May 23, 1909


Conflicting Testimony as to Who
Started the City Hall Riot
Brings Protest From
the Defendant.

SHARP TRIAL'S SECOND DAY: Defense still fails to indicate any trace of an insanity plea and continues to question along self-defense lines.
Sharp interrupts and contradicts Captain Whitsett, while latter testifies.
Patrick Clark, captain of police, tells of his fight, barehanded, with Sharp, who had both revolver and knife.
Testimony as to fight on river admitted only sparingly by Judge Latshaw.
Sharp gives out statement to effect that evidence which gets at the cause of the riot is being excluded. Also ridicules introduction of his overcoat as evidence, as not proving anything.

"If they sentence me to hang it will be the will of God."

With these words James Sharp was led back to his cell in the county jail after the second day of his trial on the charge of killing Michael Mullane, a patrolman, in the city hall riot. It was the first time during yesterday that he had mentioned religious matters.

The day closed with the evidence of the state two-thirds finished and with no more traces of an insanity defense than were shown on Friday. A. E. Martin, of counsel for Sharp, stated that he had not announced any defense and that his purpose would be to break down the testimony of the state's witnesses. All of his cross-questioning, however, as told in The Journal yesterday, was directed towards showing that the band of fanatics under Sharp's leadership did not provoke the riot, but that it was started by officers. Self-defense is the logical name for such a theory of the case. The state is expected to finish its testimony by Monday evening.

Police officers gave the greater part of the testimony yesterday. Of them, Captian Walter Whitsett was on the stand the longest time. Whitsett gave his age as 41, his service in the police department as twenty years and his residence as 2631 Gillham road. On the afternoon of the riot he was at his desk in the city hall as captain commanding the headquarters precinct.


"I heard the shooting," testified Whitsett, "took my revolver out of my desk and ran to the street. I met Captain Clark, who had been wounded, on the stairs. When I got to the middle of the street I saw Mullane standing with a club in one hand and a revolver in the other. There was a man in front of him with a revolver. The women of the band also were near at the time. There was a man with a long beard standing on the opposite corner firing in the direction of Mullane."

"Who was this man?" asked Prosecutor Conkling.

"That's him right there," said the witness, indicating Sharp.

"What happened then?"

"I fired three or four shots at him and his revolver fell out of his hand. Two or three children came up behind and began to shoot at me. When I got back on the street, after going into the station for another revolver, I saw Mullane staggering toward headquarters and helped him in. Later we searched for Sharp but could not find him. We immediately sent his description to every officer in the city and notified the surrounding towns.

"On the evening of December 10 we got word from Olathe that Sharp was under arrest there. I went there that evening with Inspector Charles Ryan."

Court adjourned at noon with Whitsett still on the stand. In the afternoon he resumed his story of the trip to Olathe. He found Sharp there in the office of Sheriff Steed. Sharp's beard and hair had been cut and he was wounded in both hands. There was a hole through his hat.

"I talked to Sharp in the presence of Mr. Steed, Inspector Ryan and Hugh Moore, a newspaper man Sharp told us--"

Mr. Martin for the defense here objected to Whitsett's telling of Sharp's statement.

"If a written statement was taken that is the best evidence," said Martin.

The statement was shown to Captain Whitsett and identified by him. Weapons used in the city hall riot then were introduced in evidence. First there was Sharp's .45 caliber Colt revolver, the handle scarred by a shot. Sharp told Whitsett the weapon was shot out of his hand. Then there was a .45 caliber colt which Louis Pratt had carried.

"I was told by Sharp that Pratt had bought his weapon in Kansas City," said Whitsett, but Sharp spoke out sharply in court to the witness:

"I didn't say that. Why do you want to tell such stuff as that?"

"I don't know. He might have bought it up the river," responded Whitsett.


Then was shown the 38-caliber Colt, which Sharp said his wife brought in her bosom from the houseboat. Lena Pratt's 32-caliber pistol was then exhibited and identified, and the knife, with its four-inch blade.

"What was the purpose of all these weapons, as Sharp told it to you?" asked Mr. Conkling.

"He said it was to resist any officer who might interfere with his preaching. He said he also had two rifles and a shotgun and another revolver, the latter used by Lulu Pratt."

The overcoat worn by Sharp the day of the riot was then shown to the jury, as were the remnants of Sharp's beard.

"Don't see why they want to show the coat," said Sharp to W. S. Gabriel, assistant prosecutor. It doesn't prove anything."

On cross-examination, Captain Whitsett was asked about happenings at the river, following the street fight, but the state objected successfully to most of the questions. Just after an objection had been sustained, Sharp spoke up and said:

"Your honor, can I have a word? This man wants to tell what happened there, and he is cut off. Now ---"

"Make your objection through your attorneys, Mr. Sharp," answered Judge Latshaw.


Inspector Charles Ryan followed Captain Whitsett on the stand. He recounted substantially the same details of the shooting and the trip to Olathe.

George Robinson, 2905 Wyandotte street, a barber at 952 Mulberry street, was the next witness, and told how Sharp came into his shop sat in the chair of Chester Ramsey and had his hair and whiskers cut off.

"He didn't take his hands out of his pockets. He said: 'My hands were frosted up North, where I've been fishing. I want this job done in a hurry. I want to meet a friend and have to get on a train.'

"When the job was done, Ramsey took a purse out of Sharp's pocket and took 40 cents out of it. Then Sharp went away."

The defense objected to the testimony of Robinson on the plea that the state had given no notification that he would be called as a witness. The objection was overruled. Robinson was not cross-examined, but will be recalled by the defense to give further testimony.

Then came William Thiry, a farmer who lives near Monticello, Kas. "On the evening of December 9 Sharp came to my house," said Thiry. "My son opened the door and then I went out on the porch. Sharp was standing there. He said, 'Brother, I want to tell you my circumstances. Wait till I sit down,' and he sat down on the edge of the porch. 'I'm paralyzed, brother,' he resumed. 'I lay down over there on a strawstack and tried to die, but the laws of nature were against me.'

"He kept his hands in his overcoat pockets and asked for food and a night's lodging. 'I am no ordinary bum,' said he. 'I have money to pay for my keep over night.' I consulted with my wife and we decided we could not keep him, but we took him and fed him. I telephoned Mr. Beaver, my brother-in-law, who lives a quarter of a mile from me and Mr. Beaver said he could keep him. While I was telephoning, Sharp came into the ho use and listened to the conversation.

"At supper he spoke of being a peddler and that his partner had turned him down because he was paralyzed in his hands. He said he wanted to get back to town to a good hospital. It was 8 o'clock when he left my house. I fed him myself. He didn't take his hands from his pockets."

"I am willing to acknowledge anything this man says," remarked Sharp. "He treated me alright while I was there."

The defense fought the introduction of this testimony on the same theory it had advanced in the case of Robinson. It objected further to Thiry's relating some of the conversation. Mr. Conkling insisted it was relevant as combating a defense of insanity, if such was to be the defense.

"We have never announced what our defense would be," said Martin.

"You have done so repeatedly in open court while applying for continuances in this case," said Mr. Conkling.

Court was adjourned after the defense had secured permission to bring a number of witnesses from Lebanon, Mo.


In the course of the morning session Captain Clark, who lost an eye in the riot, gave his testimony. He lives at 538 Tracy avenue, and has been on the police force for twenty-one years. He was sergeant in immediate charge of headquarters station the afternoon of the riot. Testimony was also taken from Howard B. McAfee, business manager of Park college at Parkville, Mo., who was making a purchase on the Fourth street side of the city market when he heard children singing on Main street and went toward the gathering. He saw Dalbow come from the station and shake hands with Sharp. Then someone behind Sharp fired. He saw Mullane trying to get away from the women, who seemed to be pursuing him. then he saw Sharp and Clark in their encounter. He helped Clark into the station and when he looked again Sharp was gone.

Preceding Mr. McAfee, there testified Job H. Lyon, a traveling evangelist. Just before the riot he had a talk in the Workingman's Mission with Pratt. Sharp and Creighton, the last named in charge of the place. Being warned against antagonizing the police, Lyon said Sharp waved his hand and said: "I am God. If any policeman attempts to interfere with me, I'll kill him."

The witness said Sharp made similar statements while brandishing his revolver in the direction of the city hall. Pratt and Sharp, said Lyon, pointed revolvers at Dalbow when he approached. Sharp, said the witness, fired the first shot.

After Sharp had been brought to jail here, Lyon, who often holds Sunday meetings for the prisoners, accused the fanatic of falsehood in regard to the story he told the Mulberry street barber. He asked Sharp to attend the jail services and Sharp said he himself was god, and, of course, would not come. Then Lyon told him that God did not prevaricate and Sharp refused to have anything more to do with the evangelist.