Men on Trial

Jackson’s trial went from April 21 through May 14. The prosecution had 113 witnesses, his defense had 83. The most damning evidence against him was a single witness who claimed Jackson admitted he and Bryan were intimate, and two of the defense’s witnesses were accused of perjury. He was convicted upon the testimony of George H. Jackson, an unrelated cabman who claimed he drove all three to Locke’s field. He took the stand for himself, but was not cross-examined.

George Jackson was a cumbersome witness. He claimed Scott Jackson hired him as a co-driver and he accompanied them into Kentucky on the night of the murder. The fact that he was not cross-examined is oddly telling. Perhaps his testimony wasn’t challenged because it had been coached. Nevertheless, there was no proof of George Jackson’s testimony, and no real merit to his tale.

Contrary to the cabbie’s story, Jackson was an expert horseman who could’ve easily made the journey without a convenient witness. It’s also suspicious the cabman didn’t come forward for weeks, not until newspapers offered the general public reward money for further information on the case. In any case, he couldn’t even identify Walling and Jackson without help.

Walling’s trial lasted from May 26 through June 18. The evidence for his trial was identical to that of Jackson. The most damning evidence against him was the charge that he knew Jackson was going to kill Bryan, but didn’t warn her. In his trial, the state had 62 witnesses and the defense had 40.

Jackson and Walling each endured around 100 merciless police interrogations. No matter how they were beaten, tortured, or questioned, the authorities didn’t learn anything helpful. By the time they were executed, the two had made so many confessions that everyone had lost count.

One of the most unusual aspects of the testimony given in court was the wildly active life that Bryan, Walling, and Jackson allegedly maintained before the murder. Witnesses offered bizarre testimony that placed the trio together everywhere. Some claimed they were together at drugstores and saloons, some saw them just standing on the riverbanks. They were together in the early morning hours and late into the night. Some witnesses claimed Pearl was obviously tortured before she was taken out in public because they saw her moaning in pain. Yet, their refusal to intervene was not worth a death sentence, unlike Walling.

Any evidence that would have helped Jackson or Walling was consistently ruled inadmissible and thrown out. Documents that might support the defense mysteriously vanished before they could be submitted to the court, such as a letter Jackson wrote Woods of how to treat Bryan before and after the procedure. The only fact that emerged with any certainty was the Jackson and Walling were oblivious to whatever happened to Pearl. She was “murdered” that Friday night, although she wasn’t decapitated until after death. The authorities claimed the decapitation of her corpse warranted a charge of murder in the first degree.


The Great Nathoo and other Hoodoo Artists

Drawing of the Great Nathoo's "mystic" board.
Drawing of the Great Nathoo’s “mystic” board.


A number of strange characters took part in the investigation. One of the most celebrated was that of Nathoo, a “high-caste Brahmin and Hindu conjurer.” Nathoo was determined to locate Pearl’s head. He claimed he could not be tainted by a Christian, so he could only have limited interaction before the trip to the field.

Professor Boone was the “World’s Greatest Hypnotist and Mind Reader.” He claimed to put volunteers to sleep for up to 50 hours through hypnosis. He was known for his flamboyant dress, with a silk hat and frock coat that came to his ankles. Boone made the carriage drive that followed Jackson’s alleged route into Kentucky. Unfortunately, Boone was never asked to read the minds of anyone involved with the trial.After much media fanfare and showmanship, the authorities took the mystic to the field where Bryan’s body was found. He set up a few feet from where her body was located. He laid out a robe and brought out his mystic board. He used a yellow powder he called “Huldy.” He eventually completed the ritual and claimed her head had been buried, exhumed, and buried again. He couldn’t state where it was.

Not to be outdone, Palmist and Fortuneteller Carlo Paradau made the same drive blindfolded.




This article series appears in Appalachian Curiosities.
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