Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eddie Cudahy and Pat Crowe

A 'Stunning' Trial

Pat Crowe faced three charges: the $50 robbery of a Council Bluffs streetcar in July 1905, the shooting of Officer Jackson, and robbery in the Cudahy kidnapping case.

Authorities proceeded first with the assault on Jackson.

Crowe, who pleaded not guilty, was delivered for trial to the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Omaha on November 28, 1905.

County Attorney W.W. Slabaugh called one witness after another - cops, passersby, saloon patrons--who identified Crowe as the man who shot Jackson in the battle of Hickory Street.

Pat Crowe, after return
Pat Crowe, after return
Defense attorney James P. English countered that Pat Crowe was merely defending himself. He said the plainclothes officers did not identify themselves and fired first.

After four days of testimony, the jury took just 80 minutes to acquit.

Omaha was stunned at the outcome, wrote Harry Dice, a Nebraska historian.

Judge George Day ordered Crowe held on $7,000 bail pending the Cudahy trial, which began in a packed courtroom in February 1906.

During Crowes missing years, President Roosevelt had begun a national campaign against a pricing conspiracy among the big five Beef Trust, including Cudahy.

For years, muckraking journalists like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens had been portraying Cudahy and his ilk as fat cats who lined their pockets with excessive profits stolen from the countrys poor and hungry. Coincidentally, at the time of the kidnapping trial in Omaha the Cudahy company and the other big meatpackers were on trial in Chicago, accused by the federal government of restraint of trade, or price-fixing.

Prosecutor Slabaugh hoped to impanel a predominantly white-collar jury in the Crowe case because he feared blue-collar workers would be predisposed against Cudahy. He failed. The jury selected was loaded with workingmen.

The panel included a packing house employee, a cook, a railroad delivery clerk, a sign painter, a shoe dealer, a butcher, a bank janitor, a house painter, a dry goods dealer, a poultry supplier, a carpenter and a driver.

Undeterred, Slabaugh presented an impressive roster of 96 witnesses for the prosecution, including Eddie Cudahy and his father.

By then, Cudahy Jr. was 21 years old and better than 6 feet tall, with a baritone voice and prematurely receding hairline. The jury no doubt had trouble squaring the man before on the witness stand with the kid of kidnapping. He was not a particularly sympathetic figure.

Slabaughs most damning evidence was a document, not a witness.

In April 1904, Crowe wrote a letter to Father Murphy, the Catholic priest in his hometown of Vail, Iowa. Crowe asked the priest to intercede on his behalf with the Cudahys, whom he called good Catholics.

Crowe was still trying to convince Cudahy Sr. to accept return of the ransom money to call off the prosecution of the case.

Crowe wrote, I am guilty of the Cudahy affair. I am to blame for the whole thing. After it was over, I regretted my act and offered to return $21,000 to Mr. Cudahy, but he refused to take it.

The letter and the witnesses seemed to spell doom for the defendant. The World-Herald said, The case was overwhelming, irrefutable; there was no loophole for Crowe.

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