Sunday, September 17, 2017

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.


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.”


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.


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.

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