Monday, June 5, 2017

Was Dr. Peacock In His Right Mind When He Killed Police Chief Taylor? 1921

From the High Point Review, June 9, 1921

Fight for Life Now On at Lexington….Mental Condition of Dr. J.W. Peacock Described at Trial

Several Witnesses Testifying in Behalf of Thomasville Doctor Who Killed Chief Taylor Says He Was in Strange Mental State on Morning of Tragedy

Lexington, June 6. Witnesses testifying here this afternoon in behalf of Dr. J.W. Peacock of Thomasville, now on trial charged with the murder of Chief of Police J.E. Taylor of Thomasville, April 16, declared that the defendant on the morning prior to the tragedy was in a strange mental state; that he was apparently suffering from burns on the top of his head, neck and hands sustained while trying to get his two automobiles out of his barn which was destroyed by fire at the early hour of the morning of April 16. Witnesses for both sides asserted that Peacock, following the tragedy, said that he killed Chief Taylor because he set fire to his barn.

The state offered the testimony of 10 witnesses, beginning at 3 o’clock, and concluding at 4:40 o’clock. Those testifying were either at or near the scene of the homicide. The state put before the jury of Rowan citizens a clean-cut case showing that Chief Taylor met death at the hands of the defendant, Dr. J.W. Peacock. The defense as soon as the state rested called its witnesses and when court adjourned at 5:30 p.m. had examined a half dozen. It will continue upon the convening of court tomorrow morning at 9:30 o’clock. Exceptionally good progress was made today, the first day of the trial.

Varner First Witness

Andrew Varner, a world war veteran who was talking to Chief Taylor when the first shot was fired, was the first witness for the state. Varner said that he and Taylor were standing on Salem street on the opposite side of the street from Peacock’s office, when the first shot was fired. He told of hearing the report of a gun, and turning, saw blood flowing from the chif’s face. He didn’t know who fired the shot. Taylor, said Varner, threw his hand up to his chest, and slightly turning, hollered: “Oh!” he then went into Pearce’s grocery store on Salem street. Varner declared that he decamped and didn’t see the remaining parts of the tragedy.

Dr. Peacock’s Testimony

The murderer of Chief Taylor, of Thomasville, gives his testimony as follows:

“I first realized that I had been shooting and had killed Taylor after I went to the telephone and attempted to call my wife,” said Dr. Peacock. “The last thing I remember before the shooting was seeing John Lambeth and Mr. Huff.”

The defendant did not know what happened, he said, when he was in his office on the morning of the homicide.

Dr. Peacock testified that he contracted tuberculosis when he was 21 years of age, but that his condition had improved. Last fall he was stricken with influenza and since then his health had not been good, he said.

The defendant testified that he had no malice whatever toward Chief Taylor.

“The first question that came up,” said the defendant was in regard to increasing his salary. “I made a motion as a member of the council that the chief’s salary be increased. Taylor was suspended by the mayor and at the next meeting I seconded a motion that he be reinstated. That was some time in March.”

“What did you subsequently do with regard to the chief?” asked John J. Parker, of the defense.

“Later I made a motion at another meeting that the chief be asked for his resignation. That was after we had investigated Mr. Taylor’s record. There was nothing personal in it and I was absolutely sincere in making the motion,” replied the witness.

“The next morning,” said Dr. Peacock, “Chief Taylor met me and asked me why I had it in for him.”

Dr. Peacock said he had done what he had done as his duty as an official of the town.

The defendant stated that several persons had been to him and said the chief was evidently threatening him. Dr. Peacock also stated that on Thursday before the killing F.C. Bivens informed him that Chief Taylor had said “If I didn’t stop working against him I was going west and damn quick.”

Dr. Peacock testified that John Moore asked what the doctor had done to Taylor, requesting that if anything had been done to stop it as the chief threatened to break up the physician’s home.

The witness also swore on the stand that R.E. Zimmerman informed him of one of Taylor’s alleged threats.

“I feared him worse than I did a rattlesnake,” said the prisoner when questioned by his attorney.

“Knowing the man as I did I was afraid. I knew he was brave enough to do anything he said he would do.”

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