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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 Years Ago in Spokane: Jury acquits man of murder in hotel stabbing, determine killing was accidental

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 15, 2021

A Spokane jury found Jennings B. Henry not guilty in the death of Helen Williams, who had been slashed with a knife in Henry’s hotel room, the Spokesman-Review reported on Oct. 16, 1921.  (Spokesman-Review archives)
A Spokane jury found Jennings B. Henry not guilty in the death of Helen Williams, who had been slashed with a knife in Henry’s hotel room, the Spokesman-Review reported on Oct. 16, 1921. (Spokesman-Review archives)
By Jim Kershner For The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane jury found Jennings B. Henry not guilty in the death of Helen Williams, who had been slashed with a knife in Henry’s hotel room.

The jury deliberated less than two hours. Jurors later said they believed Henry was infatuated with Williams and had “no intention of striking her.” They accepted the defense argument that it had all been a tragic mistake and that Henry was fighting with Isaac Selvig when he accidentally struck Williams with the knife.

They said they gave much weight to the testimony of the Spokane police chief. They said “his conduct on the stand indicated that he did not regard it as a murder.” They also gave considerable weight to the testimony of a woman who was awakened in an adjoining room. She described the fight between the two men and said that Henry was distraught over the injury to Williams.

They said that the judge made it clear they must acquit Henry unless they believed he had been feloniously assaulting Selvig at the time. Henry claimed he was fighting in self-defense.

“I can only say that I feel the jury accepted the evidence, and then followed the instructions of the court,” said Henry, after the verdict. “I feel terrible about this unfortunate affair.”

Williams, 24, had been a filing clerk at the Spokane Paper and Stationery Co. and had met Henry at a dance. Henry’s wife buried her face in her hands and “sobbed softly as the jury left the courtroom.”

On this day

(From Associated Press)

1793: During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, was beheaded.

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