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Parker's Sentencing of George Wilson, alias James Casharego -- 1895
George Wilson, alias James Casharego was tried in 1895, and appealed to the Supreme Court upon being sentenced to die. James Casharego was the last man to die on the gallows at Fort Smith, being hanged on July 30, 1896.
Saturday morning Judge Parker passed sentence of death upon George Wilson, who was convicted of the murder of Zacharia W. Thatch. In reply to the question whether he had anything to say Wilson made quite a talk, saying that he had not been given a fair trial, and that if his witnesses had been allowed he could have established his innocence.
In pronouncing sentence Judge Parker said:
Your case is one like many others tried in this court where murder is the charge - a case where one man hired by another and traveling with him murdered him for his property, I have no doubt you contemplated this terrible and bloody murder long before you committed it, perhaps from the time you first got in company with Zacharia W. Thatch. You murdered your victim for comparatively the smallest plunder. What a blunder you made. What a grievous wrong you committed. Passion for gain sought gratification. This clouded your reason, weakened your judgment, and destroyed your feeble moral nature so you rushed madly and wildly to the commission of one of the most terrible, bloody and wicked crimes known to the record of this court.
The evidence shows you started with Mr. Thatch from a point a few miles from Springdale, in the county of Washington, this state. You traveled with him to the place of the murder in the Creek country, and there, in the darkness of night, no doubt while he was asleep, you in a brutal, wicked and wanton way took his life. You endeavored to conceal the crime by placing the body beneath the waters of Rock Creek, and placed logs on it, but Nature revolted at such wickedness and threw up the body so it was found. You tried to conceal the blood at the place of the killing by building a fire over it, but the earth was parched and cracked open. The blood ran into the cracked earth, and thus escaped the fire, and came here as a terrible witness against you.
You committed this murder for five head of horses, a colt, a wagon and some other property of but little value. Your guilt is established by such a quantity of reliable circumstances as to make it as certain as that the stars looked down on this wicked crime the night you sent the soul of Zacharia W. Thatch without preparation to his God. The wickedness of the act shows that you are a moral pervert. Your moral nature was such that all restraint of reason was gone. You robbed an unoffending man of his life, and you must answer to the laws of your country for it with your life. You must answer to the laws of God. The law affixes to this wicked crime of murder the penalty of death. From the evidence no one can doubt the certainty of your guilt and the wickedness of your crime. The jury in convicting you have done exactly right. To perform their duty they could do nothing else.
Before passing upon you the sentence of the law I desire to admonish you that you now stand in such an attitude that you should at once make your peace with your Creator. You should seek his mercy and his forgiveness for having wickedly and wantonly destroyed the life of your fellow-man. This is now your highest duty to yourself as well as to your God. If I were in your situation I would not for one moment neglect this great duty. Be honest with your God. He knows it all. You can conceal nothing from Him. He saw the horrible crime committed. He saw the guilty perpetrator of it at the time he committed it. You should approach Him with the fact before you that you must make an atonement to the broken law of the land with your life; that you must make an atonement to your God before you can cleanse your guilty soul of the foul crime which now rests upon it. Lose no time to at once seek the only power from which you can expect mercy and forgiveness after death. Seek that power with sorrow and contrition and with a spirit of true repentance.
[This was followed by the formal sentence, setting Thursday, the 30th day of January, 1896, as the day for execution. The execution was scheduled to take place between 9 o'clock in the morning and 5 o'clock in the afternoon.]
As reported in the Fort Smith Elevator, December 27, 1895.
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.