Barnum vs. Reddy vs. Putnam
The incident in question. Medford Daily Tribune, January 16, 1908, page 1.
MAYOR IS ATTACKED BY BARNUM
WITH AX FOR FIRE ORDINANCE
President of R.R.V. Railroad Assaults Dr. Reddy, Who Is Forced to Flee to Save Life--Escapes in Mud and Ax Is Hurled at Him--District Attorney Acts.
In the presence of State Railroad Commissioner Oswald West, President W. S. Barnum of the Rogue River Valley Railroad Wednesday morning attacked Mayor J. F. Reddy with an ax, and the city's chief executive only saved his life by fleeing into the muddy street, while his assailant, frenzied with rage, hurled the ax at him, narrowly missing its mark. Bystanders caught and held Barnum, who struggled wildly to free himself. Previous to the assault, J. C. Barnum, son of W. S. Barnum, had attacked Mayor Reddy, but had been put to flight when the mayor swung at him. The mayor refused to cause his assailant's arrest, but Deputy District Attorney Clarence Reames will file an information against the elder Barnum, charging him with assault with a deadly weapon.
New Depot the Cause.Commissioner West came to Medford Tuesday night from Grants Pass, where he has been conducting an inquiry into the Southern Pacific train service. He asked Mayor Reddy to accompany him Wednesday morning while he made a tour of inspection of the local railroad yards. He stopped to ask Mr. Barnum regarding the building of a depot for the accommodation of his patrons in accordance with the orders of the commission some time since. Mr. Barnum said that he was preparing to move his old depot to a site across the track from the new express office on Seventh Street when the city council passed an ordinance placing the railroad right of way in the fire limits, preventing the removal of the old building and erection of anything except a fireproof structure, and this, he swore by all that was holy, he wouldn't do.
"Was the building that you proposed to move an ornamental structure?" asked Commissioner West.
"Yes, indeed; it would have been an ornament to the city. I intended to fix it up fine," replied Mr. Barnum.
"What size is the building?" queried Mr. West.
"About 12 by 14," replied Jacksonville's railroad magnate.
Barnum in a Rage.With this, Mr. Barnum began to curse the city council and city officials for preventing the removal and re-erection of his old structure, working himself into a frenzy of rage.
"I have just returned from a couple of weeks' absence," explained Mayor Reddy, "and I had nothing to do with this fire ordinance. But if I had been here, I would have approved it, as it expresses my sentiments. It ought to have been passed long ago. There is no reason in the world why you should not build a depot that will be a credit both to you and the town. The patronage of your road justifies it, and your patrons are entitled to this much consideration."
Barnum Gets Frantic.With this, Mr. Barnum became frantic. He called the mayor all the names in the calendar. He lost all control of himself, and his features became contorted and twisted in a spasm of passion.
"If you were not an old man, I would wring your neck," exclaimed the mayor, after listening to the torrent of abuse.
With this, J. C. Barnum came running to attack the mayor in his father's behalf. He struck at the mayor. The latter made a terrific pass at the young man, who did not stay to receive it. Before Dr. Reddy could recover his balance the elder Barnum had leapt from the engine cab swinging an ax. He made for the mayor and struck at him with the ax. The mayor dodged and ran into the street, with Barnum striking at him with his weapon. Had Barnum landed a blow, and he certainly tried hard to, he would have split the mayor's head open. When the mayor got beyond him, Barnum hurled the ax at the fleeing executive, narrowly missing him.
Acts Like Maniac.Bystanders grabbed Mr. Barnum and held him. He acted like a maniac, struggling frantically to free himself. The mayor picked up the ax and brought it back to the sidewalk with him. A large crowd quickly gathered. Among them was Councilman Osenbrugge, who as mayor pro tem signed the new fire ordinance. On him Mr. Barnum turned the vials of his wrath, bestowing a choice assortment of epithets.
"I want to congratulate you for your forbearance and coolness under very trying circumstances," said Commissioner West to Mayor Reddy after quiet had been restored. "You certainly behaved admirably."
Friends endeavored to persuade the mayor to swear out a complaint charging Mr. Barnum with assault with a deadly weapon, but the mayor refused to prosecute.
Deputy District Attorney Reames will file a complaint before Justice Stewart this afternoon against Mr. Barnum, charging him with assault with a deadly weapon. He will probably be held to the grand jury, which meets Monday.
Medford Daily Tribune, December 11, 1907, page 1
The Barnum family memory of this incident is that Mr. Barnum, incensed by the mayor's remarks, "waved a hammer" at him.
Telephone interview with Richard Talbot, great-grandson of William S. Barnum, El Sobrante, California, January 2014
BARNUM WAIVES PRELIMINARY;Medford Daily Tribune, December 12, 1907, page 1
IS HELD TO GRAND JURY
W. S. Barnum, president of the Rogue River Valley Railroad, was arrested last evening, charged with assault with a dangerous weapon for attacking Mayor J. F. Reddy with an ax. The warrant was issued by Deputy District Attorney Reames and sworn to before Justice Stewart. The arrest was made by Sheriff Jackson. Mr. Barnum waived preliminary examination and was held to appear before the grand jury, which meets at Jacksonville Monday, under $250 bonds.
ASSAULT ON MAYORMEDFORD, Or., Dec. 11.--(Special.)--W. S. Barnum. president of the Rogue River Valley Railroad, was arrested by Sheriff Jackson tonight at the instance of C. L. Reames, Deputy District Attorney, on a charge of assault with an axe upon Mayor Reddy this morning.
Railroad President Tries to Use an Ax.
DISPUTE OVER THE DEPOT
Mayor Complains Because of No Station--
Railroad Man Retorts Council to Blame--
Son Takes a Hand--Things Get Lively.
State Railroad Commissioner Oswald West was in this city on his official duties, and accompanied by Mayor Reddy was interviewing Mr. Barnum as to when he would have a depot for the comfort of his patrons. Mr. Barnum explained that he was preparing to move the depot formerly used to this present station when the city council passed an ordinance forbidding him to do so on account of the fire limits. Meanwhile, he began his attack upon Mayor Reddy, and the councilmen, on account of the action taken and became very abusive, working himself into a frenzy and calling Reddy vile names. The latter resented this.
John Barnum, son of W. S. Barnum, made an attack upon Dr. Reddy in behalf of his father. Reddy made a pass at the younger Barnum, who hurried away. Meanwhile, Barnum jumped from the engine cab, swinging an axe, from which Dr. Reddy only escaped by fleeing across the muddy street. Bystanders grabbed Mr. Barnum and prevented further danger.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, December 12, 1907, page 14
"AN INTERCHANGE OF CIVILITIES"
Mayor Reddy and President Barnum, of the Rogue River Valley Ry., had a little personal altercation Wednesday morning which might have terminated seriously but for the Mayor's sprinting qualities and the intervention of bystanders. The council, it will be remembered, lately passed an ordinance extending the fire limits, which ordinance seriously interfered with Mr. Barnum's plans for a depot building, and Wednesday morning he and mayor Reddy engaged in conversation over the matter. One word led to another, when Barnum seized an axe and started in the mayor's direction. The latter evinced a sudden desire to leave the neighborhood and started straight across the mudhole known as Seventh Street--which will be paved someday, maybe--to the great detriment of the appearance of his shoes and trouser legs. Mr. Barnum, realizing that he was outclassed as to speed, halted at the edge of the mudhole and threw his weapon in the general direction of his opponent. The weapon struck in the mud a short distance behind Reddy, and thereby added a few additional splotches of mud to his raiment. Then the mayor, fearing that he wasn't as good a "mud horse" as he thought he was, turned and picked up Mr. Barnum's discarded weapon. It was then Barnum's move, but at this juncture bystanders intervened and captured the belligerents and prevented a continuation of the hostilities.
A warrant of arrest was sworn out for Barnum, and on Thursday he gave bonds for his appearance at the next term of the circuit court.
Medford Mail, December 13, 1907, page 1
BARNUM ASSAULT CASE BEFORE GRAND JURY
Witnesses of the attack made on Mayor Reddy by W. S. Barnum, when the latter attacked the former with an ax last week, have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury at Jacksonville today and give evidence.
Medford Daily Tribune, December 16, 1907, page 1
The grand jury was empaneled and in 15 minutes voted three indictments. . . . Witnesses in the assault complaint against W. S. Barnum were heard, but, as Mr. Barnum requested to appear before the grand jury, action was postponed until today.
"Grand Jury Finds Three True Bills," Medford Daily Tribune, December 17, 1907, page 1
Dr. J. F. Reddy and George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, were in town Monday as witnesses before the grand jury in the Barnum-Reddy assault case.
"Jacksonville Items," Medford Daily Tribune, December 17, 1907, page 1
George Putnam published an editorial about the Barnum-Reddy affair in the December 19, 1907 issue. That issue is now lost. An offensive paragraph that precipitated his indictment for libel is reproduced in the newspaper articles below.
AN ASHLAND VIEW OF IT.
States the Ashland Valley Record: The Barnum family, who have for years been the owners of the Jacksonville-Medford railroad, have been considered stone blind, deaf and dumb to the needs and requirements of the service they have been engaged in. They finally woke up on Wednesday of last week. State Railroad Commissioner Oswald West was on the scene to look into the matter of an order made by the railroad commission directing Barnum to have depots where the people would be protected from the weather while waiting on the scheduleless program of the private snap they interrupt and terrify the public with. Barnum was preparing to comply by putting up a shanty about the size and elegance of a doghouse right in the center of Medford, when the city council headed him off by placing the district in the fire limits. Mayor Reddy and councilman Osenbrugge and the railroad commissioner were viewing the scene of this proposed monument when the wrath of young Barnum gave way and he made a lunge at Mayor Reddy, but retired. The elder Barnum jumped out of his engine with an ax, and the mayor adopted the tactics of a once widely discussed political party and took to the middle of the road and barely missed the weapon that Barnum hurled at his head. Barnum was taken in charge by citizens. Deputy District Attorney Clarence Reames arraigned Barnum before Justice Stewart, and Barnum waived examination to appear before the grand jury, giving bail for his appearance.
Medford Daily Tribune, December 20, 1907, page 4
Editor Putnam Indicted.
G. Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, was indicted by the grand jury last Saturday on the charge of criminal libel. Mr. Putnam started to Portland Saturday evening to spend the holidays, and at Roseburg he was taken from the train by a deputy sheriff and thrown into jail, where he was kept until Sunday noon without being given a chance to give bail. The alleged libel was because of criticisms of the grand jury in their action [of] refusing to find an indictment against W. S. Barnum because of his alleged attack on Mayor Reddy with an axe. Mr. Putnam says the arrest is the result of petty spitework and that the case will be fought to a finish.
Central Point Herald, December 20, 1907, page 1
What is Oregon coming to, that its mayors seem perpetually in danger, either of the ax or falling victims to some designing female? It was but a few weeks ago that the chief magistrate of Portland trembled for his good name because of an attempt made upon him by an alleged gang of blackmailers who used a handsome daughter of Eve as a decoy. That was bad enough in all conscience. But the Medford episode is worse and makes us really solicitous for the fame of the state which produces such fine crops of hops, wools, wheat and rain. To think of hurling at a mayor a weapon which has been solemnly consecrated to chicken! It is too much. What, we wonder, does Mayor Harper think of the proceeding? He must thank his lucky stars that his good angel has directed his life in these pleasant southern pastures, where every prospect pleases and no man is vile enough to launch at him a heavy piece of steel which has been carefully trimmed on one end to razor blade symmetry.
On re-perusing the Medford item it is found that the mayor ducked his head as the ax was aimed at him, and then turned and fled for his life. Now, gently, and with all due deference, we put the question to Oregon: "Is this the way to treat a mayor? We know that it is the bounden duty of the true American to make the life of the mayor of his town as unbearable as possible in order that he may be encouraged to run again, but we had fondly imagined that all respectable citizens drew the line at an ax. No man can be expected to maintain that dignity of manner and calm poise which we associate with the chief magistrate, when he is fleeing down a back alley in a violent effort to outrace an ax. We sincerely hope that Oregon always will remain woolly, but it need not stay wild. It must separate its goats from its sheep.--Los Angeles Times.
Jacksonville Post, December 21, 1907, page 7
The grand jury failed to find a true bill against W. S. Barnum for assaulting Mayor Reddy with an ax.
"Circuit Court in Session," Jacksonville Post, December 21, 1907, page 7
IS RAILROADED TO JAIL
TRIBUNE EDITOR ARRESTED AND RUSHED TO PRISON
ON LIBEL INDICTMENT
Given No Chance to Secure Bail and Not Told What Arrest Was for
But Compelled to Spend Night in Jail--Offended Grand Jury--
Was Denied Communication with Friends.
ROSEBURG, Or., Dec. 23.--George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, was arrested at midnight Saturday night on the northbound train at Roseburg on a charge of libel and taken to the county jail of Douglas County and held a prisoner until the arrival of Deputy Sheriff D. B. Grant from Jacksonville Saturday afternoon, when bail in the sum of $300 was arranged.
Putnam had been indicted Saturday afternoon by the Jackson County grand jury before he had left Medford for Portland, where he was to spend the Christmas holidays with his mother, but he was not notified. The sheriff waited until he was on his way, so he would have to spend the night in jail.
The indictment was the result of a criticism of the grand jury by The Tribune last week, when District Attorney Clarence L. Reames and the grand jurors failed to indict President W. S. Barnum of the Rogue River Valley Railway Company for attempting to kill Mayor J. F. Reddy with an ax.
Omitted Bail Clause.In the phone order of arrest nothing was said by Sheriff Jackson as to release on bail. Mr. Putnam could not find out what he was arrested for and could not get word to his friends or telegraph, because the deputy who made the arrest refused such courtesies. He was obliged to remain in jail until near noon the next day, when Sheriff McClallen received a wire from Sheriff Jackson stating that Putnam could be released upon $300 bond.
Sheriff McClallen notified W. L. Wimberly, editor of the Roseburg Review, an old friend of Mr. Putnam's, of the latter's predicament. He at once volunteered to go on the bond. Senator A. C. Marsters also volunteered bail. The news had reached Medford and Portland, and offers of assistance were received from each place.
Bail Is Arranged.On the arrival of Deputy Sheriff Grand the bail was arranged.
"My imprisonment was an outrage. Bail money would have been furnished just as quickly last night as today," said Mr. Putnam, "if I had only been given a chance, but I wasn't.
"I am sure I don't know who I libeled. Perhaps some people hear the truth so rarely that it sounds like a libel. It looks like petty spitework to me."
Mr. Putnam left last night to spend Christmas in Portland.
Medford Daily Tribune, December 23, 1907, page 1
A NIGHT IN PRISON AND HOW IT FEELS
TO LIVE WITH THE JAILBIRDS
George Putnam Writes of Experience in Douglas County Bastille--Had to Sit Up All Night--
How the Prisoners Live in a Twilight Gloom. Rats for his Companions.
By George Putnam
I am awakened at midnight from the first deep slumber. The Pullman conductor with a lantern is peering into my face.
"Is this Mr. Putnam?"
"Then consider yourself under arrest. I am the deputy sheriff of Douglas County. Hurry up and dress," says a tall young man wearing a star.
"What am I arrested for?" I ask.
"On telephone request from the sheriff of Jackson County. Perjury, I think. A grand jury indictment."
Then I remembered that I had heard threats of indictment for having dared to criticize a grand jury and a deputy district attorney on some trumped-charge or other.
"Is it necessary for me to spend the night in jail? Can't I go to a hotel. I will pay for a deputy to stand guard and sleep with handcuffs," I urged. "I have friends in Roseburg who will vouch for me and go bail if necessary."
But it is in vain. The jail for me. I am even refused permit to send a telegram.
I Become a Jailbird.Going into the sheriff's office, my coat, grip and umbrella are deposited. We cross to the jail. The double steel doors are noisily unlocked and clank and groan ominously as I enter.
"There is plenty of wood to keep the fire going and plenty of company. I will phone Sheriff Jackson of your arrest and see if he will let you out on bail," said my jailer, departing after the great doors are shut and bolted. But he does not return.
The jail is not inviting. The air is foul. There is no ventilation. The floor is cement. The walls, ceiling and subceiling and partitions are steel strips with three-inch-square openings between. At one end of what might be stated the reception room is a dilapidated table loaded with odds and ends of food, the remnants of the prisoners' supper. On another table is a pile of old papers and a greasy bunch of cards. A rough homemade bracket juts from the wall, laden with a miscellaneous assortment of rubbish. On the floor is a pile of old magazines.
I Become Acquainted.Several dilapidated chairs surround the table. In one corner of the room is a bed, on which a mere boy is sleeping. Two broken-off chairs and two logs of wood answer as legs. On strings behind the stove hang the prisoners' underclothes, newly washed and drying.
"Hullo, partner," exclaims a man of 40 who emerges from one of the cells clad only in a flannel shirt, which flops against his bare legs. "Got any tobacco?"
Another prisoner, a mere boy, enters. Both are held as suspects in burglary cases. "There are seven of us here, eight with you," says the older. "All the beds are full, but you can use mine if you want and I will take the table. My bunk's not very clean; they are all inhabited [by vermin]."
Rats for Company.I thank my fellow jailbirds, but decline their courtesy, and they retire for the night. I build up the fire and try to read the two- and three-year-old magazines, but the light is too dim. A huge rat comes out to keep me company. I watch him as he runs back and forth on the floor and over the prisoners' unsanitary bunks, greed shining in his little beady eyes.
It is a dismal night, but my thoughts are tropical enough. The drone of the steady downpour outside is interrupted only by the creaks of the sheet iron floor as the prisoners turn uneasily in their slumbers. The night seems endless. Another rat joins the first, and then another, but they scamper when I move.
Twilight Marks the Day.Finally the darkness wears gradually away, and the twilight that answers for daylight creeps slowly in. The rats have gone, and only the filth and squalor and misery that a boasted civilization reserves for its unfortunates shows in the gray dawn of a Sabbath day, to usher in elsewhere the merry Christmas season. But there is no Christmas joy here.
At 8:15 o'clock it is still dark, but the electric light goes out. At 9 o'clock the prisoners awake and make their dreary toilets. At 10 o'clock Sheriff McClallen comes with the breakfast basket. Two meals a day only are served prisoners. Biscuits, fried potatoes and meat comprise the menu, with coffee. We eat on tin plates. There is one fork and three teaspoons and no knives for the eight of us. Then the prisoners clean house as best they can in the dark. At noon it is still too dark to see to read a paper. The prisoners tell me their stories.
A Friend in Need.The sheriff appears. The doors swing open with their customary clatter. My name is called. I find with the sheriff an old friend--L. Wimberly, editor of the Roseburg Review. The sheriff has just received a telegram authorizing my release on bonds. Mr. Wimberly offers to go upon the bond. Medford friends phone other friends to go, and my day in prison ends. On the afternoon train comes Deputy Sheriff Grant of Jackson County and bail is arranged.
Meanwhile, offers of help are phoned from Portland and other places where the news has spread.
"A friend in need is a friend indeed." I shall always feel grateful to those who proved themselves friends in need.
Medford Daily Tribune, December 23, 1907, page 1
TO TRIBUNE READERS.
Roseburg, Dec. 22.--I am just out of jail, where I was railroaded without being given a chance to secure bail. I know as yet no details of the libel I am alleged to have committed. I do know that my imprisonment was an outrage, apparently designed to subject me to unnecessary humiliation.
It suited those who have trumped up this charge to haul me from my berth in a Pullman, and by refusing me communication with friends, to lock me up with criminals in a vermin-infested, overcrowded prison to sit awaiting the slow coming of the dawn, and outside aid.
I do not know enough concerning my indictment to discuss it. It is said to be because I had the courage to dare to criticize Deputy District Attorney Reames and the grand jury for their failure to indict a man for trying to kill another, so failing to perform the duties of their offices.
If this is the case, since when have public officials been immune from criticism? I have nothing to retract. A free press as much as free speech is the heritage of all Americans. It is the greatest force in the land to turn the light on dark spots in the careers of those elected as servants of the people--servants, not masters--who betray their sacred trusts.
Perhaps I entertain obsolete notions regarding prosecutors and grand juries. Punishing criminals and not gratifying judges seems to me the work laid out for them--not prostituting the machinery of justice to avenge personal grievances.
It has fallen upon The Tribune to make anew the fight for a free press in southern Oregon; the responsibility is accepted, and "damned be he who first cries: hold! enough."
Medford Daily Tribune, December 23, 1907, page 4
ROSEBURG, Or., Dec. 22.--(Special.)--George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, and formerly news editor of the Portland Journal, was arrested here last night at the request of the Sheriff of Jackson County and forced to spend the night and part of today in jail before he could secure bonds for his release.
EDITOR IN TROUBLE
George Putnam, of Medford Tribune, Arrested.
SPENDS NIGHT IN JAIL
Ex-Representative Vawter Comes to Relief Next Day and Goes on His Bond--
Action Said to Be Libelous Articles in' the Paper.
Putman was on his way to Portland to spend the .holidays, and was passing through here on train No. 16.
It is said he is wanted in Medford on a charge of contempt of court. The arrest is the result of two articles appearing in the Tribune of last Thursday, December 19, in which the grand jury and district attorney were liberally grilled because they failed to indict W. S. Barnum, president of the Rogue River Valley Railway Company, for assault upon the person of the mayor of Medford. As a matter of fact, it is said, the grand jury had not passed upon the case. An indictment against Putnam is said to have been returned by the grand jury yesterday.
After his arrest he was taken to the county jail, where he passed the night. It was late this afternoon when W. I. Vawter, ex-Representative of Jackson County, came to the rescue of the editor, and with one of the banks effected his release by going on his bond.
Putnam was let out of jail and took the night train for Portland.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, December 23, 1907, page 3
THE LIBEL INDICTMENT.
The editor of The Tribune is at his desk once more, ready to meet his accusers and answer all accusations, to fight for his own rights and the rights of The Tribune and for the rights of the public. This is not Russia, and the district attorney and sheriff not czars. They may railroad a man to jail overnight for lese majeste, but it [is] up to a jury of citizens to say whether he stays there or not.
The indictment brought against the editor of The Tribune by the grand jury reads as follows. Whether or not it is libelous is left for the reader to determine:
"George Putnam is accused by the grand jury for the county of Jackson, state of Oregon, by the indictment of the crime of libel, committed as follows, to wit: That the said George Putnam on, to wit, the 19th day of December, 1907, in the county of Jackson, state of Oregon, then and there being, did and there willfully publish by means other than words orally spoken, to wit, by printed matter, in a newspaper called the Medford Daily Tribune, and then and there of general circulation in said county, the following false and scandalous matter of and concerning Wallace Woods, Joel Hartley, J. R. Robison, C. H. Vaupel, Adam Schmidt, T. E. Pottenger and J. L. Garvin, then and there composing and constituting the grand jury for said county, and Clarence L. Reames, then and there a deputy prosecuting attorney representing the state of Oregon in said matters before said grand jury, to wit: 'The grand jury is composed of the following men: Wallace Woods, J. R. Robison, C. H. Vaupel, Adam Schmidt, T. E. Pottenger, J. L. Garvin. it took them just 15 minutes to indict a friendless horse thief, a poor old woman and a penniless forger. They spent three days on the Barnum case and then justified the murderous assault. Deputy District Attorney Reames is a most relentless prosecutor, when a man drops a nickel in the slot machine or takes a drink on Sunday, or a poor fallen creature is caught sinning. Such heinous crimes must be punished; they are dangerous at once to life and limb. But anyone can try to brain a man with an ax and secure immunity from the blindfolded representatives of justice." That said publication was made with the intention to injure and defame said Wallace Woods, Joel Hartley, J. R. Robison, C. H. Vaupel, Adam Schmidt, T. E. Pottenger, J. L. Garvin, composing said grand jury, and said Clarence L. Reames, deputy prosecuting attorney, and that said matter so printed is false and untrue. That the words 'Deputy District Attorney Reames' in said publication were intended to and referred to said Clarence L. Reames, as deputy prosecuting attorney, and the said false and scandalous matter was published of and concerning all of said parties by said George Putnam with the intent to injure and defame each thereof; contrary to the statutes made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the state of Oregon."
Medford Daily Tribune, December 26, 1907, page 2
THE PORTLAND JOURNAL DENOUNCES THE OUTRAGE.
The arrest and imprisonment of George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, appears to have been a most high-handed and inexcusable abuse of the machinery of the law. Putnam criticized the assistant district attorney and the grand jury for their failure to indict a man who had been guilty of a murderous assault. The criticism appears to have been fully justified. The officials thus criticized retaliated by arresting Putnam when he was on his way to Portland to spend Christmas with his mother, and he was thrown into jail at Roseburg. Unless we are greatly mistaken, those responsible for the outrage will dearly repent it. Putnam is an experienced newspaper man, knows his rights and never backs down in a fight.--Portland Journal, December 22.
Medford Daily Tribune, December 26, 1907, page 4
The grand jury before adjourning last Saturday evening found an indictment against George Putnam, editor of the Tribune-Southern Oregonian, for libel. The libel complained of being in an article published in the Tribune severely criticizing the action of the grand jury in failing to indict W. S. Barnum for an assault upon J. F. Reddy.
A bench warrant was issued, but before it could be served Putnam left for Portland to spend Christmas. The Roseburg officers were communicated with, and he was arrested at that place and held until the following afternoon, when he was released on bail and proceeded on his journey.
He returned to Medford Thursday. The case will come up before the circuit court in January.
Medford Mail, December 27, 1907, page 1
W. S. Barnum was held by a committing magistrate to await the action of our body, charged with having committed an assault with a dangerous weapon upon the person of the mayor of the city of Medford. The prominence of the parties involved and the public interest taken in the matter, we think, requires us to report to the court concerning it in addition to our formal action of returning a not true bill. We heard the testimony of the complaining witness and of all other persons whom we could ascertain were competent witnesses in regard to the matter and were accessible. We heard no evidence of any parties except those who were eyewitnesses to the occurrence. In our opinion the large preponderance of the evidence showed conclusively that no crime had been committed by the defendant and that he neither did nor performed the acts complained of and concerning which witnesses upon the part of those seeking an indictment testified.
"Report of the Grand Jury," Medford Mail, December 27, 1907, page 1
PUTNAM CASE IS IN HANDS OF THE JURY
Argument Closed at Noon--After Instructions by Judge Jury Retired at 1:30 P.M.
Judge Hanna's ruling yesterday in the Putnam libel case at Jacksonville practically shut out all material evidence for the defendant, by denying him the statutory right to prove the truth of his alleged libelous article, after he had testified as to the proper motive for publication. Putnam is accused of criminally libeling the grand jury and Deputy District Attorney Clarence L. Reames by criticizing them for their failure to indict President W. S. Barnum of the Rogue River Valley Railroad for assaulting mayor J. F. Reddy of Medford with an ax. He sought to justify his criticism by proving the truth of his assertion and summoned many witnesses of the Barnum assault. None of them were placed on the stand and asked questions in order to secure the basis of an appeal. But little evidence went before the jury.
Reames' Contention.District Attorney A. E. Reames opened the case for the state. He contended that the words in the alleged libelous article, "but anyone can try to brain a man with an ax and secure immunity from the blindfolded representatives of justice" meant that anyone could commit a felony and bribe his way to freedom from grand jury and district attorney. W. I. Vawter, attorney for the defendant, denied that any such assertion or imputation was contained in the article. Here Judge Hanna ruled that the facts of the Barnum assault upon Mayor Reddy could not be gone into by the defense, but that the grand jury's conclusions must be accepted as final. As it was proposed to prove the facts of the assault as alleged in the article, showing that the grand jury had reached the wrong conclusion, the entire defense was shattered.
Grand Jurors Testified.Members of the grand jury testified as to having investigated the Barnum assault, and considering all the evidence possible to obtain. All stated that no attempt was made to bribe or unduly influence them. Mr. Pettinger admitted that he knew that Lewis Ulrich saw the assault, but he had made no effort to bring him before the grand jury. The other members did not know that Ulrich had seen the assault, but knew that State Railroad Commissioner West had.
Deputy District Attorney Reames stated that he had summoned all the witnesses of the assault he had heard of and had wired Mr. West, but had received no reply. No undue influence had been brought to bear upon him, either.
Defendant on Stand.Putnam, the defendant, stated that he had written the alleged libelous article, because he considered the jury's act in exonerating Barnum for his attack upon Reddy an outrage to justice. He had seen the assault, which was unprovoked, and had no personal hatred or malice against any of the grand jurors or against Clarence L. Reames. He only knew one of the jurors, and him but slightly, and had only met Reames the night before the assault. The defendant was not allowed by the court to talk further about the assault, the court holding that the grand jury's findings were conclusive and could not be questioned.
State Railroad Commissioner West of Salem stated he had witnessed the assault and had volunteered to go before the grand jury, as he was anxious to see an indictment returned. He waited until the morning that the grand jury met to hear from Mr. Reames, but not hearing, left for Eastern Oregon. He had never received the message alleged to have been sent by Mr. Reames. Mr. West was not permitted by the court to tell about the assault..
Ulrich Told Reames.Lewis Ulrich, a well-known merchant of Jacksonville, also witnessed the Barnum assault, but was not permitted to tell about it. He had told Clarence Reames about it the day it happened, but had not been summoned before the grand jury. He stated the time and place of giving the information.
Mayor Reddy was placed on the stand, but not allowed to tell of the Barnum assault. He had been before the grand jury, but did not think they had made much of an investigation, as many witnesses informed him that they had seen the attack, but had not been before the grand jury.
Fritz Hennies, the Medford brewer, was also a witness of the assault, but was not allowed to tell about it. He had not been asked to go before the grand jury.
Closing arguments were made this morning. The jury, as finally selected, was as follows:
List of Jury.George Hoffman, Applegate
A. B. Chapman, Barron.
W. A. Patrick, Ashland.
J. C. Wilson, Central Point.
S. F. Hathaway, Central Point.
C. M. Parker, North Medford.
George L. Davis, Jacksonville.
F. W. Amy, Central Point.
S. L. Bennett, Medford.
Isaac Merriman, North Medford.
John Bellinger, North Jacksonville.
Nick Kime, Griffin Creek.
The following talesmen were examined and excused:
C. H. Bayse, Jacksonville.
J. L. Williams, Ashland.
A. C. Allen, West Medford.
J. F. Ritter, Medford.
Ed Wilkinson, Medford.
Jason Hartman, Medford.
Medford Daily Tribune, January 11, 1908, page 1
PUTNAM CONVICTED OF CRIMINAL LIBEL--
FINED $150; WILL APPEAL CASE
Jury Returns Verdict of Guilty After Three Hours' Deliberation--
Case Will Go to Supreme Court--Instructions of Court Favor Prosecution.
CHRONOLOGY OF CASE.
Dec. 11--W. S. Barnum assaults Mayor Reddy with an ax.
Dec. 16--Grand jury begins investigation of assault.
Dec. 18--Grand jury exonerates Barnum by voting a not-true bill.
Dec. 19--Grand jury is criticized for failure to indict Barnum in Tribune editorial.
Dec. 21--Editor Putnam is indicted by the grand jury. Is pulled from his berth in a Pullman at midnight at Roseburg, denied communication with friends and thrown into jail.
Dec. 22--Putnam is released on $300 cash bail.
Jan. 6--Motion to quash indictment denied by Judge Hanna.
Jan. 7--Demurrer to indictment overruled.
Jan. 9--Selection of trial jury begun.
Jan. 10--Judge Hanna rules out all evidence regarding Barnum assault.
Jan. 11--Jury, after three hours' deliberation, returns verdict of guilty. Putnam waives statutory time, asks immediate sentence and is fined $150. His attorneys file notice of appeal.
George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, was found guilty of having criminally libeled the grand jury and Deputy District Attorney Clarence L. Reames by a jury in Circuit Judge Hanna's court Saturday afternoon. The jury was out three hours before returning a verdict. The defendant waived his statutory time, asked immediate sentence and was fined $150. He at once filed notice of appeal.
Closing arguments began in the case Saturday morning. District Attorney Reames opened and closed for the state. Attorneys Robert G. Smith and E. E. Kelly made the closing arguments for the defendant. At the afternoon session Judge Hanna read his instructions to the jury which, with his previous rules, practically instructed for a verdict of guilty, and at 1:30 o'clock the jury retired, coming in about 4 o'clock with the verdict of guilty.
Origin of Libel Case.Putnam was indicted by the grand jury last month for criminal libel in having criticized the district attorney and grand jury for failing to return an indictment against President W. S. Barnum of the Rogue River Railroad for trying to brain Mayor J. F. Reddy of Medford with an ax.
The alleged libelous article was:
"The grand jury is composed of the following men: Wallace Woods, J. R. Robison, C. H. Vaupel, Adam Schmidt, T. E. Pottenger, J. L. Garvin. it took them just 15 minutes to indict a friendless horse thief, a poor old woman and a penniless forger. They spent three days on the Barnum case and then justified the murderous assault. Deputy District Attorney Reames is a most relentless prosecutor, when a man drops a nickel in the slot machine or takes a drink on Sunday, or a poor fallen creature is caught sinning. Such heinous crimes must be punished; they are dangerous at once to life and limb. But anyone can try to brain a man with an ax and secure immunity from the blindfolded representatives of justice."
The defendant sought to prove the truth of the article under the statute which permits the truth to be pled as justification, by proving by witnesses that a person had tried to brain a man with an ax and had secured immunity from prosecution at the hands of the authorities, but the court refused to permit any testimony regarding the assault.
The following instructions given by the court to the jury indicate the theory of the law under which the exclusion was made:
"You have nothing to do with what transpired between W. S. Barnum and Dr. Reddy on December 11, 1907, when it is claimed that Barnum assaulted Reddy. The fact of whether or not Barnum was guilty of any assault was a fact to be determined by the grand jury. They are presumed by law to have determined the matter rightly."
The defendant announced that the case would be carried to the supreme court.
Putnam was ably defended by attorneys W. I. Vawter, Robert G. Smith and E. E. Kelly. The prosecution was conducted by district attorney A. E. Reames.
Medford Daily Tribune, January 13, 1908, page 1
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.
The conviction of the editor of the Tribune and his fine of $150 upon a charge of criminally libeling the grand jury and deputy prosecuting attorney C. L. Reames will in no matter deter this paper in its duty to the public in criticizing the misconduct of public officials in the future.
Our personal interests in the outcome of this trial preclude any criticism on our part of the conduct or motives of the prosecution. It has always been and will remain the policy of this paper to treat all matters from an impersonal and unprejudiced standpoint, and we will therefore leave it to the unprejudiced press of the state as to whether justice has been properly administered, without malice and vindictiveness.
"In morals, as in medicine, there is no antiseptic like the sunlight of Almighty God." We regard the criticism of official acts as one of the highest duties which a newspaper owes to mankind. It is always an obnoxious and invidious task to disclose to the public the misconduct or neglect of its servants in their official duties. If it is not done fearlessly, it cannot be done effectively, and it is not from editors trembling under the uplifted scourge of the prosecuting attorney that the public may expect a fulfillment of the highest function of a newspaper.
However, this paper proposes to turn on the light whenever or wherever there is a malfeasance in office, and neither jail nor fine will swerve it from its course.
While this may be a new theory in Southern Oregon as to the function and duty of a newspaper, it is not a new theory in the state of Oregon or in the United States, and though the court may place grand juries upon a higher pedestal than was ever occupied by European tyrant or Asiatic potentate and surround them with that ancient and obsolete prerogative of infallibility, any dereliction on the part of grand juries will be promptly and severely criticized by the columns of this paper.
The freedom of the press is the freedom of the people, and the greatest safeguard of their rights. No government can circumscribe the liberty of the press without dismantling public spirit. Every attempt to elevate public officials above the fair criticisms of the press is a blow at the freedom of the people.
The father of American democracy said many years ago that eternal vigilance is the price of human liberty. The vigilance of the press is the vigilance of the people.
Medford Daily Tribune, January 13, 1908, page 2
THE CASE OF PUTNAM
The Portland Oregonian of January 12, [section 3, page 6,] under the above caption, says editorially:
"We have just closed a week notable chiefly for its various and extraordinary legal decisions. Judge Hanna, of the circuit court for Jackson County, adds his portion to the astonishing records by denying a Southern Oregon editor the right to plead the truth in a case for criminal libel. One Putnam, a Medford editor, had harshly criticized the grand jury and prosecuting attorney of Jackson County for their failure to return an indictment in an assault case at Medford. The prosecuting attorney caused Putnam's arrest and subsequent trial for criminal libel. Putnam endeavored to show that his criticisms were justified by introducing testimony of witnesses who saw the assault. The judge denied him the right in face of this plain provision of the Oregon statute:
"Section 2170--In all criminal prosecutions for libel the truth may be given in evidence, and if it shall appear to the court that the matter charged is libelous is true and was published with good motives and justifiable ends, the defendant must be found not guilty.
"There would seem to be no way of avoiding the plain meaning of the law, but Judge Hanna seems to have found a way. The Oregonian does not know much about the merits of the strictures passed by the Medford editor. Very likely they were not warranted. But the Oregonian does know, if the reports from Jacksonville as to the procedure in Judge Hanna's court are correct--that there has been here a most surprising invasion of the liberty of the press and an unjustifiable denial of Putnam's elementary rights before the law as a citizen. This decision means that a newspaper has no right to criticize a grand jury or a court. This is absurd and cannot stand any test of history or experience or judicial precedent. If it shall be said--as we suspect it may be--that Putnam erred in assailing the grand jury while the assault case was pending, and was therefore in contempt, whatever the fact as to the assault, it is pertinent to inquire why he was prosecuted for libel and not for contempt of court.
"Possibly it is too much to hope for, but we should really like to have from Judge Hanna an explanation of his remarkable decision; or we should like to be corrected if our understanding as to what the decision is is not correct."
Medford Daily Tribune, January 13, 1908, page 2
REAMES' IDEA OF AN EDITOR.
District Attorney Reames, in prosecuting the libel case wherein George Putnam was accused of printing scandalous and defamatory matter of and concerning his brother and others, delivered the following remarkable diatribe upon editors in general:
"A man with a pail of lampblack, a hatful of old type, a shoe brush and a thimbleful of brains," which was intended and probably does represent the Reames idea of an editor.
This eloquent and expressive bit of diatribe did not originate in the fertile brain of the distinguished prosecutor. Mr. Reames made use of the above quotation before a jury, while acting in the high office of district attorney and at a time when the defendant was on trial because of the publication of alleged scandalous matter.
Mr. Reames' objection to the alleged libelous publication was that it held certain persons up to ridicule and public hatred, and while occupying this high moral plane he himself, it appears, was not above holding the defendant up to the scorn and ridicule of all his hearers. The rules of procedure denied the defendant the right of answering or defending [against] the vituperative abuse of the district attorney.
We have never known a respectable newspaper to resort to such vilification under any circumstances, and the columns of the newspaper are always open to the persons who have been criticized that they may vindicate themselves.
Medford Daily Tribune, January 13, 1908, page 2
CHANCE FOR A FINE.
The Portland Journal of January 12 says editorially:
"Judge Hanna, holding court in Jackson County, has held that editor Putnam of the Medford Tribune cannot introduce any evidence proving the truth of his statements alleged to be libelous. Putnam proposed to show that in what he published he was not actuated by any malice, and stated only the exact truth; this the judge holds he cannot do. At the risk of being held in contempt of court, and itself libelous, The Journal will remark that this is neither justice nor common sense, and we are pretty sure it is not law."
Medford Daily Tribune, January 13, 1908, page 2
The Putnam Case.
G. Putnam of the Medford Tribune, on trial last week at Jacksonville for alleged criminal libel in having criticized the grand jury and deputy district attorney Reames for their failure to indict W. S. Barnum for an alleged attack on Dr. Reddy with an ax, was found guilty by the jury and fined $150 by Judge Hanna. Putnam endeavored to show by witnesses that the assault alleged in the complaint against Barnum was actually committed and that the grand jury should in justice have indicted him and that therefore the Tribune article was not libelous. This, under a plain provision of the statute, he claimed a perfect right to do, but Judge Hanna practically set aside the statute and would not permit any evidence from the defense.
Under this decision, any newspaper having the temerity to attack, expose and criticize wrongdoing of any kind will be liable to arrest and punishment, because it will not be permitted to prove the truth of the charges.
Putnam's trouble probably dates back from the time he criticized the sheriff and district attorney last summer when they closed the saloons on Sunday and put the slot machines out of business, and while he was no doubt in the wrong at that time, his being railroaded to jail and denied apparent statutory rights since then savors something of petty spite and peanut politics.
Has Jackson County a political dynasty which no newspaper dare question? The Putnam case is an attempt to throttle the freedom of the press, but if we are to judge from comment from all parts of the state, the people of Oregon will not "stand for it."
Central Point Herald, January 16, 1908, page 1
DEFENDS JUDGE HANNAGRANTS PASS, Or., Jan. 24.--(To the Editor.)--Residents of other states, when they have read the sensational and misleading press reports that have been sent out from Medford, the fierce criticisms of many of the newspapers of the state and the wailing yet bellicose resolutions of the Press Club and the Ad Men's Association of Portland, will be led to believe that the liberty of the press is a thing of the past in Oregon, since editor Putnam, of the Medford Tribune, was convicted in the Circuit Court and fined by Judge Hanna for criminal libel. And all this stigma on the standing of a state, the classing of the people of Rogue River Valley as ruffians and the traducing of Judge H. K. Hanna, has been brought about by the vanity of a young reporter from Portland, who, being put in as editor of a small daily paper at Medford, assumed to dictate in all things, from minor local matters to how the courts should be conducted.
GRANTS PASS WRITER BLAMES EDITOR PUTNAM.
Says Criticism of Non-Indictment of Barnum Was Violent and unjustified.
That Judge Hanna would abuse his authority as Circuit Judge and attempt to muzzle the press is not believed at all by those who have known him in the 22 years that he has presided over the Circuit Court for the First District. In all his rulings and in his instructions to juries, Judge Hanna has shown himself to be just and conscientious and thoroughly posted on the law, and his decisions have all been held to be eminently fair and in no instance oppressive on the rights of even the most humble and friendless person. With the Oregon laws on libel as liberal to the newspapers as they are, and the certainty that the Supreme Court would reverse his decision, it is not to be presumed that he would knowingly commit the act of which he is accused by the Medford editor. That he was lenient to the defendant, Putnam, and did not manifest vindictiveness, as asserted by the latter, is shown by the light punishment he imposed--only $150 and no imprisonment. The statutes of this state provide for both fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court, for criminal libel, with the minimum fine placed at $100.
The grand jury that found the indictment against editor Putnam was composed of seven of the leading citizens of Jackson County, two of them being business men of Medford, two of Ashland, one of Jacksonville and the other two well-known farmers of that county. The two grand jurymen from Medford personally knew Mr. Putnam and the animus of his charges and voted for his indictment--so it is reported, the verdict being unanimous. The trial jury that found him guilty of criminal libel was composed of 12 men, all of good standing in their respective communities in Jackson County. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney C. L. Reames was known to have no personal interest or prejudice in the Reddy-Barnum-Putnam controversy and prosecuted the case against the offending editor as required by the statutes of Oregon, which says "That the prosecuting attorney shall enforce the provisions of this act, whether the injured party desires to prosecute or not." This section of the statutes is also mandatory upon the judge, for it says: "That it hereby is made the duty of the judge of each judicial district to read this section or the statutes to the grand jury at each session of the court."
That the charges made by the young editor of being persecuted is not believed here, where both sides of the case are known, is proven by the fact that of the 18 newspapers published in Southern Oregon, only the Medford Tribune, edited by the defendant, has censured the Court. All the other editors, as well as the leading attorneys and citizens of Southern Oregon, commend the action of the court and agree that the verdict is just and fully deserved and that it is a most salutary check upon the yellow journal methods of the Medford Tribune.
The unusual feature connected with this now famous case of alleged press-gagging--for it has been heralded all over the country by Oregon papers and the Associated Press--is that the defendant, himself, should be the correspondent to supply the Portland papers with the reports of the Reddy-Barnum fracas and of his comments thereon and of his arrest and conviction. Having an elastic conscience, he so colored his reports from both Medford and Jacksonville, for he used both datelines, that the public has been led to believe that he was in the right and that he is being persecuted. A parallel case of the public passing adverse judgment on the action of a court would no doubt have occurred had Abe Ruef sent out the press reports from San Francisco concerning his misdeeds and arrest. That astute politician would have led the world to believe that he and his crowd were being persecuted, and that Judge Dunne was a tyrant and Mr. Heney a merciless, unscrupulous prosecutor. Had the Portland papers had an unbiased account of this Jackson County affair, there would have been no uproar about the tyranny of Judge Hanna and the undue rigor of the Oregon libel laws.
The causes that led up to the closing of the dictatorial career of the young Medford editor are many. The first was an effort on the part of Dr. Reddy and others to purchase the Medford & Jacksonville Railroad, of which W. S. Barnum is owner. A disagreement took place between Dr. Reddy and Mr. Barnum over the sale and over an application that Mr. Barnum had made to the City Council of Medford to move his depot, Dr. Reddy being Mayor of Medford. A street fracas between the two was the consequence, and this gave occasion to the cartoons in the papers of an ax not being a deadly weapon. Dr. Reddy's remarks becoming too pointed to suit Mr. Barnum, and accepting a dare, the latter climbed down from his locomotive, on which he was splitting wood, with an ax in his hand. At that the doctor fled precipitately across the street. The railroad man had but two steps to make to reach the curb, but there he stopped, the deep mud in the street deterring him from further pursuit, and tossed his ax at the fleeing man, it landing in the middle of the street as the doctor was emerging on the other side.
Charges were preferred before the grand jury, then in session at Jacksonville, accusing Mr. Barnum with assault and with using a deadly weapon. The grand jury examined all the witnesses of which they had knowledge, who had seen the fracas, among them being Mr. Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune. A full and fair hearing was given, the case occupying three days, when the grand jury arrived at the conclusion that the alleged murderous assault was merely a street fracas with no intent on the part of the defendant to do bodily harm, and returned not a true bill. To this action on the part of the grand jury editor Putnam took exception, and he fiercely criticized the grand jury and the deputy prosecuting attorney. For this, the grand jury, which was yet in session, promptly indicted the young editor for criminal libel. His trial took place within a few days in the Circuit Court. Judge Hanna allowed Mr. Putnam every advantage permitted by law in the trial, and in his charge to the trial jury the judge was extremely fair and impartial. In his defense Mr. Putnam was allowed to testify in his own behalf, and stated that he witnessed the fracas between Dr. Reddy and Mr. Barnum and that it was murderous and an outrage and that in his opinion the grand jury was wrong in finding not a true bill in the matter. He then sought to introduce other witnesses, whom he claimed were eyewitnesses to the fracas, notwithstanding that he had stated in his paper that there were but two persons present at the time of the trouble between Dr. Reddy and Mr. Barnum, and he proposed to try out the Reddy-Barnum case before the trial jury in his own case as a justification of his accusation of corruption of the grand jury.
This Judge Hanna refused to admit, his ruling being that a trial of the Reddy-Barnum case before the trial jury in the Putnam case would not in any way substantiate the charge of corruption against the grand jury, for at most it would only indicate that the members of the grand jury were mistaken if the trial jury failed to agree with them. If Mr. Putnam had offered any evidence tending to show that the grand jury acted from corrupt or venal motives in any particular, Judge Hanna announced that he would gladly permit it to be shown. But he could not under the law admit evidence before the trial jury that was not before the grand jury. Other witnesses were examined, including Oswald West, state railroad commissioner, who saw the row between Dr. Reddy and Mr. Barnum. Five of the grand jurors also were witnesses in the Putnam trial, and they each testified that they investigated the matter fully and fairly and in their best judgment returned not a true bill.
The real purpose of all this uproar over the Putnam affair is to influence the Legislature at the next session to repeal the libel law, or to so modify it that grafting domineering newspapers can publish anything regardless of truth or motives involved. This class of newspapers are hoping for the return of the days like when certain blackmail sheets of Portland and others of their type over the state levied tribute right and left. While hiding their motives under the plea of the defense of the liberty of the press, these newspaper buccaneers are enlisting the sympathy and cooperation of many honorable editors and others, and if not checked in their scheme they will carry their measure through the Legislature, and then every prominent man or measure will be at the mercy of any blackmailing sheet that chooses to attack.
CHARLES MESERVE.This letter does not touch the question at issue, namely, Why was the finding of a grand jury declared conclusive and indisputable by the court which was trying Putnam for his alleged libelous criticism of the grand jury's action and why was he forbidden to introduce testimony bearing on the nature of the assault for which the grand jury declined to indict Barnum? Without entering the dispute over the nature of the assault, it may be said that the laws do not give this conclusive authority to a grand jury, which Judge Hanna assigned to the grand jury that declined to indict Barnum.
Oregonian, Portland, January 27, 1908, page 4
In its report, the [Douglas County grand] jury condemned the condition of the county jail as not a fit place in which to confine a human being. This is particularly interesting in view of the fact that George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, was confined in this jail and afterward, in his own and Portland papers, scathingly denounced his treatment at the hands of Douglas County officials.
"Unfit Place for Humans," Morning Oregonian, Portland, January 30, 1908, page 5
Putnam Case Reversed--Editor Will Not Hang
For Criticizing Grand Jury
The case of George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, appealed from the circuit court of Jackson County to the supreme court, was reversed by that body at Salem Tuesday morning. Mr. Putnam was charged with criminal libel because of criticisms of the grand jury in the procedure of that body in the case in which President Barnum was charged with an assault with a dangerous weapon against J. F. Reddy. Mr. Putnam was a witness in the case, and while the grand jury was still in session he charged in his paper that that body refused to hear witnesses who, it was expected, would testify against Barnum.
Later Mr. Putnam took the train from Medford for Portland to spend Christmas with his mother, not knowing that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. It is alleged that an officer was in Medford when he left there, armed with the warrant, but allowed the editor to leave town and then had him hauled from his berth in the sleeper at midnight and thrown in the county jail at Roseburg, where he was held 24 hours without an opportunity to secure bail.
Later his trial came on and he was promptly convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $150. Before appealing the case Mr. Putnam was offered a pardon by Governor Chamberlain, who was convinced that his prosecution was more in the nature of persecution than it was in the interests of real justice. He refused to accept the pardon, however, and in that enjoys the distinction of being the only man who declined a pardon from the governor during Governor Chamberlain's incumbency in office, if not in the entire history of Oregon.
Central Point Herald, March 11, 1909, page 1
George W. Putnam, April 12, 1909 Oregonian
THE PUTNAM LIBEL CASE
Attorney Reames Gives the History of the Trouble
That Led to the Indictment and Conviction of Putnam.
I have read the editorial article in The Oregonian March 11, and feel that I owe it to the public and to the press and to Judge Hanna, before whom the Putnam case was tried, to relate the real facts and issues tried.
Unfortunately it became my duty to try this case for the state, since I, at that time, had imposed upon me the unpleasant duties of the office of District Attorney of the First District. The press at large and the public had no way of knowing the real facts and issues, excepting through the local press at Medford; from this source there was never anything but misrepresentations. The editor who was the defendant knew how to spread the news through the papers, and all of them took their facts from him. There was, from the beginning, the most systematic and rapid dissemination of falsehoods and misrepresentation that it would be possible to send out over a case of such small importance. Since I was at that time a public officer and performing judicial duty in the case, I did not care to rush into print, but suffered a flood of criticism from one end of the state to the other, which would have been justified had it not been based upon misrepresentations. Likewise, Judge Hanna was compelled, because of the dignity of his position, to remain silent, and to allow the public to form opinions based upon misstatements. The public has no other channel through which to get the facts of a case, excepting from the press. Opinions therefore are formed, ordinarily correctly, but their correctness depends upon the correctness of the facts furnished. The Oregonian twice called editorially upon Judge Hanna to put the paper right if the facts were wrong. He discussed the matter with me at one time, but neither of us could see that he would be justified in rushing into the papers, over the facts of a case which he had just tried, and which might come back before him for retrial.
The editorial about which I began to address this letter is based upon the theory that Judge Hanna denied to Putnam the right to prove the truthfulness of his published statement, which had been called a libel. No greater misrepresentation or falsehood could be uttered than this statement. Judge Hanna expressly told the defense at the trial that it had the right to prove the truthfulness of the charge, and the case was tried upon this theory. The editor had said, among other things, that "Anyone can try to brain a man with an ax, and secure immunity from the blindfolded representatives of justice," referring to the Deputy District Attorney, my brother, and to the grand jury. His statement was one which, coupled with the rest of his article, charged corruption. He would have been allowed to prove the truthfulness of his charge, but the trouble was that his charge was not true and he had no way to prove it. His counsel at the trial expressly stated to the grand jury, as the record shows, that the defense did not claim that either the Deputy District Attorney or the grand jury had acted corruptly. He expressly stated that they did not intend to try to prove this statement.
You say editorially that the opinion states clearly that the editor had the right to prove, if he could, that the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and grand jury acted dishonestly and from fraudulent motives, etc. This language is clearly not used by anyone having a knowledge of the complete record of the case, because [the] defendant not only did not seek to prove dishonesty or fraudulent motives, but openly stated in the record that it was not contended that such dishonesty or fraudulent motives existed.
The cause arose in this way: The editor and the Mayor of Medford were together when Barnum and Reddy had trouble; the editor claiming that Barnum assaulted Reddy with an axe. This is the case that the grand jury investigated and returned, as to Barnum, not a true bill. The defense has charged the officers with corruption; it expressly stated in open court that they did not intend to try to prove that charge. It claimed, however, the right to prove what the facts were as to the fight between Barnum and Reddy. The court held that no matter what these facts were they would not show that the officers were corrupt. This conclusion is right, all the courts of the land to the contrary notwithstanding.
When the Barnum case was before the grand jury six witnesses testified to the altercation: four testified that they saw it, and that Barnum made no assault with an ax, but that the Mayor ran. The editor testified to the assault. The Mayor testified to the assault in a half-hearted way, but expressly told the grand jury that he preferred they would not indict. Since he was the injured party, this statement from him probably had some weight. Whether it did or not, the state on a trial would have to prove the assault beyond a reasonable doubt, and four witnesses testified that there was not assault and two interested ones that there was. These facts as to the investigation are related to show how ridiculous it is to contend that proof of the Barnum altercation would substantiate a published libel that the grand jury was corrupt. Any thoughtful person would see at a glance that the same witness might testify to one state of facts before the grand jury and to another before the trial jury. Any man with sense can see that the opinion which might honestly by formed by a trial jury, upon the same facts, and this difference would be no ground for a charge of corruption; hence, when the law permits the defendant in a libel case to prove the truthfulness of his statement, it means to prove such facts as will show his statements are true. No mental contortionist can screw his imagination around to where he can honestly say that any state of facts showing the Barnum altercation would tend to prove the truthfulness of the editor's libel.
Considering Judge Hanna's long career upon the bench and the public service that he has rendered for the little compensation that the office affords, it is not only ingratitude but it is an outrage for him to be continually misrepresented upon the theory that he ruled that the editor could not prove the truthfulness of his article, when he expressly said from the bench, and as the record shows that he admitted them to the opportunity of proving the truthfulness of the article, and they openly stated that they did not claim any corruption upon the part of the officers.
There is another matter in connection with the case, which is personal, but which would not have subjected me to the criticism I have suffered if the truth had been told, and I might as well deal with that while I am handling the subject.
The editor wanted advertisement, and a certain friend of his, connected with a prominent paper, which has busied itself in vilification of the court officers, told me, when I remonstrated against other publications, that this advertising was worth $1500 to the editor, and he spoke after having just talked with him, and immediately after his arrest. This conversation occurred in the presence of another member of the editorial staff of this same paper, hence I do not assume that it will be denied.
The editor was indicted on a Saturday afternoon; he knew of this indictment and that the warrant of arrest was out and heard of it an hour before the train left Medford for the north. He traveled on the train in company with a young man, now at Medford, and who if necessary can be called upon to verify his statement that the editor expected to be arrested and taken off the train and was welcoming such conditions. I have been vilified all over the state for having dragged the editor off the train at Roseburg, and causing him to be put in jail. The fact is I was sick the afternoon the indictment was returned and went home at the request of the court. I knew nothing of the arrest until I saw one of the editor's attorneys ready to go on the train, on the Monday following, with a handful of the editor's papers to distribute along the line to Grants Pass, the same being filled with the story of the outrage perpetrated upon him by his arrest. My brother, the deputy, learned of the arrest on Sunday, on his way to California; he it was who caused the sheriff to send a telegram arranging for bail by wire. After a misinformed public had gotten through with blaming the Reames family for the arrest, they began upon the sheriff, and the sheriff was 40 miles from the county seat when the indictment was returned and knew nothing of it or of the arrest until some days afterwards. The case has simply followed the usual course: a bench warrant was issued, the deputy sheriff went to serve it, found the defendant had taken the train and wired ahead. This is exactly the same treatment that would have been accorded to any other person under arrest and leaving on the train.
It was particularly wrong to blame any of the parties mentioned for this arrest, for, in the first place, the arrest was courted by the defendant for advertising purposes. In the second place, it was the usual course of procedure, in the third place, it was not done by design, and in the fourth place both the District Attorney and his deputy, and especially the District Attorney, were friendly with the defendant, so far as personal relations go. The District Attorney had known him before he became the editor of the paper and would gladly have tendered his services for his defense and in any just cause, without compensation. The fact of the District Attorney and his deputy being adverse were mere circumstances forced by position. The editor, however, knowing that the papers throughout the state were particularly anxious to get news, and knowing how to get news to them, at once sent out to your paper, and to the proper agencies for the dissemination of news over the state, his advertising story--he was writing from "behind the bars," he was surrounded, of course by poor tramps and vermin; he was unused to such harsh conditions. He had been dragged off the train at midnight when he was rushing to see his mother. These things were printed in his graphic language and furnished large daily headlines for his paper. I do not blame the press for believing his statements, but I am going to take this one chance of resenting continuous misrepresentations. The editor, from the beginning of the matter, through the whole affair, has continuously inserted in his paper what the press said about him, from every nook and corner of the state; if, however, the press would stop to look over the issues of other Southern Oregon papers, it would be found that like criticisms were not there. The editor knew how to get the news out and the papers were glad to get it, relied upon it and of course formed their conclusions accordingly.
Now, as to the grand jury, the law requires the court, when it empanels a grand jury, to read to it a particular clause of the statute, which provides that it is the duty of the grand jury to prosecute any case of libel, whether complaint is made by anyone or not, and it expressly makes it the duty of the District Attorney to do likewise. When the grand jury had returned not a true bill in Barnum's case, this libelous statement came out in the editor's paper in big, glaring headlines. The grand jury asked the opinion of the District Attorney and his deputy as to the application of the statute, which the court had read. The statute was then shown to the grand jury and they were left to form their own conclusions. The District Attorney and his deputy declined to give counsel, as the Deputy District Attorney was included in the article. Without using names, the grand jury then presented to the court the facts and asked if they constituted a crime, and the court expressed the opinion that if they were untrue they were libelous. Under their oaths and with this plain statute they saw nothing to do but to return an indictment. They, however, asked whether they had to return an indictment, but as we were interested, we did not advise. Not a single member of the grand jury desired to return an indictment; not a single one had the slightest ill-feeling over the article. All regarded it as a little advertising with big lines and red ink. However, under the statute, and considering the untruthfulness of the publication, there was nothing else to do but to indict.
I am not anxious to be construed as criticizing the Supreme Court for the opinion rendered, and I have not had an opportunity to read it in full; however, it is only fair for Judge Hanna to say that the case was not presented to the Supreme Court as any criminal case would ordinarily be presented. The District Attorney had shortly before entered upon the duties of his office. When he presented the case he had not had time to make or file his brief or to even read the bill of exceptions. He did not file any brief until a few days before the opinion was rendered, when a brief composing about a page and without the citation of authorities was presented. I am not offering this as any criticism upon the official acts of the District Attorney, because the case was new to him.
Now, the case has been reversed and the editor's big headlines have said that the Supreme Court "exonerated him." However, the Supreme Court has ordered a new trial, and it will be up to the District Attorney to try this case anew. There seems to be some discussion as to whether it will be tried again. If the evidence is not at hand, a retrial could not be had, but as it is all at hand the case will be retried, I assume. Hence it should not be expected that Judge Hanna is in a position to express his views, and I am writing this without consulting him and not intending to submit it to him, but entirely upon my own account. However, since the case is out of my hands, I am venturing the suggestion that since the editor has charged corruption, and since he desires to prove the truthfulness of his charge, if the case depends upon his proof, he will be convicted again. This is one of the penalties that follows a libelous falsehood. If he did not mean corruption he should not have charged it. He has charged something he cannot prove, hence the truthfulness of his article will be no more of an issue now than it was then.
I will say at this time that during the eight years I filled the District Attorney's office, I took any personal criticism that came from the press without comment. I was never looking for the implements which the law might furnish to suppress free speech. The statements that I have attempted to curb the legitimate freedom of the press are based upon misstatements of fact. I believe in the freedom of the press, and will offer my professional services in defense of an editor wrongfully charged, as quickly as I will for any other purpose. There must be limits, however, and the press for its own integrity does not ask that vilification of public officials be permitted simply because it is heaped upon public servants. There is one class of editors, so-called, who use methods for advertising and to endeavor to cow the public and public officials, by a lash administered through large type and red ink. I do not expect again to have to bear the burdens of a public office, but should this condition recur, I desire to announce now to this class of advertisers, that I would not be among that class of public officials who hesitate to perform a public duty for fear of giving offense or drawing criticism.
As to the editor who was prosecuted, I desire to say that, while the advertising matter which he sent out in the form of news and self-praise, could not be easily recognized as applying to the facts in his case, yet before this difficulty, as now, we have been friendly, and I would defend him, if charged wrongfully with an offense, without asking or wishing to receive any compensation; especially would I do this if he were wrongfully charged, in a case which appeared to have for its object the muzzling of the press. I think I agree with the almost universal opinion that the freedom of the press should be maintained, and while I have used some strong language, I have selected as delicate words as were applicable to the case and desire to make it clear that this article was not written with any malice toward the defendant in the criminal case, but rather to announce that the time had certainly come when there should be at least one person who would attempt to state the facts as they were.
A. E. REAMES.
Jacksonville Post, March 27, 1909, page 1 This letter was printed in the Sunday Oregonian of March 21, 1909, page 53.
Last revised January 30, 2014