Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2000 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

More murder trial details

Last week this column carried an account of the beginning of the trial of Frederick Cotner, who was accused of murdering William Mc­Kee. This was White County's first murder, Aug. 5, 1824.

Frederick Cotner had shot William McKee in the head with a $10 rifle. The trial continued, with Hugh Shipley, Robert Shipley Sr. and Robert Shipley Jr. being ac­cused of assisting Cotner. It took several pages of "aforesaid," "mal­ice aforethought" and other legal terms to make this accusation.

In the meantime, Frederick Cot­ner had been housed in the county jail. The saga continues on Sept. 2, 1824.

"... Here cometh Frederick Cot­ner under the custody of the sheriff of the county aforesaid, in whose custody in the jail of the county aforesaid, for the cause aforesaid, he had been before committed, being brought to the bar here in his proper person by the said sheriff, to whom he is also here committed. And forthwith being demanded con­cerning the premises in the said in­dictment above specified and charged upon him, how he will ac­quit himself thereof, he saith that he is not guilty thereof, and thereof for good and evil he puts himself upon the country, and John M. Robinson, Esq., Circuit Attorney, who prosecutes for the people of the State of Illinois, doth the like; therefore let a jury thereupon here immediately come, of free and law­ful men of the neighborhood, by whom the truth of the matter may be the better known."

The jurors on this date were Phillip Patton, Henry McMurtery, Jehiel H. Reeves, Abner Flanders, Elisha Smith, Seth Hargrave, James Mays, John Stum, Hugh Wasson, William Knight, Isaac Veach and John Rankin. Mays was foreman. After the trial (held in the north room of the home of John Craw), the jurors retired to the woods to deliberate. This jury found Cotner guilty and fixed the punishment at death by hanging.

So Cotner was ordered back to jail until his sentence was carried out. The sentence stated that Freder­ick Cotner be taken from hence to some convenient place, within one mile of the town of Carmi, in this county, and there, on the twenty-first day of the present month (September), and between the hours of eleven o'clock in the forenoon and three o'clock in the afternoon, that he suffer death by being hanged by the neck until he be dead, and that the sheriff execute this sen­tence."

Concluded next week.


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