Parker's Sentencing of Crumpton and Alexander, 1890
An unusual sentence compared to the majority that Judge Parker delivered, the sentence of Crumpton and Alexander focused much more on Parker's concern for the condemned men's spiritual well-being. Look for a statement regarding the purpose of the death penalty as well.
After a short delay, Bood Crumpton was hanged on the gallows on June 30, 1891. William Alexander was spared the gallows through a Supreme Court reversal and two later mistrials.
THEIR DOOM PRONOUNCED.
Bood Crumpton and William Alexander, convicted of murder during the term of court just closed, were on Saturday brought over from the jail, and after overruling the motion of a new trial in both cases, the following sentences were pronounced:
SENTENCE OF BOOD CRUMPTON
The Court: "Bood Crumpton will stand up." (Prisoner stands up.) "The jury has found you guilty of the crime of murder. A motion for new trial has been filed by your counsel; he has been heard by the court, and it has been overruled. Under the law the time has arrived when that which follows as an effect of the verdict of the jury is to be pronounced upon you, that is, the sentence that the law shall follow the commission of a crime of this kind. Have you anything to say why that sentence shall not be passed?"
The Prisoner: "Yes, sir; I will say simply I am not guilty of the charge against me."
The Court: "The Court regards it as a special duty in cases of this kind in the interest of parties situated as you are, to briefly remind them of their situation, and their duty to themselves - not to the court, not to the country, or people, or to anybody else but themselves; and it does it for your own interest. You stand under the law as the court has remarked, as having been convicted and pronounced guilty of this crime. The probabilities are that the sentence the court is about to pronounce will follow. It behooves you to consider that condition; to make preparation to meet it - not to meet it as men too often do with a spirit of bravado, braggadocio, before men: that amounts to but little; that counts for nothing; but prepare to stand before your Maker, the Great Judge of us all, to answer for the offense that you may have committed against this law. Now, that is a duty and the highest duty that every man owes to himself in this life; it is a great responsibility that every man must discharge, and especially men situated as you are. It remains with you whether you will take this advice, given for your benefit, and in your behalf; or whether you will throw the opportunity away. Your duty to yourself is to make preparation for death, to make preparation to get that forgiveness for the offense you may have committed in life, that we are taught all men can receive by a proper effort by being sorrowful for what you may have done by approaching you Maker with that spirit of penitence and sorrow that we are required to approach Him before He will give out to you that mercy that He has for all if they ask for it in a proper way. I request you, in your own interest, to make efforts in that direction, to call to your assistance persons who can assist you, and give you proper advice, and teach you how to proceed generally.
Generally, men situated as you are have spent but little time in efforts in that direction. You have made but little preparation for even living a correct life here, much less preparing for that sort of life hereafter, or that sort of existence hereafter, that men will have if they seek for it, if they do that which they ought to do. Your duty is to search your own conscience, and by the aid of others, if you feel that you need that assistance, prepare to approach your Maker, and ask Him for forgiveness.
The court will now proceed to sentence you, and you will listen to the sentence of the law as pronounced by the court, which is that you, Bood Crumpton, alias Bood Burris, are pronounced by this court guilty of the crime of murder, because you did in the Indian country take the life of Sam M. Morgan, and that you took it willingly and with malice aforethought under the law, making you guilty of the crime of murder. For that reason, and because the jury have found you guilty of murder, you are adjudged by the court as guilty of that crime, and that you therefore for the said crime against the laws of the United States be hanged by the neck until you are dead; and that the Marshal of this court, the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Arkansas, by himself or deputy or deputies, do, at some convenient place within the Western District of Arkansas, cause execution to be done in the premises upon you on Wednesday, October 1st, 1890, between the hours of 9 o'clock in the forenoon and 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day, and that you be now taken to the jail from whence you came, to be there closely and securely kept until the day of execution; from thence on the day of execution as aforesaid you are to be taken to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God, whose laws you have broken and before whose tribunal you must appear, have mercy upon your soul.
SENTENCE OF WILLIAM ALEXANDER.
The Court: William Alexander, you will stand up. (The Prisoner stands up) The jury in your case has found you guilty of murder, and a motion has been filed asking the court to set aside that verdict, and the court has just acted upon it and overruled it. Under the law it now becomes the duty of the court to pronounce sentence. Have you anything to say why that sentence should not now be passed?
The Prisoner: Only what I have said before; that I am not guilty of the charge against me. I am not guilty of it, both before God and man.
The Court: The two cases that are before the court that have been tried here, present a great deal of similarity, both of them depending wholly upon circumstantial evidence, and they are cases, although the evidence sustaining them is purely circumstantial in its character, that to my mind present evidence as strong of guilt as though reliable witnesses had stood by and saw these killings. I have not any manner of doubt from this evidence of the guilt of both of you - not a particle of doubt of it, and I have arrived at that conclusion just the same as the jury arrived at it, from an overwhelming set of circumstances that were inculpatory and accusatory in both cases, and the absolute failure, in both cases to explain away this evidence upon a reasonable theory. Now, there may be accusatory facts, or facts that look accusatory on their face until they are explained away, but if they are not facts of that character why the party, as a rule, has it in his power to explain them away. When there is a failure in that regard, if these facts are strong enough in the minds of reasonable men, they must produce a reasonable conclusion, and I have arrived at that conclusion in these cases from an impartial, dispassionate review of the facts, and from thought upon them since the trial of the cases. Sometimes in listening to the trial of cases, judges and lawyers upon both sides may be misled by the hurry and excitement incident to a trial, but after that passes off, and you take a calm review of the facts, and look at them and review them again, and examine them from every standpoint, why they are more reliable when viewed in that way; and of producing a more reliable conclusion than when taken hastily in the excitement of a trial.
Now, I make the same remarks to you I did to Burris. You owe a great duty to yourself - the greatest duty that has ever devolved upon you in this life now devolves upon you. If you are not guilty of this crime, it is a great misfortune. If you are guilty, you know it, as a matter of course, and you know as a matter of course more keenly and more perceptibly what your duties are, or ought to be under such circumstances. You have a soul like all men, and you must answer, as we are taught, for everything done here. That is not a law that applies to you alone; it applies to all mankind for all acts that are done in this world for which they must answer hereafter, if they seek their own welfare hereafter; they must make preparation for that state; they must do that which we are taught is necessary to be done, in order if they have done wrong, if they have violated the laws of God and man to get forgiveness for that act. We are taught the door is not closed against any man, no matter how high his crime may be. While it may be necessary in this life to resort to the terrible remedy of taking away a man's life to protect the lives of other men, because it is so high, and so perfect, and so under His control, things of that kind do not have to be resorted to. He does not have to annihilate a man's soul, wipe it out of existence eternally, to save His kingdom, to save his Government. Mankind believe they have to do it; that they can not protect society otherwise. Whether that belief is correct or not, it is the law of the land, and those who are sworn to obey and execute that law must observe it. But, I say, that is not the case hereafter. The government, this great power that controls the destiny of all of us is so perfect and so great in its attributes, that He can blend with all He does, that mercy which will enable man to save himself under His government, and under His law.
I ask you to make that effort. This decree of the law that goes forth in the shape of this sentence, is not pronounced from a spirit of malice, or hatred, or ill-will. It is a feeling that ought to prompt everybody to desire that all men should be able to show that they are innocent, and that crime had disappeared from the world. That is not the case; you stand in the presence of crime. When it has been established, the law says in such a case, that for the safety and sake of society this sentence must go, it must be pronounced. I ask you, then, for your own sake, for your own interests, to make these efforts that are necessary to be made in your behalf. Do not be deluded by the idea that something may intervene to change the effect of this sentence. If such a thing should happen, it will not hurt you, anyhow, outside of the situation you are in, and these is nothing lost by it. There is nothing lost if you try to benefit yourself, and improve your moral condition; nothing of the kind is ever lost.
Now you will listen to the sentence of the law….
The Judge then proceeded to pass sentence, same as in Crumpton case.
As reported in the Fort Smith Elevator, August 8, 1890.
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.