort on establishing that McFarland's confession was made under duress. Though McFarland did not testify, he later said that he had confessed falsely in fear of the being lynched. They presented testimony of friends and acquaintances who said the Sheedys were happily married. They also showed that Mary Sheedy and Harry Walstrom were just friends, and that he was really just a friend of the family. ("The Defense," Lincoln Daily Call May 21, 1891) ("The Evidence Continued," Lincoln Weekly News May 21, 1891) ("The Sheedy Case.," Lincoln Weekly News May 21, 1891) ("In Defense of Mrs. Sheedy," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) May 22, 1891) ("Nearing the End," LC May 22, 1891) ("The Case of the Defense," The Nebraska State Journal May 23, 1891) ("Nearing the End," Vanity Fair May 23, 1891)

In his closing Jesse Strode would portray the idea of a relationship between McFarland and Mary Sheedy as "revolting," "unnatural" and thus absurd. The defense also attacked the prosecution's "preposterous" argument that a white woman's alleged black lover, would, with the promise of a bribe, murder the husband so she could go off with another man.

Moreover, they produced several character witnesses who testified that Mary was a proper, moral woman, and it was absurd to imagine her as an adulteress or murderer. They also vigorously resisted all efforts by Lambertson and Hall to introduce evidence of Mary's relationship with Sheedy before they were married, her previous history, her alleged relationship with Harry Walstrom, and her character, reinforcing their point, supported by Victorian gender attitudes, that it was absurd to imagine a woman could commit such a crime.

Evidence that Mary openly mourned her husband (and was not seen "gaily" playing the piano in her parlor the afternoon after his death as testified by a prosecution witness) strengthened the idea that she was not a cold-hearted murderer, a veritable Lucretia Borgia as presented by the prosecution.

Playing on sympathy for Mary Sheedy that Hall and Lambertson's unrelenting assault on her character had elicited, Stearns and Strode had her present herself in court as a moral, middle-class widow dressed in black and so emotionally wrought over her husband's death that she barely acknowledged McFarland's presence, implying that the two barely knew each other. Throughout the trial the press paid close attention to Mary and were generally impressed by her appearance and composure.

Near end of the trial the defense shifted tactics and filed a motion objecting to Hall and Lambertson's participation in the prosecution because they were not appointed by the court but were hired for fees "by private parties." In the ensuing debate over the motion, Stearns and Strode argued that Hall and Lambertson were in the case to convict Mary at all costs to ensure that the individuals who hired them—whom most knew to be Dennis Sheedy and John Fitzgerald—received most of John Sheedy's estate. (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy)

Although the motion failed, Stearns and Strode reintroduced to the jury the idea of improper outside influence or even a conspiracy of powerful men and reformers to frame and convict Mary Sheedy that they had raised in their opening statements.

It was a suggestion, made several times in the press, that was sure to strike a nerve among the growing number of Nebraskans, no doubt including members of the jury, who believed that the unbridled power of the railroads was squeezing the income of Nebraska farmers and businessmen through monopolistic shipping rates, corrupting state and local government, and undermining the integrity of the judicial system and democracy in general.

This populist sensibility had provided fertile political ground for the development of the Farmer's Alliance and, the following year, would generate the founding of the Populist Party in Omaha. In thus playing to the jurors' prejudices, as Hall later charged, Strode skillfully undermined Mary's motive to acquire her husband's estate (after all if the estate was already controlled by Sheedy's adversaries, she probably would not get very much), and distracted the jury with a conspiracy theory.

When the defense rested its case, Novia Snell in "the best effort of his life," followed by Judge Weir, and then Frank Hall, who spoke with "unparalleled eloquence in the annals of the Lincoln bar," reasserted in their closing arguments the validity of the confession, and the other evidence, and the presence of motive, opportunity, and ability of the defendants to commit murder.

They did this in a courtroom crowded with over three hundred people. The majority of them were women who crowded the aisles, stood inside the bar, and even camped out of the judge's dais up in the space in which the lawyers held forth.

Hall, in particular, confronted the conspiracy theory head on, discounting as absurd the idea that the prosecution was "in this solely for blood money," defending the right of a citizen to support the prosecution and offer a reward, and reasserting the soundness of the case. But it was the great oration of Genio Lambertson—widely known as a dramatic and flowery speaker—that drew the greatest interest and elicited the most powerful and emotional response from those in attendance.

Lambertson dramatically recounted the murder, Mary's cold-hearted role in the conspiracy to murder her husband, and the facts they had presented. He defended his right to stand before the public and argue a public case. He explained at great length circumstantial evidence. And he discounted the defense's insinuations of conspiracies and plots for money rather than for justice.

In their closing, Stearns and Strode hammered away at the confession, punched holes in the flimsy circumstantial evidence, undermined the prosecution's evidence of motive, and played upon sympathy for Mary Sheedy whom they characterized as a wronged woman.

Then Strode raised the conspiracy issue, remarking that "Mr. Hall was a member of a firm of railroad attorneys." Hall took the bait, angrily denouncing Strode in open court as appealing in an "unprofessional" and "unmanly" manner to "the prejudices of the jury" whom he suspected "might all be members of the farmer's alliance." In doing so, he played into Strode's hands by further distracting the jury from the evidence of the case at hand.

In his instructions to the jury, Judge Field reiterated that although the defendants were tried together, the case against each should be considered separately. He also carefully instructed the jury not to consider McFarland's confession as evidence against Mary, and he clarified the definition of circumstantial evidence. ("The Arguments," Lincoln Daily Call May 25, 1891) ("Pleading For a Verdict," The Nebraska State Journal May 26, 1891) ("Reviewing the Evidence.," Omaha Bee (Morning Edition) May 26, 1891) ("A Startling Arraignment," The Nebraska State Journal May 27, 1891) ("A Great Crowd," Lincoln Daily Call May 28, 1891) ("Eager To Hear the Close," The Nebraska State Journal May 28, 1891) ("The Defense Has Its Innings.," Lincoln Weekly News May 28, 1891) ("Closing the Sheedy Case," Semi Weekly State Journal May 29, 1891)

Late on May 28, the jury went into deliberation, as local newspapers, expressing concern that Mary Sheedy would probably get off, proclaimed the defendants guilty. The following afternoon the jury returned with its verdict: Not guilty on all counts for both defendants. ("Both Go Free!," Vanity Fair May 30, 1891) ("Neither of Them is Guilty," The Nebraska State Journal May 30, 1891) ("[Untitled] The verdict in the Sheedy trial. . . ," The Nebraska State Journal May 30, 1891) ("Neither of them is Guilty," Semi Weekly State Journal June 5, 1891) (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy) (State vs Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy)

Spectators in the courtroom and standing outside exploded into cheers—punctuated by some hissing. The press proclaimed the decision a miscarriage of justice and expressed concern that even the legal system was corrupt.

But even as the shock swept through Lincoln society and the legal community, something in the response seemed amiss. Not only was it unclear who had murdered Sheedy, it was also quite unclear what had transpired in the prosecution, and a pall of suspicion was cast over the actions of most involved. ("Echos of the Great Case," The Nebraska State Journal June 2, 1891) ("The Judges Verdict," Lincoln Weekly News June 4, 1891) ("Tuesday," Semi Weekly State Journal June 4, 1891) ("Tales! Tales!," Vanity Fair June 6, 1891) ("Cost of the Sheedy Case," The Nebraska State Journal June 25, 1891)

Billingsley, Lorenzo W. [Brief Biography]
Field, Allen W. [Brief Biography]
Hall, Frank M. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Lambertson, Genio M. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Malone, James [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
McFarland, Monday [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Melick, Samuel M. [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, Mary [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Snell, Novia Z. [Brief Biography]
Stearns, Royal D. [Brief Biography]
Strode, Jesse B. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Weir, H.W. [Brief Biography]

Chronology of the Trial in Timeline

May 4, 1891: Trial for Mary Sheedy and Monday McFarland opens and jury selection begins. The court room is full of spectators, particularly many women and newspaper reporters. Defense counsel objects to the methods used by the county commissions to select the panel of potential jurors. Although Judge Field overrules the objection, the suggestion of corruption contributes to a sense of doubt and conspiracy in the minds of many Lincolnites surrounding the case.

Local newspapers begin taking sides in the case. The Lincoln Call prints an interview with the defense counsel in which they respond to a report in the Omaha Bee that claimed of a conspiracy amongst the defense attorneys to make Monday McFarland the scapegoat while working for Mary Sheedy's acquittal. In the interview the defense claims that it is the prosecuting attorneys who are the conspirators and that they are working with Dennis Sheedy to get a share of John Sheedy's estate.

May 5 to May 11: Jury selection continues and courtroom less crowded as public interests wanes during the tedious process. Attorneys find it difficult to find men who have yet to form an opinion due to the amount of newspaper coverage given the case, and jury selection takes an unusually long time. After reviewing two hundred sixteen potential jurors, the jury is finally formed on May 11.

The final jury consists of James Van Campin, George Albrecht, J. C. Jensen, Ed Young, Luther Batten, C. S. Cadwallader, John Robertson, James Johnson, Henry L. Willis, Jacob Croy, Albert Ward, and Thomas Riley. During the selection process the state charges one of the potential jurymen, A. B. Norton, with perjury after he was released from the jury because he had let it known to others in his hometown of Davey that he had formed an opinion about the case. He allegedly went about the town stating that they both were guilty, then later amending his judgment, telling others that Mary would go free "and the nigger would hang." Norton is sent to the county jail to await trial.

May 11: Following the selection of the jury, attorneys for the prosecution and defense present their opening arguments.

May 12: Testimony begins at the trial. Courtroom on second floor of County Court House is once again filled over its capacity. At the request of Mary Sheedy's attorney, Royal Stearns, Judge Field orders all witnesses not on stand at the time to leave the courtroom while others testify. Doctor C. S. Hart, who testifies that John Sheedy's death was caused by compression of the brain and not by morphine poisoning, is the first witness.

May 13: Trial delayed due to the arrival of President Benjamin Harrison in Lincoln to make a public speech at the State Capitol building. When trial resumes at 10:30 a.m., a number of witnesses dispute the method James Malone used to get the confession from McFarland, including former police captain W. W. Carder, who claims that on the night that McFarland made his confession he overheard detective James Malone tell McFarland that they would deliver him to a mob who wanted to kill him unless he confessed to the crime.

A member of the coroner's jury, George Walters, testifies that he had a conversation with Malone in which he told him he had scared the confession out of McFarland. B. F. Pinneo, a veteran police officer of thirty years, tells of a conversation he had with Malone near Tenth and P streets on March 25 in which he asked him how he obtained the confession. Malone told Pinneo that "he had asked McFarland whether he desired to be hung by the neck or private parts" and by doing so induced the confession. Attorneys in the case argue over the admissibility of McFarland's confession.

May 14: Monday McFarland's confession is read in a whisper audible only to the jurors by Myron Wheeler, the stenographer who had hid behind a curtain recording the confession at the city jail when McFarland recited his story before Melick, Malone, Kinney, and Graham. This is the first time the entire confession is made known to the public, and the courtroom is filled with Lincolnites eager to hear it—all were disappointed. In the afternoon session Hyman Goldwater takes the stand. He testifies that he sold Monday McFarland a leather-covered steel cane, just like the one found at the crime scene, about a week before the murder.

May 18: The skull of John Sheedy is presented in court.

May 20: The prosecution in the case presents its final testimony. One of the final witnesses, Mary's friend Mrs. P. H. Swift, testifies that Mary Sheedy had told her of her marital problems and of the abortion she received because she was upset with her husband.

May 21: Defense begins presenting its evidence and testimony to the jury. Their first witness is Charles Whedon, a prominent Lincoln attorney and neighbor to the Sheedys, who testifies to the couple's good character and "happy" relationship.

May 23: Final testimony given in case.

May 25: Closing arguments begin.

May 27 and 28: Defense attorney Jesse B. Strode makes his closing arguments. He claims that Dennis Sheedy, the victim's brother, and the prosecution fabricated the case against Mary in hopes of controlling John Sheedy's entire estate. He added that police officer James Malone was motivated by reward money offered by Dennis Sheedy.

May 28: District court judge Allen Field provides a list of twenty-seven instructions for the jury. He tells them they are not to consider the first two charges which related to conspiracy because of an objection to them by the defense that was sustained. Field also instructs them not to consider Monday's confession as evidence against Mary Sheedy.

May 29: The jury reaches a verdict, and at around 3:30 p.m. the court convenes to hear their decision. The county clerk reads the verdict before a courtroom so full that people are lining up past the doors of the courthouse. Both Monday McFarland and Mary Sheedy are found not guilty on all counts. Although cheers ring out through the courtroom, many hisses are heard as well. Mary Sheedy and Monday McFarland are then released from custody.

Field, Allen W. [Brief Biography]
Graham, Robert B. [Brief Biography]
Hart, Charles S. [Brief Biography]
Malone, James [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
McFarland, Monday [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Melick, Samuel M. [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, John [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Sheedy, Mary [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Stearns, Royal D. [Brief Biography]
Strode, Jesse B. [Narrative] [Brief Biography]
Whedon, Charles O. [Brief Biography]

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