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June 22, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The 1909 Buckingham Murders: Part VII

7_Murder_Wright Trial
Dallas Wright on Trial

Former Buckingham County Judge Alexander S. Hall with Aubrey E. Strode and John L. Lee of Lynchburg were chosen to represent Dallas Wright. The prosecution was headed by Commonweath’s Attorney Edmund W. Hubard, assisted by Frank C. Moon of Snowden (Buckingham County) and Lynchburg. In addition to his law practice, Moon was a former State Senator. According to The Times-Dispatch, Senator Sands Gayle was “retained by citizens to aid the prosecution” and Congressman H.D. Flood and his law firm were also employed by the State Bureau of Insurance to further assist the prosecution.

In anticipation of Wright’s trial, it was reported that his brother, Clifford, asserted that he slept in the same bed with Dallas on the night of the crime. Their mother was also in the house that night and could have provided her son with an alibi; however, Mrs. Wright had died in May, leaving Clifford the only living witness to Dallas’ whereabouts.

On August 28th, The Times-Dispatch reported that Wright was still in jail in Buckingham County and was charged with “complicity” in the murder of Thomas and William Stewart:

. . . [Wright] lived near the log cabin home of the Stewarts and had known them perhaps all his life, and he stoutly maintains that he was in no way connected with the triple crime of murder, robbery and arson with which he is charged, and his relatives have made sacrifices to secure counsel for his defense.

The counsel for the defense fought an uphill battle. So much time had passed since the murder of the Stewarts, public opinion had been shaped both by potentially biased journalism and by the testimony given at the trial of Edward Jones. In July, Jones had been found guilty of “complicity” in the murder and burning of the Stewart brothers and witnesses testified that Dallas Wright was with him. The Times-Dispatch also noted that despite the fact that the Stewarts were not “generally known by the county people . . . the mere fact that such an atrocious crime has been committed has caused people to take unusual interest in the case.”

Could an unbiased jury be found in Buckingham County? Could Dallas Wright receive a fair trial without a change of venue? Attorneys Hall, Strode, and Lee had their doubts.

Coming Next: A Fair Trial
Need to catch up on The 1909 Buckingham Murders? Part I: June 1, 2015

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