The Caddo Herald
February 11, 1949
Smithy Acquitted by Jury on Murder Charges
Johnny Thomas Smithy, 52-year-old, trash collector, was found not guilty of murder by district court jury here Monday night.
The jury deliberated for more than two and one-half hours before bringing in a verdict of not guilty at 9:05 p. m.
Smithey, who had been charged with the murder of his wife, Lizzie, 50, on or about October 15, 1948, showed no great sign of emotion after the verdict was pronounced.
His 69-year-old mother, who had not been allowed to give testimony on his behalf earlier in the trial, and other members of his family, crowded around him after the jury had freed him. They waited for him in the courthouse while he went to get his belongings in his county jail cell where he had been since his arrest immediately following his wife’s death.
There had been quite a different scene in the courtroom only a few minutes before the final verdict, however. At 9:00 p. m. the jury, of which W. M. Baker was foreman, had brought in a mistaken verdict, signed on the wrong instruction sheet, which called for a verdict of guilty and life imprisonment.
No sooner had the court clerk read the pronouncement aloud than it was denied by the jury foreman. District Judge Sam Sullivan sent the jury out again to correct the verdict.
Johnny smithy showed no signs of emotion when this mistaken verdict was read, but simply blew a puff of smoke from his cigarette.
Bill Steger, Durant, was attorney for the defense.
George McPherson, Durant police officer, was the last witness to testify for the prosecution. Officer McPherson told the court that when he had talked to Smithey at 4 a. m. the morning after he had been arrested, the accused still contended that his wife had fallen off the bed.
But when he came face to face with his 14-year-old daughter, Violet, at around 7 a. m. McPherson said Smithey changed his story.
“He told us he was ready to get it off his chest.” McPherson testified, “He told us ‘I was the one that hit my wife- I conked her twice.’”
McPherson told the court that Smithey identified the club with which he said he hit his wife. Under cross-examination the officer testified that no threats were made against Smithey to obtain the statement and that Smithey was drunk at the time of his arrest, but not at the time of questioning.
The state rested its case at 1:55.
Mrs. Ruby Hines was the first witness for the defense. Under questioning by Defense Attorney Bill Steger, she told the court that she had asked Lizzie Smithey, “Lizzie what’s the matter with you?” Mrs. Hines said Lizzie answered, “I fell out of bed.”
Mrs. Hines testified that this conversation took place at around 9 o’clock the morning before the woman died.
Dessie Lee Green, 22, daughter of the accused man, testified that her mother told her at around 1 o’clock the day before she died “I fell off the bed and hit my head on the floor.”
Pearl Collier, Smith’s sister, testified “Lizzie said she was feeling bed and went to get in bed and fell and hit her head against the bed railing.
Mrs. Carrie Smithey, 69, mother of the accused man, was not allowed to testify when the court sustained the objections of the prosecution that she had only heard what the others had said, and did not hear Lizzie Smithey make a statement directly.
Mrs. Ray Hanson, sister of Lizzie smithy testified “I didn’t see any marks on her face or head when I saw her at home after she died.”
“In all the years that I lived with Johnny and Lizzie I never saw him hit her. He would just walk off when they argued.”
Mrs. Fannie Ledford, a neighbor, testified whet asked what Lizzie told her whine Mrs. Ledford went tin to tsee jthe dya she became ill, “She said, ‘They said I feel off the bed.’”
“She said Dr. Price said that I had four or five days to live and I told Johnny to be sure and pay that insurance.”
Dr. Charles Price testified that there had been no fracture on the dead woman’s skull and that there had been no blow on her head sufficient to cause concussion.
“I don’t think that lick could have done it,” he said, when asked about the blow on her head which Dr. E. Bryant Woods had testified earlier had caused the death.
The defense rested its case at 4:45. The case was turned over to the jury at 5:27.
Smithey’s 14-year-old daughter, Violet, who had given a statement to the county attorney’s office at the time of the investigation, and was originally scheduled as a witness for the state, was not in court. County Attorney Lewis T. Marin said earlier in the day that Violet was in Texas and “could not be reached.”