Last week I left you with a summary of William Grayson’s predicament. On April 4th, 1849, Grayson had visited the store of Settle and Miller in the Jefferson District of Culpeper County to pay his account and retrieve his tools. He was about twenty cents short and was sent away. After borrowing the funds needed he returned to the store, was given a receipt and his tools. The transcript of the trial is a bit fuzzy on whether he got both of his tools. This is not a novel although it could be. For now we do not have the ink to provide every detail.
The transcript goes on to report that a group of fellows met at the store where the deceased slept and played marbles until dark. Witnesses indicate that Grayson was seen later to be drinking and who was heard to claim that he had “lost” the tools. More to the record, he had put them down and could not remember where.
On the morning of April 5th John Settle returned to the store as was his practice; the door was open, and David Miller was found dead under the platform in front of the store. According to the testimony, six or seven pairs of ladies’ shoes were missing, about twenty dollars of silver coin was gone, though a few were found strewn about on the floor, and Grayson’s tools were not there.
The police were notified, and an investigation immediately started. A crowd of neighbors gathered and among them was William Grayson.
Grayson was interrogated, arrested and charged with murder. Friends of the deceased hired an attorney (unnamed) to assist the Commonwealth Attorney with prosecution and Grayson was represented by the firm of Cabell and Bouldin of Richmond, Virginia.
According to the court records, the witness list and the effort to supply a substantial chain of evidence was detailed. A jury trial was held in June 1849 and Grayson was convicted and sentenced to “hang by the neck until dead.”
The defense entered a motion to set aside the verdict and order a new trial. The motion was overruled by Judge Richard Field. An appeal on behalf of Grayson was sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia and heard at the December term 1849. The case is well detailed in the book Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, Volume 47.
The higher court reported the following: “The evidence is plainly insufficient to warrant the verdict. The verdict, moreover is in some material respects, against the proofs, or inconsistent with them.” The majority opinion read, “Judgement reversed, verdict set aside, and cause remanded for a new trial.” Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, Volume 47 (can be found online).
A second trial was held in June of 1850. A new jury was seated and again convicted Grayson of the murder and sentenced him to death. Again, a motion was made to set aside and hold a new trial; again, it was overruled and again, an appeal was heard in the June term of the Supreme Court of Appeals. The only new evidence the higher court noted was in favor of the defendant. The again held for reversing the decision and ordered a new trial. All the while Grayson is incarcerated in the Culpeper jail.
Stay tuned for exactly why the higher court thought there was insufficient evidence to convict Grayson.
Until next week, be well.