By Ken Edwards
The tragic death of Jennie Clark in late August 1884 resulting from a brawl in the Palace Saloon brought an outcry for rapid justice. The Daily Journal claimed that lynching the accused murderer, Fred Glover, was perhaps too mild a punishment. The other two local papers had similar sentiments.
The Yavapai County District Court wasted no time in bringing the case to trial. Jennie died about 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning, and by afternoon a grand jury was summoned. On Saturday, Glover was indicted for first degree murder. On Tuesday he entered a plea of “not guilty” and the trial began on Thursday.
Judge Sumner Howard denied a request for a continuance until the November court session to allow time for Glover’s attorneys to prepare a defense. He also denied a request for a change of venue. Howard was newly appointed as an Arizona judge after serving as U.S. Attorney for Utah from 1876-79 and serving as house speaker in the Michigan legislature in 1882. He had achieved notoriety for his successful 1876 prosecution of John D. Lee for the famous Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah.
The prosecution, led by Charles B. Rush, called four witnesses, three men who were present in the saloon at the time, and the examining physician. The defense called six witnesses in addition to Glover, who testified in his own defense. Three of these were primarily character witnesses whose testimony was effectively squelched. The other three were James Dodson, the chief of police; Dora Palmer, Jennie’s companion on the night of the incident; and one of the bartenders. Noteworthy for their absence were Fred’s two companions in the bar.
There was general agreement among prosecution and defense witnesses as to the sequence of events that occurred that early Friday morning. Jennie and Glover were both very inebriated; Jennie’s screaming vulgarities and Glover’s efforts to calm her were acknowledged on both sides. There was some disagreement on how many times Jennie had been decked and whether or not the teamster friend of Glover was responsible for one of the knockdowns. Everyone agreed that Jennie had thrown the first missile, a soda bottle, but disagreement as to how many glasses Fred had thrown at her.
The crucial issue was Glover’s kicking of Jennie while she was down on the floor. Fred claimed he’d only kicked and missed, whereas witnesses claimed that he’d kicked her at least once and some said several times. Dr. James McCandless, who examined Jennie shortly after her death, testified that he found no lacerations, abrasions, or broken bones on the body, only bruises.
The result of the trial was a foregone conclusion; guilty of first degree murder. The trial had lasted a day and a half and the verdict was rendered the afternoon of the second day. On September 10, Judge Howard sentenced Fred Glover to be hanged on November 7th. Thirty days were allowed for filing an appeal.
The appeal was filed in a timely manner and a stay of execution was ordered on October 24, only two weeks before the scheduled execution. The Arizona Supreme Court heard the case in early March 1885. The defense attorneys cited several errors committed by the judge. However, there was one major problem: Judge Howard was not only judge of the District Court that tried the case, but was also Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. What were the chances of the high court conceding errors in the trial? Not good. The request for a new trial was denied and the case was remanded to the lower court to set a new execution date.
There was another chance of saving Glover from the gallows—a plea to the governor for clemency. On May 9, 1885, an appeal was submitted to Governor Frederick Tritle who commuted the sentence to life in prison. But Glover’s attorneys weren’t done yet. When Meyer Zulick became governor, a new appeal was filed and Glover’s prison sentence was reduced to ten years.
In 1889 another new governor, Nathan O. Murphy, came into office and another appeal was filed. This appeal was supported by a petition for pardon containing 214 signatures, and all twelve jurors signed a statement that they may have made a mistake. It worked. Glover was released from prison on December 20, 1890, and was not heard from again.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to firstname.lastname@example.org.