Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Cowardly Assault

Some things reported in the news strike me as funny and it is interesting what is considered news locally and how that news can travel to far reaching places. The following piece is a condensed news report I found in the New York Times by way of the Baltimore Sun. It is dated June 1st 1883.

Apparently, a trial was underway at Port Tobacco concerning an assault by a man named Carpenter. “The remarkable scenes witnessed during the Carpenter assault trial were crowned yesterday afternoon by a startling occurrence, the like of which has never been witnessed within the ancient walls of Charles County Court-house. Judge Daniel R. Magruder had just closed the argument for the State…when he was assaulted by L. Allison Wilmer, of counsel for the defense.” “Mr. Wilmer left a seat which he occupied at a table near the prisoner’s dock, passed in front of the prisoner, walked up behind Judge Magruder, and struck him a powerful blow on the back of the neck and head with his fist, saying at the same time, “Called me a liar did you?” Other blows followed in rapid succession.”

Presiding Judge Brooke cried, “I command the peace!” Lots of folks gathered around and restrained Wilmer and the fallen judge. Sheriff Sotherland removed Wilmer from the courthouse, but he was not arrested.

This was all the result of a misunderstanding about questioning during the trial. This case brings some interesting thoughts to mind. Why wasn’t Wilmer arrested and held accountable for his assault? There is one simple answer: There was (and still is) a Southern code of honor. Wilmer, despite the misunderstanding, felt his honor and reputation had been violated. It also seems that all in attendance recognized this code of honor. It boils down to a gentleman’s disagreement that was settled between the two.

Are lawyers volatile by nature? There is some fact that may support this theory. My brother John is 3 years older than me and he is now an attorney. When we were kids, he was always smacking me around…a natural born lawyer? I assure you, he doesn’t do that anymore!

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