Trial of Mr. Springfield for Killing Capt. Fort. — This case has excited much interest, and from the standing of both the parties elicited much speculation as to what the result would be. Public sentiment ran very high, and we have heard of threats being made against the life of Mr. Springfield. En passant, we will here remark that such a course will do no good, and would only result in worse difficulty, and set a precedent which would not conduce much to our prosperity, besides being entirely contrary to law. it is always best to let the law take its course. The day for trial was set for Friday morning, up to which time Mr. Springfield was in the custody of the Sheriff. The counsel was composed as follows: on the side of the State, Col. F. W. Adams, now practicing in Brenham, and a gentleman of much ability, was retained, with Col. Woodward to assist him. For the defence the following eminent lawyers were engaged: Harris & Harris, Hunt & Holland, Mr. Hiram Waller, Judge G. W. Johnson, and Capt. Jack Bell. Upon the Court being organized, with their Honors, Judges Blake and Wright presiding, the examination of witnesses began with Mr. Myers, the only person who witnessed the shooting, on the stand. His testimony was in substance as follows:
He saw Mr. Springfield coming down the street with a double-barreled shot-gun on his shoulder, and feeling curious to know what he was going to do, watched him. Saw him meet Fort at a distance of about fifteen steps from each other, when he brought his gun down and discharged one barrel at Fort, when the latter wheeled round, staggered, and put his hand behind him to draw a pistol, when Mr. S. fired again, when Fort faced him and drawing a pistol shot at him. Mr. S. fired again and Fort fell, expiring immediately. Did not know whether Fort snapped a cap or not. Fort appeared to be going to his office. Did not know of any quarrel.
Mr. Krewson was then examined, who deposed to the shooting having been begun by Springfield.
The rest of the evidence for the State related to the shooting, with which all our readers are familiar.
The testimony of the defence proved that Fort bore the character of a desperate and dangerous man when under the influence of liquor, but peaceable and quiet when sober. Mr. Springfield's character, by a host of witnesses, was proved to be that of a quiet, peaceable, law-abiding citizen. The counsel for the defence could not prove that any threats as to personal violence had been made by Fort against Springfield. It was proved that Fort had made insulting remarks about Mr. Springfield's family, which it is unnecessary should be repeated here. It was proved that Fort had said that he "intended to dog Springfield on every corner, until he aggravated him to fight, when he should retreat, and when Springfield followed him he would get him, as he was quicker that S., had been in more fights, and knew better how to manage."
The above is a summary of the most important testimony, as near as we can recollect it.
In the opening argument for the State, Col. Adams made a masterly speech, strong in beautiful imagery and telling points. His delivery was forcible and energetic, and showed the accomplished scholar. He contended for the law to be carried out to the letter, and said that Mr. S. had justification, in the law, for taking Fort's life. There are many other points in his speech we should like to dwell upon, but lack of space prevents it. He was followed by Major Hiram Waller, for the defence, in a strong speech, in which he dwelt with deep pathos on the feelings of an outraged father, and the provocation Mr. Springfield had when Fort "assailed the reputation of his daughters — the nearest and dearest objects to a loving father's heard," and dwelt upon that as a justification.
After him came Mr. Ben. T. Harris, in one of his brilliant efforts. It would be unnecessary to repeat his speech, as all our readers know B. T. as an able and accomplished lawyer and polished gentleman.
Mr. Z. Hunt followed, occupying the attention of the Court about an half hour, when Judge G. W. Johnson arose to close the case for the defence. His was the hardest task of any, as the ground for argument had been all covered by his three colleagues; but nevertheless he treated the subject with great skill, enlivened by several humorous passages, directed against his "towering associate," Col. Adams. The latter then began the final argument, which occupied him about two hours, reviewing the whole trial from beginning to end, and giving the law on the case, and then submitted it for decision.
Their Honors retired to consult, and after arriving at a decision, on agreement with the counsel on both sides, determined to keep the prisoner in the hands of the Sheriff until a writ of habeas corpus could be sued out, when the case would be again tried before his Honor, Judge McFarland, to determine whether the offence was bailable or not.
Fiat justitia, ruat coelum.
"Trial of Mr. Springfield for Killing Capt. Fort" The Texas Countryman. (Hempstead, TX), Wednesday, June 3, 1868, p. 2, col. 4.