Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dr. Peacock Found Not Guilty of Killing Police Chief Taylor, 1921

Did the previous post leave you wondering about the details of this story? Here are some previous articles from North Carolina newspapers on the shooting of the police chief by the doctor. "Brutal Murder of Brave Officer…Dr. Peacock Is Still in Jail to Await Hearing on His Sanity,” from the High Point Review, June 16, 1921

The Hearing Will Take Place Before Judge Finley at Lexington on June 28

Lexington, June 15—Dr. J.W. Peacock, who was found “not guilty” of murder Saturday night by a jury of Rowan county citizens on the grounds that he was insane at the time he killed Chief of Police J.E. Taylor of Thomasville, remains in his cell at the county jail to await the hearing on his mental condition at the present time, which will be held here before Judge T.B. Finley on June 28.
The judge will then make a final ruling as to whether the physician shall be committed to the criminal insane department of the state penitentiary

Few big cases here have come to a less dramatic close. There was no demonstration of any kind on the part of anyone when the jury announced its verdict, except that when Dr. Peacock resumed his seat after standing up to hear his fate his wife placed her arms around his neck and he held her in his embrace for perhaps a minute. In the meantime, Judge Finley turned to the jury and merely said: “Gentlemen of the jury, you are excused.”

When the jury came in and stated that they have arrived at their verdict, they arose and in response to the predestined question: “What say you?” they answered in unison, “Not guilty.” After the argument as to the time of hearing about half an hour, court was adjourned and members of the jury came over and shook hands with Dr. Peacock.

When Dr. Peacock entered the court room at 9 o’clock Saturday night to hear the reading of the evidence of Dr. Isaac Taylor of Morganton, which enabled the journey to soon agree, he supported Mrs. Peacock who leaned heavily on his arm and appeared almost completely exhausted after a most trying week. Other members of his family appeared, most too tired to display emotion.

It was upon the testimony of the three alienists that Dr. Peacock is now a paranoiac, coupled with that of a number of other physicians who have known him for hears that they believed him insane at the time of the act, that the jury returned a verdict holding him not guilty of murder. The judge had charged the jury that they found the defendant to have been insane at the time of the killing they should return the verdict as not guilty.

Many here are included to draw a sort of parallel between the trial here and that of Harry K. Thaw, who was found not guilty on the plea that he was a paranoiac. Of course, most of the elements entering into this case are different from the famous New York case.

It is general conceded here by those to whom the verdict is not pleasing that the jury did their duty as they saw it and that if they accepted the large mass of testimony as to Dr. Peacock’s insanity no other verdict could have been returned.

Some discussion hinges around the reports that Henry Shaver, who was accidentally shot through the stomach by a bullet passing through Taylor, and Mrs. J.E. Taylor, widow of the slain chief, had taken steps to bring suits against Dr. Peacock for large sums of damages. In view of the fact that the jury apparently held him to be insane at the time and incapable of committing a crime, an interesting case has been brought up as to whether he could commit a tort upon which damages might be recovered. The result of the insanity inquisition before Judge T.B. Finley on June 28 may throw more light up on this question.

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