The murder of Grac Jones: Chapter 11

Published 8:03 pm Thursday, August 6, 2015

The trial: The defense

EDITOR’S NOTE: On the evening of Oct. 26, 1908, five shots rang out in the village of Holland. Tiberius Gracchus “Grac” Jones lay dying on the ground inside the gate leading to his home. “They have killed me and killed me for telling the truth,” he told a friend as his life ebbed away. This is the 11th in a series of articles about the Jones murder case. Suffolk historian Kermit Hobbs Jr. compiled the 18-part series from personal accounts, newspaper stories and court records he has studied from the period.

By Kermit Hobbs Jr.

Special to the News-Herald

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Even though the vast majority of the people who knew Sam Hardy would never believe Hardy was guilty of murder, the defense team faced a tough challenge in undermining the case the prosecution had presented against him.

R.H. Rawls

R.H. Rawls

The team set about doing this by first calling witnesses who would address minor points in the prosecution’s case and gradually working up to the key points.

The first witness called was Maggie Joyner. She testified that a certain laborer had done some ditching work for Grac Jones, and he had had difficulty getting Jones to pay him for his work. The laborer had allegedly made a statement that if Jones did not pay him he would “lose more than he had gained.”

The point of her statement was that the laborer had made threats against Jones and could also be considered a suspect in the murder. Upon cross-examination, however, this testimony fell apart and proved nothing.

Joe A. Holland testified he had seen someone shooting a shotgun at a tree on the evening of the murder. On further questioning, it was determined that this incident took place nearly a mile from the murder site. The judge ruled that it was irrelevant and stopped the testimony.

The defense also sought to prove the shotgun that was apparently used to commit the murder had not been in Sam Hardy’s possession at the time of the murder. At the inquest and the preliminary trial, Hardy had testified he had sold the shotgun to a stranger from North Carolina who was passing through town sometime previously.

The defense called D.A. “Doc” Daughtry to the stand. Daughtry testified he had been in Hardy’s store and witnessed the sale of the shotgun about a week before Grac Jones was killed. He described the buyer as being of medium weight, 155-160 pounds, reddish complexion, and a mustache.

The stranger had stopped in at the store to buy a cigar and had seen another person looking over the shotgun. The stranger had said to Hardy, “Captain, what will you take for that gun?” Hardy had replied, “Eighteen dollars.” The stranger said, “I have two pieces of money in my pocket I’ll give you for that gun,” and he pulled out a $5 bill and a $10 bill. Hardy had accepted the offer.

Daughtry testified that the man had asked him for directions to Somerton, as he was on his way to North Carolina. He drove a buggy drawn by one horse.

During Daughtry’s testimony, an elderly gentleman from the audience walked to the Commonwealth’s Attorney and said he was Doc Daughtry’s brother and that he knew for a fact Daughtry’s testimony was false. He said his brother knew nothing about the case but wanted to help Sam Hardy.

At the next morning’s session, the prosecution recalled Daughtry for further cross-examination. The Commonwealth’s Attorney questioned him pointedly about the truthfulness of his testimony. Daughtry stuck to his story.

The prosecution then called Jake Daughtrey, the older brother. He testified that “Doc” had told him in December that he knew nothing about the case but “all he knew was that Sam Hardy was a gentleman.”

In his testimony, the old man, known and respected as a Confederate veteran, threw grave doubt over all that Doc Daughtry had testified.

For the defense, it became critical that a solid alibi be found for Sam Hardy, to prove that he could not possibly have fired the fatal shots.

TOMORROW: The trial — alibi

Previous: Chapter 10