Steve Gatto
Re: Back to this Inquest jury thing...
Mon Jul 04, 20:39

The Coroner's Jury issued its verdict stating that Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury “died from the effects of pistol and gunshot wounds inflicted by Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp and one Holliday commonly known as Doc Holliday.” However, the verdict failed to address one significant and required detail—whether the killings were done by criminal means or not. This important omission by the Coroner’s Jury investigating the deaths of Billy Clanton and Frank and Tom McLaury was immediately noticed by Tombstone’s residents. The Nugget sarcastically noted the town’s surprise that the coroner’s jury failed to take a position on the already controversial shoot-out:

"Glad to Know

The people of this community are deeply indebted to the twelve intelligent men who composed the coroner’s jury for the valuable information that the three persons who were killed last Wednesday were shot. Some thirty or forty shots were fired, and the whole affair was witnessed by probably a dozen people, and we have a faint recollection of hearing someone say the dead men where shot, but people are liable to be mistaken, and the verdict reassures us. We might have thought they had been stung to death by hornets, and we never could have told whether they were in the way of the lightning or the lightning was in their way."

Had the Coroner's Jury found that the killings were not “excusable or justifiable by law,” or that the deaths had occurred as a result of “criminal means, and the party committing the act” was “not in custody,” the coroner was required to issue a warrant for “the arrest of the person charged.” Arizona Statutes, Chapter IV, Section 12 (1877). Nevertheless, with no coroner’s warrant forthcoming because the verdict did not address the criminality of the killings, Ike Clanton filed a murder complaint against the Earps and Holliday on October 29, 1881.

The Cochise County Grand Jury was empaneled by District Court Judge William Stilwell in late November 1881. The grand jury would have been required to review the case against the Earps and Holliday had Spicer determined following the preliminary hearing that there was sufficient cause to bind them over on the charges. Moreover, the grand jury had the power to review the case against the Earps and Holliday and proceed with an indictment if warranted, despite Spicer’s dismissal.

Nevertheless, since the grand jury was not required to take up the case, they chose to ignore the case entirely. While some argue that the grand jury's inaction seemingly validated Spicer’s decision, in actuality the grand jury’s inaction did not really validate anything because, first and foremost, they were not required to review the case. Secondly, as the Nugget had already predicted, the grand jury would not indict the Earps and Holliday due to the “confessed and well known bias of a number of its members.”

  • Back to this Inquest jury thing...Joyce A. Aros, Mon Jul 04 9:05
    We don't have the results of the Inquest jury, do we? What was their final evaluation of the situation? Did they decide it was murder or accidental, or homicide? And if they voted murder, how could the... more
    • Re: Back to this Inquest jury thing... — Steve Gatto, Mon Jul 04 20:39
      • Quality of the lawyers work in SpicerTom Gaumer, Thu Jul 14 13:43
        Howdy Steve Hearing. How would you assess the quality of the lawyers in the Spicer Hearing? How often when reading the hearing do you ask yourself "Why didn't they ask that? "Why didn't they follow... more
      • Steve, thank you for the clarification...Joyce A. Aros, Tue Jul 05 5:55
        ...I get hung up on things sometimes, and being and old lady, can't always figure out why something is bothering me. It surfaces later on, often. I appreciate how clearly you laid it all out. There... more