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December 12, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part LX

arson_60_buckingham-column-_few-weeks

Murder Will Out

On January 11, 1905, an unsigned letter from Buckingham courthouse appeared on the front page of the Appomattox and Buckingham Times. Its opinion was fresh yet it lagged behind the news.

We missed the regular weekly letters from this place in the last weeks issue, guess your correspondent must be keeping company with the “cloud of witnesses” attending court at Farmville. If there is not another mistrial in the Wooldridge case we ought to know by your next issue if Wooldridge is ajudged guilty or set at liberty. I see, counsel for the defense are paving way for an appeal in case the verdict should be adverse to their client. How difficult it is to prove the crime of arson; somehow “murder will out,” but unless circumstantial evidence is taken the crime of burning is not often proved.

In fact on page four the newspaper’s readers learned:

WOOLRIDGE ACQUITTED.*

OUT ON $8,000 BAIL BOND.

The article that followed was a quick summation of the end of the trial in Farmville. Being late with breaking news is one of the disadvantages of a weekly paper.

On January 18th, the Appomattox and Buckingham Times published more about the trial, including a letter from Quoit, which read in part:

After an absence of 10 days from my home, as a comparative know-nothing witness for the Commonwealth in the now celebrated “Wooldridge arson case” which was so recently tried in the neighboring (?) town of Farmville I will endeavor “to take up the thread of my argument” and as best I can atone for my two week’s silence.

Well the trial for the burning of the smokehouse is now a thing of the past, so far as E. C. Wooldridge is concerned; and upon that charge he is now standing acquitted. The verdict was in no sense unexpected after the case took such an unlooked for turn. When those of whom the Commonwealth had every reason to expect the full force of the unbiased testimony in support of her contention, seemingly, to all intents and purposes, swayed by the hypnotic influence of the superior mind, gave their testimony in the interest really of the accused but intentionally in the interest of Charlie Forbes who was jointly indicted with Wooldridge, it began to dawn upon those who carefully weighed the effect of their testimony upon that undisputedly and queerly constituted jury, that no conviction would be had; and it was commonly remarked, long before the argument was ever made, that a hung jury or an acquittal would be the result. Some of the witnesses though are more to be pitied and censured. From the common and frequently expressed public opinion, this case is but another evidence that the verdict of juries does not establish the guilt or innocence of an accused further than the accused himself is concerned.

*The Appomattox and Buckingham Times consistently spelled Cliff Wooldridge’s name as “Woolridge.”

Coming Next: A Letter to the Editor

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

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