Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eddie Cudahy and Pat Crowe

The Famous Summation

Defense attorneys A.S. Ritchie and James English surprised courtroom observers by failing to call a single witness. Instead, they informed Judge A.L. Sutton that they looked forward to closing arguments.

In his summation, attorney Ritchie led the jury on a serpentine journey that touched on just about everything but the kidnapping. He talked about the history of the law, the Catholic Church, Martin Luther and religious reform, Old Glory, Abraham Lincoln, ethics and, of course, the Beef Trust.

He spiced his speech with words that Daniel Webster himself might have been challenged to define - irrefragable (indisputable); animadvert (to take note of); chimerical (imaginary). Ritchie pushed the emotional buttons of the working class jurors, saying that Cudahys wealth gave him an unfair advantage over a poor farm boy like Pat Crowe.

The lawyer did not deny that Crowe was the kidnapper, but he noted that the defendant had committed an act of contrition in the letter to the priest. He was sorry; wasnt that enough?

Applause and laughter broke out frequently in the gallery during the address until Judge Sutton threatened to clear the courtroom.

In the end, Ritchie apologized to the jury for his lengthy peroration, and the jurors replied with nods and smiles, even if they didnt know a peroration from a perforation.

The Chicago Examiner raved that the closing statement was considered the best speech in a criminal case ever made in Omaha.

Prosecutor Slabaugh must have been heartened when the jury did not return a quick verdict, as it had in the earlier Crowe trial and the Callahan robbery trial.                

But on St. Patricks Day, 1906, after 17 hours of debate, the jury reached a verdict: not guilty.

The announcement brought wild cheers from the proletariat gallery.

Judge Sutton admonished them, I am greatly surprised that the acquittal of a notorious criminal in this courtroom should be received with applause.

He then turned to the jury and said, This court is very much surprised that a jury would pass a verdict clearing such a notorious criminal...You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Pat Crowe
Pat Crowe

In his pique, Sutton ordered the courtroom cleared but ordered Crowe held to face the streetcar robbery charge in Council Bluffs.

Police Chief Donahue, in high temper, told reporters that the verdict was a travesty of justice.

Most viewed the jurys decision not as an acquittal of Crowe but as an indictment against men like Edward Cudahy who manipulated American citizens with their monopolies.

The Omaha Daily News said, It was nothing more than we could expect from the jury, composed as it was largely of laboring men. Cudahy, in their minds, is robbing the people in small amounts three times a day, and Pat Crowe got back a part of this money in one big chunk and didnt hurt anybody at all. There is no doubt that the jury thought it no worse to steal one child than it is to starve many.

The Washington Post, viewing the verdict from afar, was less analytical. It wrote, Omaha is evidently a happy hunting ground for savages and malefactors.