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Parker's Second Sentencing of the Rufus Buck Gang -- 1896
The five members of the Rufus Buck Gang were convicted of rape and sentenced to die in 1895. Following their unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court, Judge Parker had the opportunity to resentence them to death. The execution of the Rufus Buck Gang on July 1, 1896 was the second to last execution to occur at Fort Smith.
Rufus Buck, Lewis Davis, Lucky Davis, Sam Sampson and Maoma July -
You have been convicted by a verdict of the jury who tried you of the terrible crime of rape. Judgment was pronounced on that verdict, and this judgment has been affirmed by the supreme court of the United States. The execution of the judgment of this court upon you was suspended pending the case in the supreme court. In now becomes the duty of the court to against pronounce the sentence of the law upon you for the high crime of which you have been convicted.
The court has considered that it was scarcely necessary to say anything at this time except to pronounce the judgment of the law, but upon reflection, and to emphasize the character of this crime, I have concluded to repeat in substance, what I have already said to you before. I do this for the reason that I believe it is in the interest of public justice and the public peace that the people should know the character of these crimes for the commission of which men are condemned in this court.
I want to say in this case that the jury, under the law and the evidence, could come to no other conclusion than that which they arrived at. Their verdict is an entirely just one and one that must be approved by all lovers of virtue. The offense of which you have been convicted is one which shocks all men who are not brutal. It is known to the law as a crime offensive to decency, and a brutal attack upon the honor and chastity of the weaker sex. It is a violation of the quick sense of honor and the pride of virtue which nature, to render the sex amiable, has implanted in the female heart; and it has been by the law makers of the United States deemed equal in enormity and wickedness to murder, because the punishment fixed by the same is that which follows the commission of the crime of murder.
Your crime has been proven beyond question, and the evidence showing the manner of its commission exhibits it as of the most repulsive and abhorrent character. The proof shows that each of you first took part in the robbery of the house of Henry Hassen, and afterwards that each of you, in the most revolting and brutal manner, in turn outraged his wife, Mrs. Rosetta Hassen. Some of you held the family at bay. Some of you overcame all resistance by armed violence while each of you in turn committed this terrible crime against decency and virtue, and you all exhibited the most horrid and brutal depravity. The acts so aroused the indignation of your own people, the Creek Indians, that they were almost persuaded to take you from the officers and execute upon you summary vengeance. It was only through respect for the law, and the belief that it would be enforced in this court, that induced them to permit the officers to bring you here.
The enormity and great wickedness of your crime leaves no ground for the extension of sympathy for you. You can expect no more sympathy than lovers of virtue and haters of vice can extend to men guilty of one of the most brutal, wicked, repulsive and dastardly crimes known in the annals of crime.
Your duty now is to make an honest effort to receive from a just God that mercy and forgiveness you so much need. We are taught that His mercy will wipe out even this horrible crime; but He is just, and His justice decrees punishment unless you are able to make atonement for the revolting crime against His law and against human law that you have committed. This horrible crime now rests upon your souls. Remove it if you can, so the good God of all will extend to you His forgiveness and His mercy.
[This was followed by the formal sentence, setting Wednesday, July 1, 1896, as the day for execution.]
As reported in the Fort Smith Elevator, May 1, 1896.
Did You Know?
The only known image of Judge Parker in his courtroom is this one from the federal courthouse on Sixth Street which dates from the 1890s. There are no photographs of the courtroom located in the former military barracks.