May 22, 1909
That the defense of James Sharp, the religious fanatic, charged with the killing of Patrolman Michael Mullane, is to be self-defense was made evident on the first day of the trial, which opened yesterday in the criminal court.
It had been announced and it was the theory of the state that insanity would be pleaded. but during all the evidence heard yesterday there was no mention of Sharp's mental condition save alone in the statement of Virgil Conkling, prosecuting attorney, in which he outlined what the state expects to prove.
Perhaps it was because through Mr. Conkling's statement, reciting incident after incident of Sharp's life, from his religious doings in Oklahoma and Canada, through the city hall riot here December 8 and the subsequent flight of Sharp, ran the suggestion that Sharp was not insane, but, on the contrary, sane and exceptionally acute of mind. Out of every action on the part of Sharp the prosecutor deduced a refutation of the insanity idea.
At the rate of progress made yesterday, it is likely that the trial will consume a greater part of next week. It is the practice of Judge Ralph S. Latshaw to open court early, to take one hour at noon for recess and to adjourn at 5 o'clock. Much time was spent yesterday over each witness.
It was while Mayor Thomas T. Crittenden, Jr., was on the stand yesterday afternoon that the defense showed its change of front. In arguing for permission to ask the mayor certain questions, A. E. Martin of counsel for the defense said to the court:
"We propose to show that the police and the probation officer incited a riot at the city hall and followed the same persons who participated in the riot and killed one of them in a boat on the river."
The court refused to admit testimony as to what happened on the river front, as happening there were fifteen minutes later than the fight which resulted in the death of Mullane.
Touching elbows with John P. Mullane, brother of the man with whose death he stands charged, Sharp heard George M. Holt, probation officer, give his testimony. The defense took advantage of its right to reserve its statement until the state shall have finished with its witnesses.
Holt gave his age as 46, his address as 3027 East Nineteenth street and his occupation as probation officer. At noon of the riot, he said, he saw Mrs. Sharp and the children of Louis Pratt singing on the street at that point. He watched them about five minutes, when they started north on Main. Mrs. Sharp, during the meeting, was inviting the public to a gathering at the Workingmen's mission that night. There was a hat on the sidewalk and coin in it. Mrs. Sharp took the hat.
"I followed the band and inquired about whose children they were," said Mr. Holt. "She went into the Workingmen's Mission and I followed about a minute later. Sharp was there talking to his wife when I came in.
"I asked him if this was his wife and children and he said yes. He told me he was Adam God, the father of Jesus Christ."
Hot told Sharp that he would have to keep the children off the streets if he meant to keep them in Kansas City.
" 'What authority have you?' Sharp asked me.
" 'I am an officer,' said I.
" 'Well, you blue coated -----,' said Sharp, 'I'll kill you or any other ----- blue coat that comes in here and interferes with my work in this city.'
"Immediately afterwards, Sharp pulled out a pistol from under his vest. Louis Pratt, who also was there, pulled out a revolver and so did Mrs. Sharp. Her husband put his pistol under my face and forced me out of the mission and as I went out hit me on the head. He called to someone to come out. Then I went to the police station to report. Before I had finished reporting, the shooting had begun."
"What part of the shooting did you see?" asked Mr. Conkling.
"All I saw was someone in the chief's office shooting at Louis Pratt, who was on his knees on the street. Pratt fell."
"How long did the shooting last?"
"Less than five minutes. About twenty-five or thirty shots were fired."
The Rev. Sherman Short of Clarence, Mo., was at Fifth and Main streets when he heard the children sing and stepped up close enough to hear Mrs. Sharp say:
"The prophet will preach tonight at the Workingmen's mission."
Dr. Short testified yesterday that his curiosity was aroused.
"I went up to the mission and there was Sharp," said Dr. Short. "I asked him if he was the prophet and he said:
" 'My name is Sharp. I am supposed to be King David in the spirit. I am the Lord of the Vineyard myself and the people will soon find it out, for I expect to revolutionize things around here.' "
"Did he talk to you about force or violence?" asked Mr. Conkling.
"What happened then?"
"While we were talking the Pratt children and came in and said to Sharp: 'The humane officer is after us.' Then Holt came in and asked Sharp if these were his children. Sharp said yes and Holt told him they would have to be kept off the streets, if Sharp proposed to remain in Kansas City. I saw Sharp hit Holt and put him out of the mission. I saw him have a knife and a revolver.
"Sharp then waved his revolver and called out: 'Come on, children!' Mrs. Sharp and Louis Pratt and the two oldest Pratt girls all took out revolvers. They went on the street and formed a circle, facing the west sidewalk on Main."
"What did you do?"
"I went to the police station. I saw police coming out of headquarters. Patrolman Dalbow shook hands with Sharp and they stood there a minute. Then some other man came up. He was in citizen's clothes and he pulled out a revolver. Then there was shooting."
"Who fired the first shot?"
"And then what did you see?"
"I didn't stay long after that. I ran across the street. As I turned around I saw a man lying on the car track, shot. I learned afterwards that it was A. J. Selsor. Later I saw Mrs. Sharp and one of the Pratt girls brought into the station.
"When they formed their circle in the street Sharp, his wife, Pratt and the two oldest Pratt girls had revolvers in their hands. Sharp also had a knife."
Mayor Thomas T. Crittenden, Jr., said that he was in a council chamber on the fourth floor of the city hall when the riot began. He saw Louis Pratt kneeling, steadying his aim with both arms, shooting at Mullane. There was a little girl near Pratt, holding toward him a revolver, loaded with fresh cartridges. The mayor saw Pratt fall over, as if shot. Then the mayor went downstairs to police headquarters and out on the street.
"My purpose of going towards the river was that I had heard talk of lynching and wanted such an action to be avoided," said the mayor in explanation. He was not allowed to tell what happened at the river front.
Mrs. Hannah Mullane, weeping quietly on the witness stand, told how her husband had left home on the morning of December 8, 1908, at 6 o'clock, in good health. Mullane died Decemberr 10, two days after the riot.
There was some delay when court opened in the afternoon, while attachments were served on physicians who were state's witnesses, but who failed to be on hand at the proper time.
Dr. William A. Shelton, 3305 Wabash avenue, was the second witness. He is a police surgeon. On the day of the riot he was called to treat Mullane at the city hall and later attended him at St. Joseph's hospital. Mullane, he said, had a bullet wound through his left hand and one through his chest just above the heart. The latter bullet struck Mullane in the back. Dr. Shelton probed for it, but could not locate it. He finally found the bullet on the operating table. The bullet was shown to the jury over objections of Sharp's attorneys.
Dr. Eugene King, surgeon at St. Joseph's hospital, examined Mullane at police headquarters and at the hospital. He testified as to the wounds and said he found the bullet in the patorlman's underclothing on the operating table. The course of the ball, he said, was from front to back. Dr. Shelton came from in a few minutes later, said Dr. King.
The dramatic incident of the morning session yesterday occurred while Mr. Conkling, in his opening statement, was arraigning Sharp as a religious grafter. While the prosecutor was in the middle of the sentence, Sharp jumped up and said:
"Your honor, these words this man speaks he will have to get witnesses to prove."
"Sit down, Mr. Sharp," said Judge Latshaw. "If you have any objections to make, do so through your counsel."
"I want this jury to hear the truth," persisted Sharp. "I didn't take up collections at my meetings."
Then sharp started to leave the court room but was brought back by a deputy marshal.
A short time afterwards, while Mr. Conkling was telling of the death of Patrolman Albert O. Dalbow, Mrs. Dalbow fainted and was carried from the courtroom. With her were a son, 8 years old, and a baby of fourteen months. She sat near the jury, close to a son and daughter of A. J. Selsor, who was killed in the riot.
Before Conkling began his address to the jury, there were brought into the courtroom gruesome reminders of the December tragedy. A rifle used by Mrs. Pratt in her fight on the river when she, with her daughters, Lena and Lulu, tried to escape. Lulu was killed by bullets fired from the bank. Then there were five revolvers, Sharp's large knife and ammunition. Also there was a shotgun and a rifle found in the houseboat of the band. the whiskers Sharp left in the Mulberry street barber shop, neatly garnered into an envelope, also were put on the table in plain view of the jury. In the afternoon the display of weapons was removed.
With a changed plea, it is not so certain now that Adam God will be put on the witness stand. It was the first intention to make him back up the plea of insanity, but with a changed method of attack, this plan may be altered. Sharp is firm in declaring that he will be a witness, and as he seems at times to be not under the control of his counsel, he may make his statement before the evidence closes.
The riot of December 8, it will be remembered, occurred on the northwest corner of the city hall. There were wounded and subsequently died the following: Albert O. Dalbow and Michael Mullane, patrolmen; A. J. Selson, a spectator; Louis Pratt, a member of the religious band. Patrick Clark, a sergeant of police, was slashed on the face by Sharp and lost his right eye.
The trial will be resumed this morning.
At yesterday's trial the bible, which is his constant companion, lay on the table before Sharp, who sat facing the east windows, and therefore with his profile to the audience. From time to time he glanced curiously about him, but if it was with an y emotion, the feeling was not depicted by expression. Most of the time he sat with hands folded, elbows close to his side. Occasionally he stroked his beard or with his fingers combed tangles from his long moustache.
Not an any trial since Judge Ralph S. Latshaw has taken his place has there been such a throng to see a trial. Not only all the chairs in the courtroom, but also the aisles, already narrowed by extra seats, held their capacity. Conspicuous among the number were a dozen or more well dressed women, who followed every step of the proceedings with interest. Among these was Miss Selsor, daughter of A. J. Selsor, killed in the riot. As the day wore on the crowd tended to increase rather than diminish.
The orderly quiet of it all was not lost on Adam God. Accustomed for years to rough treatment from crowds and officers of the peace, he seemed to feel the different attitude of the spectators in the court room where he is on trial for his life. Defiance of the law and its officers seemed to have passed from his mind, leaving him although perhaps not resigned to his fate, yet with the feeling that he was among those who meant to treat him fairly. At noon he told the deputy marshal who took him to his cell:
"That's a fine judge. He certainly will see that I get a fair trial."
Labels: Adam God sect, children, courtroom, criminal court, guns, hospitals, Humane Society, Judge Latshaw, Main street, Mayor Crittenden, ministers, murder, Nineteenth street, North end, physicians, police, Prosecutor Conkling