Harris vs. State of Arkansas -- 1876-1877

Contributed by Debbie.


Debbie's note: I have only sent what was written in the book "Arkansas Reports" and I make no judgements, etc. concerning these articles. I have only attempted to share what I have found. Hope it is useful to someone. Debbie


Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Arkansas at the November Term, 1876

Appeal from Drew Circuit Court
Hon. T.F. Sorrells, Circuit Judge
Hughes, Attorney General, for the State

The appellant, Henry Harris, was indicted, tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree, at the August term, 1876, of the Circuit Court of Drew County. He filed a motion for a new trial, which was overruled, and he took a bill of exceptions, setting out the evidence introduced on the trial. He was sentenced to be hung, and an appeal was allowed him by one of the judges of this court.

"After hearing all the evidence adduced, the argument of counsel and the charge of the court, the jury retired in charge of a sworn officer to consider of their verdict, viz.: 'We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, as charged in the within indictment. F.V. Henderson, Foreman.'"

The appellant, Henry Harris, was charged with the murder of Adam Pippin. The indictment alleges, the usual form, the time of the offense, 9th of August, 1876, the venue, Drew County, and the manner of the killing, by shooting with a double-barrell shot gun, loaded with powder, leaden balls, etc., etc.

It appears that Adam Pippin lived in a cabin on the premises of William Nichols in Drew County. On Wednesday night, of August the 9th 1876, about eight or nine o'clock, while sitting in the house, he was shot with a gun, through a crack in the wall, near the chimney, and instantly killed, in the presence of his wife and some of his children. The night was dark and rainy, but after supper he had kindled a light in the fire-place, and after playing a while with a child, handed it to his wife, "and turned himself in his chair to rest," and while thus resting he was shot. The coroner found five balls in the left side of his head and face.

No witness saw who fired the gun. It was a secret, cowardly and brutal murder.

The jury found, from circumstances proven on the trial, that the appellant was the guilty agent of the crime, and the judge who presided at the trial, and heard all the evidence, refused to set aside the verdict.

There was some evidence of ill feeling between appellant and deceased. It seems that in January, 1876, appellant took the daughter of deceased, ran off with her, and brought her back in the following July, and was living with her at the house of Elias Nelson, in the neighborhood of her father, at the time he was murdered, but had not married her; and her father had, perhaps, forbidden him to come on his place.

It is probable that the jury found in this ill feeling between appellant and deceased a motive, on the part of the former, for the commission of the crime.

It was proven that, a few days before Pippin was killed, appellant was in company of several persons, who were saying that one Rowlett intended to have Adam Pippin up at court for taking his corn, and turning stock on his wheat, when appellant said, "that Adam Pippin could not live until court; that he was too mean a man."

The jury doubtless regarded this as a threat, and as an indication of malice, on the part of appellant, against Pippin.

It was proven that, on Tuesday morning, the day before the killing, appellant borrowed a double-barrell shot gun of Joseph Young, who lived not far from the house of Elias Nelson, where appellant lived. The gun was loaded and the locks rusty. On the same day, a witness was at the house of Elias Nelson, and helped appellant clean up the gun. Appellant said he was going a hunting, and asked for powder and buck shot to load the gun. Witness told him that buck shot would not do to hunt squirrels, and appellant replied that he wanted to kill them. Witness let him have powder, but had no buck shot. He went hunting (another witness stated) about four o'clock of the evening of the same day, and returned about night, without killing anything. He remained at Nelson's next day (Wednesday, 9th August) until half an hour to sundown, when he went out alone with the gun, saying he was going hunting. Late on the same evening he was seen by another witness, with a gun on his shoulder, going in the direction of the place where Adam Pippin lived. There was something in his appearance, or movements, that made the witness feel a little frightened. About eight or nine o'clock of that night, a neighbor of Pippin's heard a gun fire, and, shortly after, two of Pippin's children came for him, saying their father had been shot, etc. Appellant returned to the house of Nelson, with the gun, about midnight. His clothes were wet. On being asked by the woman with whom he slept why his shirt was so wet, he said he had passed through a cornfield, and the dew had wet his shirt. Next morning (Thursday) about or a little after daybreak, he got up, and took the gun home to Young. When he borrowed it, it was loaded up to four fingers, to use the language of Young, and when brought back, it had been fired off, cleaned up, and the locks greased. It was loaded when returned, but the loads measured only three fingers.

The house of a witness (Thomas Varnishee) was situated between that of Joseph Young and that of Elias Nelson, about a hundred yards from the latter, and a quarter of a mile from the former. A little after daylight, on Thursday morning (the morning after the killing) witness saw appellant pass his house, carrying home Young's gun. After he passed, two men came riding by, and one of them stopped and told witness that Adam Pippin was dead; that someone shot him sitting in his house last night. After this man left, in a short time appellant came along, returning from Young's, and told witness the same thing; and asked witness to tell Young, if anybody asked him when he (appellant) "carried his double-barrell shot gun home, to tell them that he carried it home two days ago;" and told witness to say that he persuaded him (appellant) with him, as he had something important to tell him next morning; and that if anybody asked where he was, to say that he had gone to the Ouachita River hunting. Appellant did not, in fact, stay with witness the night of the killing.

This evidence, that appellant attempted to induce others to utter falsehoods in his behalf, in relation to the time when the gun was taken home, and the place where he stayed on the night of the killing, no doubt made an unfavorable impression on the minds of the jurors as to the innocence of the appellant.

The evidence indicates that, from the morning of the tenth of August (the day after the murder), the appellant attempted to conceal himself. He was found and arrested, a few days before the trial, in a house situated in a thicket, which the witness stated to be a good place to hide in. When found, he was lying on the floor asleep, his head resting upon an open Bible. He had three pistols, an open knife, and a gun was standing in the corner of the house. His shoes were out near the woods, in the weeds.

His surroundings, when found and arrested, were not such as to make a favorable impression on the jury.

It was the province of the jury to weigh the facts and circumstances proven before them, and to pass upon the guilt or innocence of accused. They found him guilty, and we cannot affirm that there was no evidence to support the verdict.

The judgment must be affirmed, and the day fixed by the court below for the execution of appellant having transpired, the affirmance must be certified to the Governor, that he may fix another day for the execution of the sentence.

** END **

Additional notes regarding the people mentioned in this record:

The main 2 people (Henry Harris and Adam Pippin) were found on Ancestry.com, in the 1870 Census records.

Marion Twp., p. 425 and 427:

House #399 Henry Harris, 23, male, black, farm laborer, b. AR
Maria, 22, female black, AR
Amanda 1 month, AR

House #429 Adam Pippin, 33, male, black, farm laborer, AL
Louisa, 32, female black, LA
Mary E., 11, , AR
Racksy, 4, female, AR
Annah, 2 mos., AR


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Karen Groce / wgroce@wildblue.net
URL: http://bethg.shutdown.com/drew/dharrisvstate.html
Last updated 12 Apr 2010