September 26, 1909


Defendant in Buckner, Mo., Assault
Case Says He Was More Affec-
tionate Toward Wife Than
Ordinary Husband.

After being out from 7:35 until midnight a jury in the criminal court last night returned a verdict finding William A. Johnson, charged with an assault on his wife in Buckner, Mo., August 20 of last year not guilty.

In all likelihood the case would have gone over until Monday, had not the jury made a request of Judge Ralph S. Latshaw to allow them to finish last night. the jurors have been kept locked up the greater part of a week and they were anxious to be at their homes Sunday.

The testimony yesterday, as presented by the defense, was largely that of Johnson himself. Johnson was on the stand the greater part of the afternoon. He said he was 57 years of age, had been born in Ohio and come to the Buckner neighborhood about the time he reached manhood. He said he was married 31 years ago and that he was unable to read and write, except that he could sign his name. This lack of education he attributed to the fact that he had to shift for himself from the time he was 15 and also because school conditions were rather unsettled at the time he was a child, it having been the time of the civil war.

Johnson first rented the farm he later came to own. He built the house in which he and his wife lived 20 years. His farm comprised about 800 acres and was encumbered for about $47,000. He testified that he lost money in two ranch deals, in one of them, $10,000. He said that whenever he had money in the bank, he allowed his wife to draw checks herself.


"What was your feeling toward your wife?" he was asked.

"It was good, as much as that of any man and better than that of any number of men I see around," replied the witness.

This was true both at the time Mrs. Johnson was hurt and now, said he. Recounting the events leading up to and immediately upon the injury of Mrs. Johnson, the witness said:

"When we came home from church that evening (about eight hours before the assault), my wife read the paper to me and then we went to bed. I went to bed first and fell asleep almost immediately after taking some medicine I need for asthma. My recollection is that the light was burning when I went to bed. The next thing I heard was my wife calling, 'O, Dode!' a nickname she used for me.

"I jumped up and saw her on the floor, sitting down. I asked her what she was doing there and at first she didn't answer. Then she said she was sick. I wanted her to get on the bed, but she said she was too sick and asked me to lay her down. I got some pillows from the bed and laid her head on them. I don't remember whether I lit the light or not. I asked her what hurt her and she did not answer. Then I ran downstairs to call the Hilts. When they came upstairs with me, we put my wife on the bed and I called a doctor. I saw no blood until I laid her back on the pillows.

"Did you, that night, get up and go downstairs and up again or anywhere else in the house until you called the Hilts?"

"I did not."

"Did you know until the doctors made an examination how badly your wife was hurt?"


"Have you knowledge of who hurt your wife?"

"I couldn't look it in the face if I killed an animal, much less my wife. I didn't do it and have no knowledge of who did."

Johnson's testimony was not materially changed by cross-examination.

Mrs. C. F. Harra, who lives near Buckner, testified that she had asked Johnson the day after the assault if he was going to make an investigation. The witness said he replied:

"There is no need to investigate. There are no clues."

Other witnesses put on by the defense were Whig Keshlear, a detective, and his assistant. Thomas F. Callahan, an attorney, who acknowledged a deed made by the Johnsons. Depositions were read from Catherine Elliott, a washwoman, and Martha Shipley, a nurse. Both said the Johnsons seemed fond of each other. Henry Johnson, a nephew, also was called. He slept in a room adjoining the Johnsons the night of the assault.

Late in the afternoon Mrs. Johnson was recalled to the stand by the state. She said that, while she was recovering, she often talked to Johnson, but never about the injury. There was long argument over whether this answer should be admitted, but it was finally allowed to go in.

"I called for Mr. Johnson frequently to talk to him to give him a chance to ask me how it all happened."

The jury was withdrawn for a time while this testimony was being debated by counsel. James A. Reed, for the fifth time during the trial, moved the discharge of the jury while Mrs. Johnson was on the stand, but Judge Latshaw overruled.