July 5, 2014

Fatal Fight Between Defendant and Former Witness, Laurel, 1886



[August 31, 1886] -

Sam Barnard killed Frank Harris in Laurel last week in a most cowardly manner and escaped. [1]


[August 31, 1886] -

Sam Barnard shot and killed Frank Harris, at London, Laurel county, in a row about a dog. [2]


[June 2, 1887] -

Anxious to Appear for Trial.

LONDON, Ky., June 1.--Sam. Barnard served out his sentence for moonshining in the jail at Louisville a few days ago and came to court here yesterday morning to answer to the charge of murder.  He had no money when released, but he was so anxious to get here that he walked the distance--157 miles--in two days. [3]


[June 3, 1887] -

The case of the Commonwealth against H. F. Glass, for the killing of his brother-in-law, Mat Waggoner, was called for trial Wednesday. Commonwealth's Attorney Clark, County Attorney Catching, Judge W. L. Brown and Col. J. W. Jones represent the prosecution, while the defense is conducted by Col. J. W. Alcorn, Hon. James H. Tinsley, Hon. James D. Black, Col. R. L. Ewell and J. A. Craft. This case will probably consume a couple of days, then comes the murder case of Sam Bernard, whom the newspapers have lately given considerable notoriety on account of his tramp from Louisville here to answer the charge. If the juries in these cases reach verdicts this will wipe the murder cases from our docket with the single exception of the Thompson case and we hope and trust the "fair escutcheon" of Laurel county will never be blackened by another. [4] 


[June 7, 1887] -

The cases of Bernard and Glass, murder, were called and continued until the next term; so, after all, the next term will necessarily begin with three murder cases. [5]


[November 18, 1887] -

Sam Barnard for murder is set for Thursday. [6]


[November 24, 1887] -

Six months ago Sam Bernard walked from Louisville to London, Laurel county, to answer an indictment that had been returned against him. Saturday he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years imprisonment in the penitentiary. [7]


[April 10, 1888] -

Sunday evening, at 7 o'clock, while Gran Johnson, deputy jailer, was having a colored prisoner, Jake Dees, carry out the slop buckets, Dees threw the buckets down and made a dash for liberty. Johnson gave him a lively chase, firing three shots and capturing him about a mile from town. Johnson on leaving the jail left the door open and Sam Burnard, awaiting a new hearing and under a ten years' sentence, and Wm. Crawford, held for murder, without bail, made their escape, going in the direction of Williamsburg. Barnard is 6 feet 2 inches high, about 32 years old, smooth face, dark complexion and eyes. Crawford is over 6 feet tall, full face, small moustache, blue eyes and light complexion. Both poorly clad. Several years ago Barnard assaulted a young woman, and fearing arrest, blew out her brains with a revolver. By some hook or crook he failed to do the rope act and went free until last summer, when he killed his brother-in-law and was tried and sentenced for ten years, and was still in jail waiting for the courts to give him a new trial. Poor old Jake Dees only threw a rock at a train and has never been so fortunate as to kill his man, made a bold attempt to get away, but Gran could not afford to do without him. [8]

[The case for this being the same Sam Barnard: Although none of the other articles indicate that Harris was Barnard's brother-in-law, the 10 year sentence, time frame with the appeal, and location match. As far as the other murder attributed to Barnard goes, this 1876 Laurel county appeal involves a 16 year old boy named Samuel Barnard who killed a girl named Mary J. Martin, however the court opinion implies that the shooting was accidental--teenagers recklessly playing with a pistol they didn't know was loaded.]


[May 15, 1888] -

Court of Appeals of Kentucky.


May 15, 1888.

Appeal from circuit court, Laurel county.

Where defendant, knowing that deceased was on his premises, having a gun and pistol, with the declared purpose of giving defendant trouble, seized the gun from deceased, and ordered him off, but made no effort to use it until deceased advanced with drawn pistol, when he shot him, it is error to charge that defendant was guilty of murder or manslaughter if he provoked the trouble, without instructing them that, if deceased renewed the assault after defendant had abandoned it, defendant had a right to defend himself.

*444 Alvin Duvall, for appellant. P. W. Hardin, for appellee.


The appellant, Samuel Barnard, was indicted, in the Laurel circuit court, for the murder of Frank Harris, the trial resulting in a conviction for manslaughter, and the punishment fixed at 10 years in the state prison. The testimony conduces to show that the deceased had been prosecuted by the commonwealth for the commission of a public offense, and the appellant had testified as a witness against him. The deceased then became hostile to the accused, and made threats of a serious nature against him, and on the day of the killing was on his way to the distillery of the appellant, with a musket in his hand and a pistol in his pocket, making inquiry as to whether the appellant was at home, and remarking that it would be well enough for him not to be there, or words to that effect, and then continued on his way to appellant's premises. The latter was informed of what had been said by the deceased, and advised not to go to his still-house, but persisted in going, saying that he had a right to go to his own premises. When *445 he reached the place, several persons being present, he passed the deceased, who was standing with his musket by his side, and, as he passed, snatched the musket from him, and told him to leave, and not to be standing around with a loaded gun to kill him. The deceased then turned from the accused, going behind some tubs, with his hand in his pocket, and, passing around them, approached the accused with his pistol drawn, when the accused shot him with the gun. This is the testimony, in substance, of all the witnesses present but one, who testifies for the commonwealth that the accused pointed the gun at the deceased as he left, and kept it leveled towards him until he fired. This witness also testifies that the accused had a pistol buckled around him at the time. The fact of the accused having a pistol around him at the time is denied by him, and in this he is corroborated by other witnesses. It is further shown by the commonwealth that the deceased went to the stillhouse for the purpose of trading his pistol with some one of the hands for brandy.

At the close of the testimony the court gave instructions in regard to murder and manslaughter that were proper; but erred, to the prejudice of the accused, by qualifying an instruction in regard to self-defense, and in refusing an instruction asked by the accused. The instruction complained of embraced the law of self-defense, but was qualified by the court to the effect that if the accused provoked the difficulty, and placed the deceased in danger of bodily harm, he was necessarily guilty of either murder or manslaughter. If the threats and purposes of the deceased in going on the premises of the accused had been communicated to him, and he had reasonable grounds to believe they would be carried into execution, he had the right to take from the deceased the gun in order to avoid the danger. If done in good faith, to save his own life, he was justifiable; but if taken from the deceased without any other reason than to provoke the difficulty, that he might take the life of the deceased, he would be guilty of murder. The uncontradicted testimony shows, however, that when he seized the gun he made no effort to shoot the deceased, although the latter was going from him, nor did he fire until the deceased had turned, and was approaching him with pistol in hand. Under the evidence the qualification to the instruction as to self-defense ought not to have been given without an instruction for the defense embodying the idea that if the accused intended to provoke an assault, and was not acting in good faith, that is, to protect his own person, when he snatched the gun, still, if the assault had been abandoned by him, and Harris then advanced, with pistol in hand, on the accused, for the purpose of taking his life, or inflicting on him great bodily harm, then the accused had the right to defend himself from the impending danger.

The court also erred, on the facts of this case, in telling the jury that they should give to the testimony of each witness such weight as they might deem it entitled to, and that they were the sole judges of the weight of the evidence. As an abstract proposition of law, this is unobjectionable, and ordinarily will not influence the finding. Still we perceive not reason for giving such an instruction in any case. The brother of the accused was an important witness for the defense. The court permits such evidence to go to the jury on either side as is competent, and, after hearing that evidence, the jury, in considering it, will attach to it that importance they may think it deserves. The manner of the witness, his conduct in the witness-box, his relation to the parties in interest, and the plausibility of his statements, are facts and circumstances necessarily considered in weighing the testimony of each and every witness. The trial judge, however, may perceive something in the manner of the witness when testifying, or a peculiarity in his statement of facts, impressing him with the belief that the witness is testifying falsely, while the jury, or some member of it, may attribute the conduct of the witness to no improper motive; and in cases where the witness, from motives of friendship or from *446 family ties, makes statements favorable to those in whom he is interested, the suggestion by the court in an instruction that they should give to the testimony of each witness such weight as they may deem it entitled to, is in effect saying to the jury that the statement of such a witness is entitled to less weight than statements made by those entirely disinterested in the result. While this may be true in most cases, it is also true that juries will generally, if not always, scrutinize closely the testimony of those who are directly interested in the result of the litigation; but, when their attention is particularly called to this mode of weighing testimony by the trial court, it leaves the jury to conclude that, as a matter of law, they must give more weight, in the particular case, to the testimony of a stranger to the controversy than one interested in the result, or, if not, that the judge, from the instruction, must believe that some witness has been making false statements. It is better, therefore, to leave the jury free to consider the testimony without any suggestion from the court as to the manner of weighing it.

The judgment is reversed, and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion. [9]


[1] Excerpt from "Notes of Current Events." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 31, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-08-31/ed-1/seq-2/

[2] Excerpt from "Kentucky Knowledge." Semi-Weekly South Kentuckian, Hopkinsville, KY. August 31, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069394/1886-08-31/ed-1/seq-2/

[3] "Anxious to Appear for Trial." Daily Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. June 2, 1887. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87060189/1887-06-02/ed-1/seq-2/

[4] Excerpt from "London, Laurel County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 3, 1887. Page 4. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1887-06-03/ed-1/seq-4/

[5] Excerpt from "London, Laurel County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 7, 1887. Page 6. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1887-06-07/ed-1/seq-6/

[6] Excerpt from "London, Laurel County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 18, 1887. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1887-11-18/ed-1/seq-1/

[7] The Big Sandy News, Louisa, KY. November 24, 1887. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83004226/1887-11-24/ed-1/seq-2/

[8] Excerpt from "London, Laurel County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 10, 1888. Page 1. LOC.  http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1888-04-10/ed-1/seq-1/

[9] Barnard v. Commonwealth10 Ky.L.Rptr. 143, 8 S.W. 444 (1888). Retrieved from Westlaw.com.


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