Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and the Castaic Range War.


The Jury Out Twenty Minutes.
They Were Protecting Their Property And Their Lives — W.W. Jenkins Badly Scorned — Applause In The Courtroom.

The last scenes in the Chormicle and Gardner murder were enacted yesterday, when the concluding arguments were made and the jury was given charge of the case. The interest in the case kept up to the last, and the courtroom was crowded with spectators, quite a number of ladies being in attendance. Mr. Chormicle, one of the defendants, sat with his family, and Mr. Gardner, the other defendant, occupied the seat at his counsel's table, which he has occupied during the trial. Both followed the arguments very closely, but were undemonstrative. They have both been confident of their ultimate release from the charge against them, and their demeanor yesterday was that of quiet confidence.

Alex Campbell, Esq., spoke for the defense in the morning, and Assistant District Attorney McComas closed in the afternoon for the prosecution. Both made able arguments. Mr. Campbell's review of the testimony was clear and logical, at times startlingly eloquent. He alluded to the connection of W.W. Jenkins with the case, and characterized his actions and those of the men killed as a conspiracy to wrest W.C. Chormicle's land from him, by force if necessary.

He reviewed the various occurrences brought out in evidence, connecting the man with the conspiracy, beginning with transactions which happened some time before the killing; and leading up to it. he argued that the defendant was long suffering in his treatment of the men conspiring to deprive him of his land, and did not act until forced to do so in defense of his property and his life. The variances between the stories told by the defendant and Jose Olme were analyzed, and he claimed that Mr. Chormicle's story of the killing was more probable and borne out by corroborating evidence.

The good character of the defendants was referred to, and so great was the feeling excited by the argument that when it was finished the audience broke out into an uncontrollable burst of applause.

Judge Cheney promptly attempted to restrain the show of feeling by the spectators, but they continued to applaud, when he was obliged to have the courtroom cleared. As the large crowd filed out of the room they seemed to be more pleased than hurt at the occurrence which deprived them of remaining longer.

Mr. McComas went over the evidence at length, and made an impressive argument. He deprecated the interjection of W.W. Jenkins into the case, saying no matter how big a scoundrel he might be, still he was not connected sufficiently with the case, by the evidence, to justify the prominence given him by the defense. He said Jenkins was not on trial, and that the defendants were not justified in the killing. he contended that the theory of the prosecution, that the defendants shot down Cook and Walton from inside their cabin, is the correct one.

The instructions of the court were quite long, and the law of the case was construed by many as making the acquittal of the defendants almost a matter of certainty. The substance of the instructions was that if Dolores Cook, George Walton and Jose Olme went upon Chormicle's land, he being in possession, with the intent to commit a felony, by dispossessing him of the land by force, and with intent to kill him or do great bodily harm, they must acquit the defendants.

The jury retired for consultation at 5 o'clock. very few people left the courtroom, so general was the impression that a verdict would soon be reached. At the expiration of twenty minutes a knock was heard on the door of the jury-room and Deputy Sheriff Cline announced the jury had agreed.

As soon as the jury had filed into the box and had announced an agreement Judge Cheney said that he desired no demonstration of approval or disapproval to be made by spectators.

Dr. Nesbit of Pomona, foreman of the jury, then read the verdicts. The first found William C. Chormicle not guilty, and the second, William A. Gardner not guilty. When the verdicts were read the defendants remained silent, although deeply moved. There was impressive silence for a moment, and then court was adjourned. The jurors crowded around the defendants and shook hands with them, congratulating them on the result. They were free men once more, with the tragic scenes of the past only a memory.

The second case against the defendants, in which they are charged with the murder of George Walton, was set for trial in Judge Shaw's court. he happened to be present when the verdict was announced, and after consultation with Judge Cheney, admitted the defendants to bail in the sum of $5,000 each.

Mr. Murphy called for bondsmen, and a number of Ventura county men at once stepped forward. Those selected were Thomas Marple of Castac, who has been a staunch friend of the defendants through all their troubles; S.A. Guiberson, W.E. Balcom, Mr. Sealy and Mr. Skinner, all of Ventura county. The bond being approved, the defendants and their families all left the courtroom. It is probable that the second case will never come to trial, but that a motion to dismiss will be granted when it is called next week before Judge Shaw.

The trial has been one of the longest ever held in the county. It lasted eighteen days, and on the part of both prosecution and defense was ably presented. J.L. Murphy, Esq., and Alexander Campbell, Esq., left no stones unturned to bring out the lights and shadows of the troubles in Castac Canon.

Mr. Murphy's preparation for the defense was exceedingly thorough. The scene of the murder was surveyed and photographed from every possible position, and the catching up of all the little links in such a complex case was done in a masterly manner by both sides.

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