Parker's Second Death Sentence of Cherokee Bill, 1895

Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill, had already been found guilty of murder and sentenced to death when on July 26, 1895, he attempted to escape from the federal jail at Fort Smith. He was not successful, but in his escape attempt he shot and killed a jail guard, Lawrence Keating.

Cherokee Bill's second murder trial resulted in a second guilty conviction, and a second death sentence for the murder of Lawrence Keating.


The court: Cherokee Bill, stand up. Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill, you have been convicted of the murder of Lawrence Keating. Under the law it becomes the duty of the court to pass upon you the sentence of the law, that sentence which the law says shall follow a conviction of the crime of murder. Have you anything to say why that sentence shall not now be passed?

The prisoner: No, sir.

The court: The crime you have committed is but another evidence, if any were needed, of your wicked, lawless, bloody and murderous disposition. It is another evidence of your total disregard of human life; another evidence that you revel in the destruction of human life. The many murders you have committed, and their reckless and wanton character, show you to be a human monster from whom innocent people can expect no safety. The killing of Lawrence Keating shows three wicked and unprovoked murders that we know you have committed. If reports speak the truth, two or three more innocent human beings have been robbed of their lives by you.

The evidence in this case shows that you most wantonly and wickedly stole the life of a brave and true man; that he died by your murderous hand - a martyr at the post of duty, while bravely guarding you and the desperate criminals in the jail with you. You wickedly slew him in your mad attempt to escape that you might evade the punishment justly due for your many other murders and robberies. It was, no doubt, a concerted movement between you and many of the other murderers in the jail, to affect an escape. You were lawfully confined in the United States jail for murder and robbery. The evidence shows that by some wicked agency - it is difficult to tell what that agency is - you had weeks ago obtained a revolving pistol and many cartridges; that you concealed the same in your mattress awaiting an opportunity to do the deadly act you did do. The time came, to Lawrence Keating the fatal hour struck, and you, without remorse, in cold blood, in the most devilish and wicked way, shot down poor Lawrence Keating, one of the guards at the prison, while he was faithfully discharging the duty in the station he filled, to peace, to order, to the security of human life, to the supremacy of the law, and to his country. He died like a brave soldier. He gave up his life rather than fail to perform his duty. You ordered him to throw up his hands, to surrender to you - a murderer and a bandit! The brave and honest man was no doubt startled. He was shocked. But he never quailed. And because he did not surrender to you that you might escape yourself, and lead the host of other criminals to escape judgment, you, with your murderous hand, directed by a mind saturated with crime, while he was gallantly and bravely upholding the laws of his country, shot him to death. He was a minister of peace; you were and are a minister of wickedness, of disorder, of crime, of murder. Lawrence Keating was in the discharge of a great duty when you killed him. Your fatal bullet destroyed the life of a gallant and brave man, who died like a true citizen and faithful officer. He died as gallantly and bravely as if he had given up his life for the flag upon the battlefield. His family deserves as well of his country, and of every lover of peace and order as though he had so died. He died at the hand of an assassin, at the hand of the wicked man of crime.

You have taken the life of a good man, who never harmed you - of a faithful citizen, a kind father, and a true husband. Your wicked act has taken from a home its head, from a family its support. You have made a weeping widow. Your murderous bullet has made four little sorrowing and helpless orphans. But you are the man of crime, and you heed not the wails and shrieks of a sorrowing and mourning wife no more than you do the cries for a dead father of the poor orphans. Surely this is a case where all who are not criminals or sympathizers with crime should approve the swift and certain justice that has overtaken you. All that you have done has been done by you in the interest of crime, in furtherance of a wicked criminal purpose. The jury in your case have properly convicted you; they are to be commended for it, and for the promptness with which they did it. You have had a fair trial, notwithstanding the howls and shrieks to the contrary. There is no doubt of your guilt of a most wicked, foul and unprovoked murder, shocking to every good man and woman in the land. Your case is one where justice should not walk with leaden feet. It should be swift. It should be certain. As far as this court is concerned it shall be, for public justice demands it, and personal security demands it. If Lawrence Keating had thrown up his hands and surrendered to you, he might have lived, but there is no telling how many other innocent and brave human lives would have been taken. He died for others, and a greater death than this no man can die.

I once before sentenced you to death for a horrible and wicked murder committed by you while you were engaged in the crime of robbery. I then appealed to your conscience by reminding you of your duty to your God and your own soul. The appeal reached not your conscience, for you answered it by committing another most foul and dastardly murder. I shall therefore say nothing to you on that line here and now.

You will listen to the sentence of the law, which is, that you, Crawford Goldsby, alias Cherokee Bill, for the crime of murder, committed by you, by your willfully and with malice aforethought taking the life of Lawrence Keating, in the United States jail in Fort Smith, and within the jurisdiction of this court, of which crime you stand convicted by the verdict of the jury in your case, be deemed, taken and adjudged guilty of murder; and that you be therefor for the same crime against the laws of the United States be hanged by the neck until you are dead; and that the marshal of the Western District of Arkansas, by himself or deputy or deputies, cause execution to be done in the premises upon you on Tuesday, September 10th, 1895, between the hours of 9 o'clock in the forenoon and 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day. And that you now be taken to the jail from whence you came, to be there closely and securely kept until the day of execution, and from thence on the day of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.
May God whose laws you have broken and before whose tribunal you must appear, have mercy on your soul.

As reported in the Fort Smith Elevator, August 16, 1895

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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