Friday, August 15, 2008

Broadhurst attorneys waive right to call witnesses

Editor's Note: Sorry for the long post but it's time to get the rest of this story out there and move on to other things.

In a surprise move, the defense waived its own right to call witnesses, resting its case and starting arguments to the jury Wednesday afternoon, nearly a week sooner than some observers expected.Defense attorneys first waived further cross examination of Alvin Lee Williams. A few minutes later the state rested its case following a short redirect examination of Williams.

Defense attorneys went into a huddle then waived further examination of any other witnesses.

They then appealed to Judge M.A. Biggs for a directed verdict of acquittal on the ground that the state had failed to prove a murder was committed.

Defense Attorney P.J. Gallagher told the court that no evidence of conspiracy had been offered apart from Williams, own testimony which the defense contended showed him to be incompetent, and that Mrs. Broadhurst may have been an accessory after the fact but was not on trial for that offense.

Gallagher added: “It appears from state evidence that there was not a murder by Williams. The most that was shown was an assault by Williams on the doctor, which was terminated when he decided not to go through with the killing. The reason he later killed the doctor was self defense. He inflicted the fatal gunshot wound after he began to fear great bodily harm when the doctor charged him with a jackknife.”

he motion was denied by Judge Biggs and the defense then rested, leaving only the arguments of counsel and instructions by the court before the jury took the case.

DA says Mrs. Broadhurst’s complicity in murder proven “beyond a shadow of a doubt”

Beginning the closing argument for the state, Malheur County District Attorney Charles Swan declared the state had proved Mrs. Broadhurst’s complicity in the murder “beyond the shadow of a doubt” and he asked the jury to impose the death penalty.

Williams was virtually the defendant’s “slave,” Swan charged, adding that she planned, inspired and directed the killing of her wealthy husband. It was her injunction “do not fail me and if you do for God’s sake don’t come back” that kept Williams from losing his nerve and abandoning the ghastly project, the prosecutor declared.

William Langroise delivered the argument for the defense Wednesday afternoon, asserting that there was no direct or indirect evidence of Mrs. Broadhurst’s guilt except Williams’ own testimony. And that, he said, was given with “an axe hanging over his head.”

“What wouldn’t he testify to get what the state through the prosecutors must have promised him?” Langroise asked the jury, renewing the defense charge of a “deal” involving Williams’ testimony, which Williams had denied when asked about it on the stand.

The attorney asked why Williams’ trial was postponed until after Mrs. Broadhurst’s if it was not to force him to testify before his own fate was decided. He could have testified after his own trial and his testimony would have carried some weight, Langroise concluded.

One of four verdicts was possible

The 16-day-old Broadhurst murder case went to the circuit court jury sitting in Vale late in the this afternoon after arguments of state and defense counsel and instructions from Judge M.A. Biggs who presided over the hard fought legal battle.

The jury was instructed that it could return any of four verdicts: 1. Guilty of first degree murder without recommendation, which means death in the lethal gas chamber; 2. Guilty with a recommendation of leniency which means life imprisonment; 3. Guilty of second degree murder also carrying a life sentence and 4. Acquittal.

Special Prosecutor Blaine Halleck completed the state’s closing argument at 3:10 p.m. Thursday. He carefully reviewed the evidence which he said consistently showed a conspiracy between Mrs. Broadhurst and Williams. He answered defense attacks on circumstantial evidence by saying that when a mass of this has been assembled, all pointing in one direction, it is more to be relied upon that direct testimony, which can be false.

Halleck’s only reference to the death penalty that the state is asking for the attractive, several-times-wed defendant came in his closing paragraph in which he quoted the Biblical injunction “whosoever sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed.”

Gladys Broadhurst’s defense attorney argues Williams acted alone

P. J. Gallagher delivered the closing for the defense this forenoon, speaking for more than two hours. He attacked the conspiracy evidence as virtually worthless except for Williams’ testimony, which he charged resulted from a deal between the state’s key witness and the prosecutors who have it in their power to save or exact his life.

Gallagher assailed Williams as “hard, cynical and smart” on the stand, as a “sniveling drug store cowboy and a perjurer who sought to save his life by helping send the woman he married to the gas chamber.” Mrs. Broadhurst listened intently but never flinched at the frequent references to the grim death house at Salem. She was using her handkerchief when Gallagher concluded, however.

Gallagher said Williams committed the crime on his own account so he could acquire Mrs. Broadhurst, that his motives were jealousy, frustration and revenge and at the moment of firing the fatal shot, fear.

A crowded, tense court room heard the arguments but there were no crowds outside seeking admission.

Mrs. Broadhurst sentenced to life in prison

VALE – Mrs. Gladys Broadhurst was sentenced this afternoon to life imprisonment in the Oregon state penitentiary by circuit Judge M. A. Biggs.

“This not a pleasant duty for the court to perform,” Judge Biggs said. “I order that you be confined in the Oregon state penitentiary for your life.”

To an offer by the court to hear her statement, Mrs. Broadhurst replied, “I have no statement to make” in a firm voice. The widow’s eyes were swollen with tears but the managed to smile at a small cluster of spectators as she left the court chambers. The session was brief, consuming only about five minutes’ time.

Mrs. Broadhurst wore a black suit and black off-the-face hat as she heard the sentence imposed.

She will be taken to the state penitentiary at Salem as soon as it is convenient to move her, according to a decision made in a hasty conference after the court adjourned.

The life sentence was made mandatory when the jury found Mrs. Broadhurst guilty of first degree murder but recommended leniency, a verdict that in Oregon automatically forces the court to impose a life sentence.

Jurors were divided over Broadhurst’s punishment

In its story on the sentencing of Gladys Broadhurst, the Ontario Argus said it learned that while all jurors favored a verdict of first degree murder when they began deliberations, they were sharply divided over the punishment.

Five favored the death penalty on the first ballot and seven favored life imprisonment. After further discussion a second ballot showed 11 for life and only one for death. On the third ballot the 12 were unanimous,” the newspaper reported.

Broadhurst trial seen as complicated for its era

The recent murder trial of Mrs. Gladys Broadhurst may have been the most complicated criminal case in the history of the Pacific Northwest, an Argus analysis suggested.Circuit judge M.A. Biggs interpreted the law on scores of issues where his decision might be questioned.

The sixty-four dollar question concerned the defendant’s marital status. Was she actually Broadhurst’s widow or the wife of Lincoln (sic) to whom she was still married when she hitched the doctor but whom she had illegally married only two days after a previous divorce or was she the wife of her alleged hatchet-man, Alvin Lee Williams whom she married in Reno a month before the doctor’s untimely end?

Whose wife she was had a definite bearing on the admissibility of important evidence and while the judge may have figured out the answer, it is doubtful if many listeners did.Other questions involved whether to admit evidence taken without a search warrant; whether an Oregon officer remained an officer after crossing the state line; (and) what was the guilt of a conspirator if a planned crime failed to develop according to plan?

Williams also sentenced to a life term; both released before serving no more than ten years

Four days after the April 1947 sentencing of his accomplice, Alvin Lee Williams plead guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to serve a life term in the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Malheur County District Attorney Charles Swan moved to have the court reduce the charge from first degree to second degree murder in exchange for Williams’ guilty plea.

Williams testified for the prosecution at the Vale trial of Gladys Broadhurst who was convicted of first degree murder in the death of her Willis D. Broadhurst, a retired Caldwell, Idaho, chiropractor killed in the Jordon Valley area of Malheur County Oregon. Williams said he bludgeoned and shot the victim because he was under the thrall of Mrs. Broadhurst, whom testimony indicated coveted her husband’s $200,000 estate.

Judge M. A. Biggs asked Williams if he had a statement to make before the sentencing and Williams responded “no sir.”

Oregon officials have reported subsequently that Mrs. Broadhurst served nine years of her life sentence. Private observers added, in an internet posting, that Williams was seen walking free even before Broadhurst's release although the date of his release was not specified.

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