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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: A Prohibition agent’s attorney tried to cast doubt on his manslaughter case, but the prosecution wasn’t having it

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

The federal attorney defending William C. Vest, the Prohibition agent accused of manslaughter, told a federal jury that Vest was being framed and scapegoated for the death of Ernest Emley of Keller, Washington.

Ferry County police officials, he said, “feel they must have a victim,” and they had settled on Vest. Vest, along with two Ferry County officers, approached a vehicle and opened fire when the car began to drive away. The defense attorney said there was no proof that Vest was the man who fired the fatal shot.

“The evidence shows that each one of the three officers … thought immediately after the shooting that it might have been a bullet from their gun which killed Emley,” Vest’s attorney said in closing arguments. “… The prosecution wants you to go into the jury room and guess who is guilty.”

The prosecutor told the jury that the evidence had established conclusively that Vest fired the fatal shot. Emley was not a fleeing bootlegger – he was simply an innocent driver leaving a dance hall at a normal speed. The prosecutor claimed that Vest, not the men in the car, was the one who was drunk that day.

When the federal judge sent the case to the jury, he told jurors that if they believed Vest approached the car recklessly and fired the fatal shot, he should be found guilty. If he had used “reasonable caution,” and shot Emley accidentally, he should be acquitted.

From the football beat: Dozens of Washington State College football fans got stuck in the mud on the way to Pullman. A team of horses had to pull a number of cars out of the mire.

“Other machines were stopped for hours for repairs to broken wheels and radius rods.”

The trouble occurred on a detour between Steptoe and Colfax. Despite the delay, most of the fans managed to make it to the game on time.

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