Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Means' Trial Set for Nov. 26 in Cabarrus County, 1917

“Means Will be Tried in Concord November 26,” from the Monroe Journal, Nov. 2, 1917

Concord, Nov. 2—Gaston B. Means was sent back to the Cabarrus County jail here tonight to await a special term of Superior Court November 26 when he will be tired for the murder of Mrs. Maude A. King, who was shot near here last August.

Means was remanded to jail after Judge Cline decided against removing the case but granted the State’s plea for more time to prepare for trial. At the court’s request, Governor Bickett at Raleigh late today authorized a special term of court for November 26 and designated Judge Cline to preside.
Argument for a change of venue sought by the State was completed by Solicitor Clement this morning and Judge Cline decided against removing the trial from Cabarrus County. He declared he was satisfied an impartial trial could be given the defendant there.


The time of holding the trial caused much discussion. The State contended it would take several days to assemble witnesses from distant states and the prosecution could not proceed before next Tuesday. The defense declared it was ready to go to trial. As the present session of court ends next week it was decided to bring the case to trial later. The term of court for Rowan County fixed for the week of November 26 has been annulled.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Both Sides Ready in Gaston Means' Murder Trial, Jury Selection Comes Next, 1917

“Gaston Means On Trial for Murder of Mrs. King,” from the Monroe Journal, Nov. 27, 1917

Both Sides Are Ready, and Special Venire of 150 Men Summoned…Interest in Case Still Intense

The trial of Gaston Means, charged with the murder of Mrs. Maude King, the wealthy New York and Chicago woman, started yesterday morning. A special venire of 150 men have been summoned, and the court is occupied with the drawing of the jury. The prosecution, as far as has been outlined, relies on the mass of circumstantial evidence to fasten upon Means the charge of murder, and, it is understood, will seek to show that a fortune of $2,000,000, which Mrs. King might have inherited through a second will of her husband, the last James King, of Chicago, provided the motive.

Means, a native of Concord, had been the woman’s business agent for some time before she met death while here on a visit to his relatives, and according to statements made by District Attorney Swann’s office in New York, evidence has been brought to light to show that a second will was to be offered for probate. Mrs. King had inherited more than a million through the first will.

Only Means Was There

No one except Means was present when Mrs. King was killed at Blackwelder Spring near here, according to the statement Means made to a local coroner’s jury. The coroner’s verdict was that Mrs. King accidentally shot herself with a small pistol with which he had intended to practice target shooting. To refute this, the prosecution, in the preliminary hearing which was ended by Means agreeing to be bound over to the grand jury, endeavored to show by expert witnesses that it would have been physically impossible for the woman to have held the weapon which inflicted a wound in the back of her head.

Counsel for the defense declined tonight to discuss their line of defense, but it was intimated from a source close to the defendant that its contention would be that Mrs. King accidentally was killed in handling the pistol which she had picked up while she and Means paused at Blackwelder Spring, near the target field, for the latter to get a drink.

Suicide Theory

One theory discussed again in Concord tonight as witnesses and officials gathered from New York and Chicago to aid the prosecution, was that the defense might contend that Mrs. King committed suicide. Little credence, apparently, was placed in this, but those who mentioned it held that Means at the inquest might have wished to shield the name of the dead woman from the stigma of suicide. 

Means’ counsel would not discuss the defense plans and the latter in jail, here, refused to see newspaper men. His wife and child spent the afternoon with him, and a member of his counsel said he was bearing up well.

Little chance was seen tonight of selecting a jury before Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest, and attorneys generally had that the 36 jurymen automatically called with the issuance of the order for a special term of Cabarrus County court to try the case would be exhausted before 12 acceptable men were found. In that case, the court probably would adjourn while a special venire of 150 men were summoned, their names being drawn from the jury list, according to North Carolina law, by a child unable to read.

State at Disadvantage

In choosing the jury the defense has the advantage in that it has 12 peremptory strikes, and the state only four. Another feature of the jury selection that has attracted attention here is that the defense has retained all the principal attorneys in Concord, and the State, as far as known, is without a local attorney to aid in choosing jurors. Knowledge of this led to reports that the state again would seek trial in another court.

Change of venue was denied once when Judge E.B. Cline, who will preside at the trial, ruled against the state’s contention that a fair trial could not be had from a jury of Cabarrus County men. Either side, however, can renew its plea up to the time trial actually starts.


Solicitor Clement, who held a long conference today at his home in Salisbury, Rowan County, with John T. Dooling, assistant district attorney of New York, stated that thus far the prosecution has no intention of making another attempt for a change. Mr. Dooling, accompanied by other New York officials, who worked on the case from that end, arrived early today. L.C. Cline, a Statesville attorney, formerly of Concord, and an acquaintance of the Means family, came here today, having been retained, he announced, to aid the prosecution, and is expected to give much time to jury selection.

Grand Jury Returns True Bill, Means to Stand Trial for Murder, 1917

“Gaston B. Means to Be Tried for His Life,” from the Monroe Journal, Nov. 2, 1917

Solicitor Clement Has Asked for a Change of Venue, Claiming That a Fair Trial Cannot be Secured in Cabarrus County

Concord, Nov. 1—The grand jury of Cabarrus County this morning returned a true bill charging Gaston Bullock Means with the murder of Mrs. Maude A. King, wealthy New York and Chicago woman, who was shot and killed at Blackwelder Spring near here on August 29. Immediately after the bill was returned, Means was arraigned in court and a special venire was summoned from which to select a jury to try him, but Solicitor Clement asked a change of venue and court adjourned until 2:30 at which time the defense will make its answer to the affidavit.

Means put in a plea of not guilty.

In asking that the trial of Means be removed to another point in this judicial district Solicitor Hayden Clement sets forth the prominence of the Means family during 100 years in this vicinity; that the defendant had employed practically all the lawyers in the city to defend him; that when he wanted to swear out a warrant charging Means with the murder of Mrs. King the officers were reluctant in issuing same, and that the feeling displayed against the New York witnesses and newspaper reporters, together with articles regarding them printed in a local newspaper and a newspaper at Kannapolis, made it difficult to properly try the case here.
The counsel for the defense asked to be given time to reply to the affidavit of Solicitor Clement and at 10:30 o’clock court adjourned until 2:30 this afternoon.

The indictment charging Means with the murder of Mrs. King came after the grand jury had examined witnesses for three days. Among those testifying before the jury were Dr. Burmeister, coroner’s physician of Cook County, Illinois, whose alleged discoveries at a postmortem examination of the body of Mrs. King at Chicago, where it had been carried for burial, was partly responsible for the reopening of the investigation into the case in this state. A coroner’s jury which investigates the circumstances surrounding the killing of Mrs. King returned a verdict the day after the tragedy at Concord that she had met death by an accidental bullet wound, self-inflicted.

Mrs. King was killed about 8 o’clock on the evening of August 29 at Blackwelder Spring, an isolated spot 10 miles from Concord, where she had gone with Gaston Means, Afton Means, a brother, and Carolyn Bingham, apparently for target practice. Mrs. King was a guest with her sister, Mrs. Mary C. Melvin, at the home of Gaston Means’ parents in this city. Means has maintained that he and Mrs. King left the automobile party and started for the spring, Means leading the way. According to his story, he was leaning over the spring getting a drink of water when he heard a shot, and whirling around he saw Mrs. King fall, some distance away.

Means is being defended by an array of leading lawyers of North Carolina and the state is being represented by Solicitor Hayden Clement and Attorney General James S. Manning.

When Judge Frank I. Osborne stood before Judge Cline this afternoon to oppose the removal of the Means case to Statesville or Salisbury, a bog preliminary battle began, for the defense, having shown its hand, now is ready to fight to a finish and the suspension and waiting of the last three days will be changed into spectacular happenings that promise to characterize the entire trial.

Solicitor Clement, in his affidavit this morning, included among his reasons for asking a removal, the prominence of the Means family, the universal discussion and forming of opinions by Cabarrus people, the employment of practically the entire Concord bar by Means, and last, certain editorials in the Concord Observer, which the solicitor declared were strong arguments in favor of the defendant.
Summing up, Mr. Clement said that he was satisfied a fair and impartial jury of men who had formed no opinion in the case could not be had in Cabarrus.

The arraignment of Means was the most dramatic spectacle in the proceedings of the morning. Hardly had Foreman C.S. Farrow of the grand jury announced the finding of a true bill, than Means was being conducted into the court room by Sheriff Caldwell from his cell hard by, where he has spent two months following his arrest on September 22. Mrs. Means, who had been on her daily visit to her husband’s cell, was with him when he received the discomforting news of the grand jury finding and she wept bitterly as she entered the little court room where only a few score citizens, urged on by curiosity, were keeping a silent vigil in hope of witnessing the grand jury return. Col. W.G. Means completed the family as represented at the court house this morning. Mrs. Mary Melvin was not present.

Means himself, despite his contagious optimism of past weeks, looked like a man suddenly shaken by some terrific emotion as he entered with his wife and the sheriff. When the clerk of court had uttered the words of arraignment, Means’ eyes were filled with tears and he showed far more emotion that he has ever displayed since the case had its beginning two months ago. His look was hard to interpret but there was disappointment and perhaps a suggestion of chagrin as if he felt the sting of some invisible lash and could offer no force to resist it with his own will or hands. When the clerk, a lifelong friend, had taken down Means’ plea of not guilty, and had uttered the solemn words, “And may God give you a true deliverance,” the dramatic elements of the tragedy of it all seemed to shoot home to Means’ consciousness and he fell for the moment under the sway of emotions that could not be controlled—perhaps the presence of the woman who had learned to love and trust him made the moment harder for him. And Colonel Means, the father and veteran lawyer of a thousand legal battles, became a chief actor in the scene which hundreds of times he has witnessed but only as an outsider and an uninterested witness. Judge Cline, it is probable, will grant the prayer for removal, but it is pointed out that the drawing of a jury from Rowan or Iredell would offer a ready compromise to the two pleadings, one for removal and the other against it, and many people here give this a likely place on the further program in this sensational case.

Since Assistant District Attorney Dooling and all of his aides are on the ground with the large contingent of Chicago men, the early hearing of the murder case will save these men form a great deal of inconvenience and, while their going and coming will not be material in setting the date of trial, there has been no hint that Judge Osborne or Mr. Cansler will ask for a continuance of the case, though a removal to Statesville or Salisbury would cause the case to await the next term of court in either town unless a special term is called and that would not head off a delay of 10 days or longer.

Therefore, it is believed that the trial will have an early opening. Not less than two days is the limit fixed by lawyers for selecting a jury to try Means.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Gaston Means' Case Now With Cabarrus Grand Jury, 1917

“Gaston Means’ Case Now With Cabarrus Grand Jury,” from the Oct. 30, 1917, issue of the Monroe Journal.

 Solicitor Clement Asks for “Bill of Indictment Charging Murder…Many Witnesses Arrive From the North

Concord, Oct. 29—Hayden Clement, solicitor for the 15th judicial district, of which Cabarrus County is a party, today asked the Cabarrus grand jury to return a true bill against Gaston Bullock Means, charging him with the murder of Mrs. Maude A. King, whose death occurred at Blackwelder Springs a few miles from this city, exactly two months ago today.

Means, since a preliminary hearing on September 25, has been confined in the county jail here to await the action of the grand jury at this term of court. This body was chosen today with O.S. Farrar, a local business man, as foreman, and after disposing of several less important cases went into the Means case this afternoon, examining three of the state’s witnesses.

The presence here of witnesses from New York and Chicago added much interest to the case. From the office of District Attorney Swann, of New York, there are here Assistant District Attorney john T. Dooling, Dr. Otto Schultze, pathologist, and Detective William Jones, as well as Pistol Expert William J. Jones of New York.

Witnesses from Chicago include Dr. William H. Burmeister, physician to the coroner of Cook County, Ill., and Detective Sergeant George B. Schrivener. It was the former who performed the autopsy on the body of Mrs. King after it had been exhumed in Chicago.

Means Trial May be Moved to Union County, 1917

“Gaston Means May Be Tried in Union County,” from the Monroe Journal, Oct. 5, 1917

Tom Bost, in the Greensboro News, Voices the Suspicion that Mr. Armfield Was Brought Into Case for This reason

There is a faint possibility that Gaston Means, charged with the murder of Mrs. Maude King, will be tired in Union County. Mr. Frank Armfield, suspicions Tom Bost, the well-known Raleigh correspondent of the Greensboro News, was brought into the case in order that he might pick the “right kind” of jury in case Means should be tried in this county.

Mr. Bost’s story, sent from Salisbury Wednesday, and contained in yesterday’s Greensboro News, follows:

“Assuming that the grand jury will find a bill against Gaston Means and that there will be a big trial “somewhere in North Carolina” about the close of October, the populace of Rowan, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties finds excuse for its sustained interest in the case through proposed change of venue.

‘Here there is a suspicion that Frank Armfield was bought into the case from Union to make sure of a good jury should the state decide to move the case from Cabarrus County to the place where Andy Jackson, former well-known Salisburian, Governor Bickett and Secretary Frank Dave Houston of President Wilson’s cabinet had the destiny first to open their eyes, and mouths. The assumption of such business is this is positively amazing.

“Then the Cabarrus bar in toto is attached to the Means defense sothere is no danger of a jury of local dunderheads. In Mecklenburg both Cansler and Judge Frank Osborne are known to the vast empire outside Charlotte and they have that division protected against a hostile venire or even a Twelve. It is assumed that Union or Mecklenburg will get the trial for these very potent popular reasons.


“And that’s about all that there is immediately ahead. All hope of the ‘squeal’ promised last week is gone now. All early prospect of the new arrests now has passed. The two men and the star woman who were to have taken last week or early this will not be arrested. The people have only the trial to look forward to and that is four weeks off.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

J.T. Holloway Convinced Wealthy Widow Didn't Kill Herself, 1917

“Mr. Holloway Convinced There Was Foul Play,” from the Monroe Journal, Sept. 25, 1917

Visit to Spot of King Murder Leads Monroe Man to the Belief That Wealthy Lady Did Not Die Accidentally

Since visiting the spot where Mrs. King, the wealthy Chicago and New York woman, was standing when she fell wounded to death from a pistol shot, Mr. J.T. Holloway is convinced that she did not die from wounds inflicted by her own hands. He makes no accusations; merely stating that he does not believe it possible that she could have killed herself accidentally in the manner described by Gaston Means, her confidential secretary.

The spot near Concord, which Mr. Holloway visited Saturday, is secluded. In fact, according to him, it would hardly be possible to find another spot more so in Cabarrus County. The forked tree which Means claims he laid the pistol, was given a close scrutiny by Mr. Holloway, and he is of the opinion that it would be impossible for a pistol to lay on the spot indicated by Means. He endeavored to place a pocket knife on the spot, but it slid to the ground.

Gaston Means Consents To Being Held Until October Grand Jury, 1917

“Means Is Held Without Bail to the Next Court,” from the Monroe Journal, Sept. 28, 1917

In the Midst of His Preliminary Hearing He Waives Examination…Unsuccessful Attempt Made to Seize Documents

Concord, Sept. 25—Gaston B. Means waived examination in the midst of his preliminary hearing before a magistrate here late today and consented to be bound over to the October term of the Cabarrus County grand jury on a charge of having murdered Mrs. Maude A. King of New York and Chicago. Magistrate Pitts ordered him held without bail.

Counsel for Means stated at the hearing they had “been informed that threats had been made” that New York officials here had brought extradition warrants to take the defendant back to New York on “some undisclosed criminal charge” and that they felt she would be safer in custody of the sheriff of this county.” It also was announced that Means did not desire to run the chance of facing any charges elsewhere with an unsettled murder charge against him in North Carolina. This charge, his counsel contended, would be cleared away at the trial.

The agreement came after counsel for Means had made an unsuccessful attempt to get possession of papers and documents seized by District Attorney Swann’s representatives in Means’ New York apartment, and was accompanied by a lengthy explanation by the defendant of his reasons for abruptly ending his fight in the magistrate’s court. Mrs. Mary C. Melvin, sister of the woman Means alleged to have killed, joined him obtaining a writ from Superior Court Judge Webb at Gastonia, ordering Assistant District Attorney Dooling, New York, and other New York and Chicago officials who came here with Dooling to aid the prosecution, to turn over the documents to the clerk of the superior court of Cabarrus County. The writ is made returnable before Superior Court Judge Cline at Salisbury October 8.

IN CLEMENT’S POSSESSION

Dooling and other officials named in the order informed Sheriff Caldwell that the documents referred to were in the possession of Solicitor Clement, who conducted the prosecution of Means. The latter issued a statement, saying:

“We will keep the documents unless ordered by the court after the hearing to give them up.”

Among the documents mentioned in the order was the alleged second will of the late J.C. King of Chicago, which if finally held legal, would give to the estate of Mrs. Maude A. King approximately two million dollars more than the wife got when her husband died. Mrs. Melvin, whose name was attached to the order as Mrs. Mary C. Melvin, believes, according to the order, that C.B. Ambrose, a federal department of justice agent, who came here for the hearing and was one of those named in the order, “is agent of the Northern Trust Company of Chicago, and is vitally interested in preventing the will being probated.” The trust company holds the two millions in trust for a charitable organization.
“I don’t worry about what they believe I am,” said Ambrose when asked about the allegation. “I have papers showing what I am.”

NEEDS PAPERS IN DEFENSE

Means alleged in the order for the papers and documents that they were necessary for defense of his cause and cited that none of them had been introduced by the prosecution in the preliminary hearing. His counsel in court said they had been unable to get permission to copy the papers, while Solicitor Clement replied that he had been unable to get from the defense certain documents and evidence wanted.

“The defendant comes into court and waives examination and the finding of probably cause for the reason stated in the paper hereunto attached. It is therefore ordered that the defendant be committed to jail without bond to await action by the October term of the grand jury. The grand jury meets October 29 next,” Magistrate Pitts said.

Solicitor Clement had argued for a commitment binding Means over and stating that evidence justified such action, while Means’ attorneys contended that the order should contain Means’ reason for agreeing to be bound over, including statements as to his ineffectual efforts to obtain the documents and references to extradition papers and “undisclosed criminal charges” which he did not want to face before final action on the murder charge here.

MANNING TAKES A HAND

Attorney General Manning of North Carolina, who was present during the hearing, spoke one time for Solicitor Clement and when one of Means’ counsel mentioned “contempt proceedings” as one possibility which might result from the proceedings by which Means sought to get the documents, Mr. Manning announced that he was interested in the case and declared “the attorney general won’t be bulldozed.”

Solicitor Clement came into the court room shortly afterward and both he and the attorney general continued in arguments with the defense on the wording of the writ. Finally the two sides agreed to the final writ with the attached explanations. Magistrate Pitts signed the writ itself, but declined to sign the attached explanation.

The latter contained also a statement that Means in no manner agreed that there was any evidence by which he could have been held to the grand jury if he had seen fit to continue to fight the case and also described him as “fully believing” that he would be “completely acquitted and vindicated” of the charge of murder when the case went to a jury.