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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Eastern Washington: Major new testimony emerged in the re-trial of a Prohibition officer accused of manslaughter

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )

William C. Vest, a federal prohibition officer charged with manslaughter, stared down at the body of Ernest Emley at Keller, Washington, and said, “I killed him.”

At least, that was the testimony of C.W. Brockman, who was part of a crowd of people at the scene. Vest was charged with shooting Emley while Emley was in a fleeing car.

Vest claimed that he believed Emley was a bootlegger, a charge adamantly denied by Emley’s family and friends.

An earlier trial on the same charge had resulted in a hung jury, but Brockman had not testified in the first trial. The prosecution believed that his testimony and that of other new witnesses would be sufficient to convince a second jury. One of the new witnesses was an expert on powder burns, and he testified that Emley had been shot at close range, not from a distance during a chaotic car chase.

Other witnesses claimed that it was Vest who was drunk at the time of the shooting – not the alleged bootleggers.

From the missing radium beat: A case that might have been titled, “The Mystery of the Missing Radium” was quickly solved.

Dr. I.L. Stevens, a Spokane doctor pioneering radium treatments in the city, reported that a “radium needle” worth $2,000 was missing from his office. This was one of five needles of the rare element that Dr. Stevens had obtained while on the East Coast.

After an investigation, it turned out that Stevens had loaned some needles to Alfred Hubbard, the Spokane inventor of the Hubbard Electric Generator, for some experiments.

At some point, Stevens had reported a needle missing, but apparently Hubbard subsequently returned it.

Stevens later issued a terse statement saying only, “I have all of my instruments.”

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