The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 38, July 1934 - April, 1935 Page: 18
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
facts in defense and asked application of the law. His demurrer
was refused, the trial proceeded, and additional evidence taken.29
Willis claimed that in the suits at Clarendon those indicted
were under arrest, where possible; that trials of absent defendants
proceeded upon agreement of counsel on one hand, and it had
never been his policy on the frontier to require their presence in
misdemeanor cases on the other. Answering the attack for not
changing venue and for not suppressing the "farcical trials" he said
he knew of no law by which the judge could, of his own motion,
change venue in misdemeanor cases or "suppress a trial
where both parties were demanding it."30
But the points at bitterest issue were those of the qualifications
of jurors and the subsidization of public officials, and upon them,
primarily, the State rested its hopes of impeachment of Willis and
hence indirect defeat of Goodnight and the Panhandle. Why had
Willis permitted a grand jury to indict itself; a partisan petit jury
to try the defendants at law? The answer is found not in lack of
integrity, but in natural frontier conditions that shaped so many
traditional customs and laws to new ends.
It was almost impossible to draw a jury in the Panhandle in the
eighties without the most liberal interpretation of the law, which
sometimes entailed "stretching" the statutory act. In 1884, when
thirty men were charged with rustling cattle at Tascosa, a qualified
panel could not be drawn to try them. The village was small and
the cowboys, a drifting breed, were rarely property-holders. Hence
the Judge advised the district attorney to deed city lots to each
of the prospective jurors and enter their names on the deed records.
Land was plentiful and the attorney obligingly complied. When
a prospective juror was otherwise qualified, the Judge turned to
the attorney, who looked at his register and customarily replied:
"His name is on the list." When interrogation revealed that he
lived in a dugout during the winter months and hence was a house-
holder, the Judge declared, to the cowpuncher's astonishment,
"He is a qualified juror," and thereupon accepted him for service.
J. G. Murdock, county attorney, testified that if Goodnight's
men were removed a jury could not be formed in Donley and the
eight attached counties, and Willis set forth that of a possible sixty
9Senate Journal, 1887, app. 5-7.
"Austin Statesman, February 18 and March 1, 1887; Senate Journal,
1887, app. 5-7, 77.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 38, July 1934 - April, 1935, periodical, 1935; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117143/m1/26/: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.