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100 years in Spokane: Fire captain accused of murder cleared by jury

SATURDAY, MARCH 18, 2017

A jury took two hours to find former Spokane Fire Capt. J.F. Grant not guilty of murdering Walter Layman, The Spokesman-Review reported on March 18, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
A jury took two hours to find former Spokane Fire Capt. J.F. Grant not guilty of murdering Walter Layman, The Spokesman-Review reported on March 18, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

A jury took only two hours – including a dinner break – to find former Spokane Fire Capt. J.F. Grant not guilty of murdering Walter Layman.

The jury foreman said that there was “no reason to convict Grant of murder when he found a man with his wife.”

“Of course, Grant drew a gun, but he probably did about what any man would have done under the circumstances if he found a man taking his wife to a place of that kind,” said another juror.

A “place of that kind” was Layman’s shack, which the defense had described as a bootlegging house and a lair for crooks.

The jurors also appeared to believe Grant when he said that he did not fire at Layman on purpose. He said the gun went off when he was grappling with his wife and she grabbed his arm. One juror called the shooting “accidental.”

From the labor beat: A national railroad strike was narrowly averted when the parties agreed to a 48-hour “truce.”

In Spokane, hundreds of railroad brotherhood members experienced “thrill upon thrill,” as they gathered in a hall for a mass meeting.

The biggest thrill came when a telegram arrived, instructing them to set back their strike deadline. This gave the men “confidence that they were about to win their controversy without a strike.”

Another telegraph later arrived confirming that a “satisfactory settlement was in sight.” The looming strike had national security implications, and President Woodrow Wilson was personally working on a solution.

The Spokane meeting “had all the appearance of a patriotic demonstration.” A large silk American flag was brought onto the platform, bringing forth a “vociferous” demonstration. All of the speakers declared their loyalty to the Stars and Stripes.

Meanwhile, the railroad companies were taking nothing for granted. They continued to receive “applications of men willing to take the places of the strikers.”



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