Stayed For A Long Time Due TO Technicalities In Law Which Prevented Trial
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
It is seen from the early court records that the county courts were operated by the justices of the peace, one of whom was selected to preside. This method continued in effect until 1770 when a regular judge was selected under the law to preside at each court session. Previous to this time the justices of the peace were not lawyers as a rule but notwithstanding this fact they tried some important cases which involved some technical points of law.
Gradually the courts became more efficient and better adapted to conduct trials under both the letter and the spirit of the law.
However, in 1879, a few cases are noted in the circuit court of this county in which the procedure is considerably different from that of today. At that time criminal and civil cases were tried at the same session and this resulted in more or less jumping backward and forward from criminal to civil cases.
On Oct. 2, 1879 Peter Hawley was brought into court on a charge of killing Zachariah Hayes. He was convicted on October 8 of this offense but the court books between October 2 and 8 dealt far more with civil cases than they did with this case. It seems from the records that Hawley’s case was brought up nearly every day but that the court did not permit this case to interfere with the settlement of civil cases.
Hawley was indicted for murder together with M. D. L. Hawley, Calvin Hawley and George Potter. Peter Hawley was convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to serve thirteen years in the penitentiary.
At this time defendants through their lawyers had already been accustomed to delaying trials as long as possible. It was claimed by M. D. L. Hawley on two or three different occasions that he was not ready for trial because of the fact that an important witness was not to be found. He put up other excuses and it was not until October of 1880 that he came to trial. He was then tried, convicted and sentenced to be hung.
When court convened here on October 7,1882, the deliberations of that body were stayed for some time until resolution of respect could be passed concerning the death of James Foote Johnston, an attorney of Bedford. Members of the bar met in the courtroom and a committee was appointed to draw up resolutions. After reporting, the resolutions were duly adopted and they occupy almost an entire page in the court record.
-Prepared by Lisa King