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September 5, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part XXXV


Closing Speeches

On July 28, 1904, The Times-Dispatch printed an article detailing the previous day’s events in Buckingham County’s courthouse. With the testimony concluded, the attorneys prepared their closing speeches. Then came a motion by the prosecution to reopen their testimony. A half dozen witnesses were called to testify to minor points. Among them were Mr. Ashby Grigg, Miss Maud Woodridge, Mr. Thomas O’Brien, and Dan Wooldridge.

Early in the day, there was an amusing moment when Judge Hundley interrupted the proceedings stating, “Gentlemen, in Virginia, men are not accustomed to sit while ladies stand. Sheriff, find those ladies seats.” According to the newspaper, “Twenty men sprang from their seats instantly and the ladies were seated.”

At 10:30 AM, Mr. Strode began his closing speech for the prosecution. The Times-Dispatch provided an evocative rendition:

The court room was crowded to suffocation with people, and standing room was at a premium. The speaker began in a clear, distinct, and well modulated voice, stating the case fully, describing the arrest, the preliminary trial, and the indictment of Wooldridge, in full detail. His speech lasted for two hours. In this speech he used splendid language and incontrovertible argument. He brought up every argument which had been made in the testimony against Wooldridge.

A Fine Speech.

It is generally admitted that Mr. Strode’s speech had a great weight with the jury. One leading characteristic was its extreme liberality and freedom from anything like vituperation. His reference to Miss Janie Forbes, who was a witness for the defense, and who, as he intimated, testified reluctantly to questions which had been asked her by the Commonwealth, his reference was characteristic of the man who spoke. He said that other lips than his would have to frame sentences which would accuse Miss Janie Forbes of saying anything improper or for endeavoring to protect a brother in this matter.

Mr. Strode argued all the alleged confessions which Wooldridge had made after his arrest, and wove therewith a chain of strong evidence against the accused. Before concluding his speech, Mr. Strode compared the motive for this Judas Iscariot. Mr. Strode’s spoke for two hours, and at the end of that time received the congratulations of a host of friends, including the counsel for the defense.

Following an “intermission” for the mid-day meal, the counsel for the defense began its closing remarks.

Coming Next: “Rare Flights of Oratory”

Need to catch up? Click here for The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part I




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