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The Hearnes Acquitted by the Jury

HE jury in the Hearne case, headed by the sheriff, came down the aisle at 5:40 o’clock Saturday evening.   People were standing on chairs and benches.  “Poll the jury, Mr. Clerk,” said the judge.  The clerk came running up to the front and called each juryman by name.  Dr. Hearne sat with his back to the jury.  Virginia Hearne, with her modest manner, had won the pity of all.  She looked with wide-open eyes up and down the line of faces and then at the folded paper in the hand of the foreman.  Katherine put her face in her sister’s lap and lay there.  Every one of the jurymen looked as solemn as though he had voted to hang a dozen men.  “Have you found a verdict?” queried Judge Roy.  “We have,” replied the foreman.  The folded paper was passed up to the judge and it rattled loud as he opened it.  Judge Roy, looking the paper over slowly amid a death-like stillness, announced,  “We the jury, find the defendant not guilty.”  Dr. Hearne’s head fell forward between his two hands, almost to his knees, and a great sob came from him.  The next moment Virginia, his oldest daughter, was on her knees before him, her arms reached up around his neck and her father’s tears fell on her upturned face as he kissed her again and again.  His little daughter Katie, a sweet child, sprang to him and clasped him with her arms, and laughing and crying, kissed him again and again.  Mrs. Hearne was apparently unmoved.  She sat as she had while waiting for the verdict, straight in her chair, the handkerchief still at her mouth, her eyes looking down at the floor.  “Gentlemen, I thank you.  You are discharged,” said the judge to the jury.  Dr. Hearne arose, turned and faced the jury.  His arms were raised above his head and the tears were streaming down his cheeks.  His daughter still knelt upon the floor, her face buried in her hands and her form shaking with sobs.  “Gentlemen, for God’s sake,” Dr. Hearne said, “I thank you, because I am an innocent man.  I’ll remember this the longest day I live, and so will my children.  Thank you, Oh, thank you, gentlemen.”  A sob choked the acquitted man and he fell into his chair again.  Then his lawyers crowded around him and hugged him.  His daughter was raised from the floor and he clasped the younger one in his arms and sat with her on his knee, fondling her face with one hand and wiping the tears from his eyes with the other.

Mr. Ball announced that Mrs. Hearne was ready for trial and demanded that an early day be set.  The court could see no way by which he could be accommodated, and  then he offered bail in any sum the court might demand.  Prosecuting Attorney Heather making no objection, the bond was fixed at $5,000, made out and signed at once.  Mrs. Hearne was sworn not to leave the jurisdiction of the court without permission of the court and then Judge Roy said:  “I order the peremptory discharge of Dr. J. C. Hearne from custody.”  The women in the court room came up, shook hands with Dr. Hearne and said they were glad he was cleared, kissed Mrs. Hearne and the two Misses Hearne and said, “They knew all the time,” and were so glad.  Dr. Hearne, his wife and daughters and Mr. Hearne, of Independence, went to supper at the sheriff’s house.  Dr. Hearne then went to the telegraph office and sent telegrams to friends.  He said he could not say what he would do in the future.  His wife wished to return to San Diego, Cal., where her married daughter Mollie lives.  The doctor will probably go with her.

The jurymen took but one ballot.  When they first retired it was found that Curt Smith was the only member who was in favor of conviction.  The matter was talked over before a ballot was taken and when the votes were counted, Smith was in line.  The jury was of the opinion that the State failed materially in making out a case.  The chain of circumstantial evidence was strong, but a few links in it snapped when it was stretched by the defense.  Dr. Hearne can never be tried for the crime again.  Whether in this case “murder will out” remains to be seen.  The result of the Hearne trial is far from satisfactory.  Not merely because the jury did not  bring in a verdict of guilty, for under the evidence and instructions that would have been a surprise.  The trial has thrown no new light on the Stillwell murder.  The defense has found no proof to relieve Dr. and Mrs. Hearne of the unfortunate suspicion of being the only persons known to have a motive.  The Stillwell mystery is no nearer solution than it was the night of the horrible murder.  It is well understood that Mrs. Hearne will never be tried.  There is the same evidence against her that there was against her husband.  The verdict has not changed the opinion of the people and they accept it as the final decision, and it leaves the Stillwell murder still unsolved and the criminals unpunished. 

The Libel Suit Won 

After six years of litigation in one of the hardest-fought libel suits, the Chronicle was compelled to propose a compromise.  The first trial resulted in a disagreement of the jury.  They could not agree upon the amount of damages.  The second trial resulted in a verdict of $10,000 in favor of Dr. Hearne.  Defendant took an appeal.  The third trial awarded Dr. Hearne $1.00 damages.  The trial court set aside this verdict and granted a new trial.  Several days before the time appointed for the fourth trial, defendant’s attorneys submitted to the doctor a proposition to compromise.  The first proposition was rejected.  A second proposition was accepted.  DeYoung paid $2,000 in gold coin and the costs they had incurred by the two appeals made by the defendant to the Supreme Court and also the publication in the Chronicle of an article exonerating the doctor from any connection with the matter referred to in the publication complained of.  All exhibits and all depositions and papers were removed from the files of the court, and turned over to Dr. Hearne.

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