Progress in Hearing of Rabb Case

Negro Accused of Murdering City Jailor Smith.


Story of City Official’s Death In Lonely Hollow Is Told.

In general sessions court Thursday afternoon the hearing of the case against John Rabb, colored, charged with killing Mr. Hilton T. Smith, city jailor, on May 17th last, was begun. The selection of the jury was not completed until Friday Morning. Good progress was made Friday. The defense soon exhausted its ten challenges: the State excused for jurors.

The court excused Juror Sidney Koon, as he was a first cousin of the deceased, and the following because they had formed or expressed an opinion of the guilt of the accused; Messrs. T. R. Davis, J. A. Hancock, D. A. Childs, Jr., G. E. Murtiashaw, A. W. Hamiter and J. B. Steele. The defense objected to the following: Messrs. W. A. Fry, G. H. Winters, G. T. Dixon, J. D. Livingston, D. G. Sutton, R. L. Vincent, H. T. Shannon, R. J. Bynum, I. J. Dixon and John Sharp. The State objected to Messrs. W. J. Scruggs, C. D. Stanley, W. T. Dixon (colored) and P. H. Sharper (colored)

The Jury.

THe following were finally selected to try the case: Mr. D. R. Flenniken, forman; Messrs. J. H. Berry, B. F. David, H. F. Buechel, C. B. Fripp, J. C. Ott, T. J. Arthur, S. R. Lever, D. B. Ott, E. A. Price, E. D. Hammond, W. L. Bennett.

Dead Jailor’s Position.

The solicitor first introduced the city ordinances and called attention to the statutes relating to the power of police commissioners to appoint policemen. Then he introduced the minutes of the board to show that Hilton T. Smith was elected to the office of city jailor in 1908.

Physician Testifies.

Dr. S. E. Harmon was then called and testified that he attended. Hilton T. Smith. He showed the jury how the fatal bullet entered the body of Smith. He said that the ball entered his left side between the ninth and tenth ribs and passed into the abdominal cavity and severed the spinal cord. He carried the deceased to the Columbia hospital and performed an operation and sewed up the wound in the abdominal cavity, but could do nothing for the severed spinal cord. Mr. Smith died the next morning.

On cross-examination the attorneys for the defense tried to show that Smith, when the physician first saw him, was in a highly nervous and excited condition and not rational enough to make a clear statement and that he had hopes of recovery. But the testimony of Dr. Harmon did not bear out this contention. He said that Smith was in an excited condition when he first saw him, but that he soon quieted him, and although he told Smith that he would get all right the deceased all the time contended that he was mortally wounded and that he had no hope of recovery.

Bought Smith’s Pistol.

Mr. Bryan Morgan testified that John Rabb came to his house, 19 miles from Columbia, near Blaney and asked him for a drink of water on the morning of the 18th of May, and asked him if he wanted to buy a pistol. Witness testified that he gave defendant $1.50 for the pistol. This pistol proved to be Hilton T. Smith’s

Chief Cathcart.

Mr. W. C. Cathcart, cheif of police, testified that he went to Blaney to get Rabb on the morning of the 18th (Rabb was arrested at Blaney). Witness stated that Rabb told him that he shot the deceased and that whiskey was the cause of it. That deceased come to his house on Taylor street to arrest him. That down “in the hollow just before you get to the jail” he and Smith had a tussle; that Smith’s pistol fell out of his pocket and that he picked it up and shot him.

Smith’s Authority.

Mayor W. H. Gibbes, ex-Mayor Reamer and Mrs. J. C. Otis gave testimony tending to show that Hilton T. Smith was a duly qualified police officer and that although he was jailor he had the same power to arrest as any other policeman.

First to Reach Scene.

Priscilla Williams, colored, said she lived at 815 Plain street, near the city jail, and heard four shots. She went out to where she heard the shots and found deceased lying on the ground on Taylor street, just a block away from where she lived. She heard Mr. Smith say: “John Rabb has shot me.” When she got there Smith said: “Oh, Lord, I am dying. John Rabb has shot me.” She saw John Rabb standing there when she first got there and saw him running away immediately afterwards.

Another Witness.

Mr. C. C. Billingsley testified that he lived within 100 yards from where the shooting took place. he hear four shots; deceased was lying on his back when he got there. Deceased told he was bleeding to death and that John Rabb had shot him and taken his pistol and gone away.

Helped Wounded Man

Mr. L. M. Pratt, said he lived at 720 Taylor Street, about 150 yards from where the shooting took place. Heard three or four shots between 10 and 11 o’clock. That he and Mr. John Foxworth went to where the shooting took place; deceased was lying down on the ground and heard deceased say; “I am shot to death,” “I am bleeding to death – I am shot through.” Witness asked deceased who shot him; deceased replied John Rabb shot him. That he went with deceased to the hospital and heard him say; “Men, handle me carefully, I am shot to pieces, I am dying,” and said in reply John Rabb had shot him while they were having a tussle.

Mr. J. E. Forde, a city detective, testified that in consequence of a telephone message received between 10 and 11 o’clock at night, he hurried to where deceased was lying on Taylor street, between Gadsden and Lincoln. Deceased recognized witness ad said: “O, Forde, I am dying,” and asked for his wife and said: “I want to see my wife before I die. I am shot all to pieces.” Witness said deceased told him that Rabb jumped on him and took his pistol away from him and shot him.

Wife of Defendant.

Mrs. Charity Rabb, wife of the defendant, was next called. Mr. Taylor objected to her testifying on the ground that in a criminal case a wife is not compellable to testify against her husband. The court being undecided about the matter, it was decided to withdraw the witness and all the attorneys to consult the authorities upon the matter during the dinner hour.

Jalior’s State of Mind.

Lon Jackson was called to show the condition of mind Rabb was in on the afternoon of the 17th May. She said that Rabb had a quarrel with a negro named Adam Glover that day; that Rabb jumped on him and gave him a severe beating and threatened to kill him; this happened in the afternoon; that later, after the shooting of Smith, Rabb came up to her house and said; “Clear the way or I get some of the rest of you.”

Witness to Arrest.

Isabella Parks, colored, was present when deceased arrested defendant. Deceased took hold of Rabb and carried him away, soon afterwards she heard four or five shots and heard someone crying out; soon afterwards Rabb came up and said: “Clear the track, or I’ll get some of the rest of you.” She said: “We cleared the track,” in reply to this question.

Cause of Arrest.

Gladys Jones said she lived with John Rabb, being a step-daughter; that he and his wife, Charity Rabb, had a quarrel and that Rabb threw a lamp at her. Charity then went to see Mr. Smith and asked him to arrest defendant; deceased came back and arrested defendant.

A Long Trial.

The State has not yet finished with its side of the case. It will probably take the rest of the day and Saturday to finish the case.

Lawyers Much Interested.

Every point is being warmly contested by counsel. Rabb is represented by Messrs. George C. Taylor and E. L. Craig. Solicitor Cobb is being assisted by Mr. Duncan Bellinger, who succeeds in this case his father, the late Gen. G. D. Bellinger. The portion of the court room set aside for colored people is packed and there are many white spectators also. The family of the deceased city officer are present, having seats within the bar. Many of the legal points arising are of great interest to lawyers and of these there is a large attendance.

Mistrial in Way Case.

In the case of Dr. S. R. Way, one of the managers of the defunct DuRant’s pharmacy, who was being prosecuted by his wife, Mrs. Kate Clement Way, for inducing her by false pretences to sign a note and mortgage for $2,500 there was a mistrial. THe jury was out about an hour, the court ordering a mistrial at about 8 o’clock Thursday evening. Courthouse gossip has it that the jury stood 10 to 2 for conviction. It was this case in which Governor Ansel testified Thursday as to the good reputation borne by the defendant in Greenville, where he worked for twenty years as bookkeeper for a well known clothing house.

September 16, 1910  Columbia Record (published as THE DAILY RECORD)  
Columbia, South Carolina
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