Turkish Missionary Gets Life Sentence in Camden For Murder of Associate

Dramatic Incidents of Trial and Unique Testimony. Defendant Entered Plea of Self-Defense — Other Cases Before Summer Term of Kershaw County Court.

(Special to The Record)

Camden, July 11. – A stranger in a strange land, the Rev. Benjamin John, a native of Turkey, will have to spend the balance of his life in the South Carolina penitentiary. After being out about two hours, the foreman, L. J. Jordan, announced that they had agreed upon a verdict of guilty with recommendation to mercy. Judge Gary sentenced him to life imprisonment in the state penitentiary.

The case of the Rev. Benjamin John, for the murder of a fellow Turk, was called for trail here Wednesday afternoon. Several witnesses were produced on both sides, the most important of whom was Section Masters Sanders of the Seaboard railway, who told of finding the body of the dead man and seeing the man returning from the scene of the crime. Other member of the section crew were put upon the stand and gave practically the same testimony as Mr. Sanders. Another important and only near eye witness was that of a negro woman, who saw the beginning of the quarrel, saw the men when they came to blows and heard the pistol fire as the men continued the fight down the railway embankment. The facts in the case were the same as have been published in The Record. Attorney G. G. Alexander, Jr., represented the defendant, while Solicitor Cobb appeared for the state.

Several witness appeared for the defense, the principles of whom were L. S. Jackson and the defendant himself. L. S. Jackson testified that the defendant with his partner had been in his place of business some time prior to the killing and while there that the defendant had given to the deceased 25 cents with five cents of which the latter bough a coca-cola and put the remaining 25 cents in his pocket. This testimony was apparently brought out by the defense in an effort to refute any argument to the effect that George Simon, the deceased, was in possession of any money which might have prompted his companion, the accused, to murder him for the purposes of robbery.

Very naturally the sensation of the trail was the testifying of Benjamin John himself. Several times the court had to be called to order when the broken accent and peculiar gesticulation of Benjamin elicited repeated laughter from the unusually large crowd which had gathered in the courthouse to hear him. But Benjamin John proved a shrewd witness and even the characteristically clever cross-questioning of Solicitor Cobb failed to shake him from his point. The testimony of the defendant was to the effect that he had met George Simons in Meridian, Miss., for the first time and had promised him there that he would pay his expenses to New York if Simon would assist him in his work of collecting money or various religious organizations in Turkey, which he professed to represent. He laid special emphasis on the fact that it was in this capacity of a practically hired man that the deceased traveled around with him, and that the latter not only had nothing to do with the money collected, but that it was his duty to turn over all such homey to himself (Benjamin John). The defendant did not deny the killing of his companion, but entered a plea of self-defense. His story of the actual killing was to the effect that while near Lugoff, whither he walking by the special request of the deceased, since he had been informed by the ticket agent that the next train did not stop at Lugoff and he himself did not wish to walk; that he had given him four, five or six dollars, he did not remember exactly how much, and that Simon was to go on to the next town which he was to work and later join Benjamin John in Cheraw. The defendant testified further that his companion made demands for more money and upon his refusal the deceased struck him in the face while they were walking on the railroad track; that several licks passed between them; that they went over the side of the railroad embankment a little further; that he knocked his companion down and that the latter gaining his feet, drew a pistol from his pocket with his left hand. He claims that he succeeded in taking the pistol from Simon and that in the scuffle the deceased received a wound in his left arm. After he had gotten the pistol John said that Simon drew a large knife, whereupon he backed back as far as he could and when Simon refused to stop coming on him he fired. the wound taking effect in the neck. He said further that fear prompted him to hide the body of the dead man in the nearby culvert, as he though in case he were caught he would have been killed himself.

Mr. G. G. Alexander, Jr., who represented the accused Turk, presented his case to the jury in a masterly way, and his many friends and admirers in Camden feel that in spite of the fact that he did not secure a verdict of not guilty, he has, with an unusually difficult case, launched himself into the legal profession in a most auspicious manner. This is not Mr. Alexander’s first case in court, but it is the first which has involved so much. There can be little doubt that the crowd which thronged the court hours on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, came not nearly so much on account of any peculiar interest in the case itself or in the defendant, but on account of interest in the defense.

Solicitor Cobb’s ability and reputation as a lawyer are too well established in Kershaw County to necesitate comment here. He handled the prosecution in his usual vigorous manner.

This case marked the close of the summer term. Other cases disposed of were:

R. F. Moore, a white man, was acquiteed of the charge of disposing property under lien.

Taylor Powell plead guilty to violating the dispensary law; $100 or three months.

Belton McRea was up on three charges- burglary, Larceny and arson.The state brought out only circumstantial evidence and the jury dismissed the arson charge. This negro was charged with setting fire to a house in the night time, which upon conviction carries the death penalty. McRea was convicted of the first two counts and sentenced to six years in the state prison. Attorney Cooper, of Columbia, represented McRea.

Willie Williams plead guilty to charge of non-support to his wife and was sentenced to six months or pay a fine of $100.

T. C. and L. B. Sessions were convicted of assault upon the person of Lon Bowen, of Blaney, and each were sentenced to pay a fine of $75 or three months.

July 11, 1913  Columbia Record (published as The Columbia Record)  Columbia, South Carolina
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