Way We Were: A strange trial for a strange case | ParkRecord.com

Way We Were: A strange trial for a strange case

Steve LeathAm
Park City Museum
Summit County Sheriff Pat Ryan, left, notified John Reed of his arrest warrant and brought him to court on March 29, 1916.
Park City Historical Society and Museum, Himes-Buck Digital Collection

This story is continued from June 19, 2019.

Reeling from the death of his five-year-old daughter, Rockport resident John Alvus Reed caused a disturbance in Park City in March 1916 by distributing handbills attacking undertaker and Park City Marshal W.D. Richardson. The Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant, charging Reed with threatening a police officer with a deadly weapon. Summit County Sheriff Pat Ryan notified Mr. Reed that he was wanted in Park City.

Reed cheerfully consented to appear in court on Tuesday, March 28. Upon his arrival, Reed engaged Henry Shields to defend him and appeared before City Justice W. R. Jefford. After the complaint was read, Reed entered a plea of “not guilty,” and the trial was set for Wednesday afternoon.

A crowd of interested spectators filled Judge Jefford’s large court room to capacity. Witnesses for the prosecution were policeman E. F. Robertson, James Frasier and Lester Farnau. Robertson testified that Reed had told him to get back on the sidewalk and stay there; that Reed had a gun, and that if Robertson came any closer Reed would shoot.

No attempt was made by the prosecution to prove that the gun was loaded or had been pointed at the complainant. At the close of the testimony of Mr. Robertson, Shields called attention to this fact, and a sharp and spirited tilt took place between the two attorneys. Shields only briefly cross-examined Robertson.

At the close of the testimony, Shields promptly moved that the case against his client be dismissed, emphatically stating that not a single allegation had been proved by the prosecution. City Attorney Robert Dalgleish robustly maintained that a case had been made against the defendant; that the allegations made had been sustained and urged the overruling of the motion.

Judge Jefford read the ordinance relating to the case and declared that in his opinion the evidence submitted was insufficient for conviction, sustaining the motion of Shields and discharging the defendant. The verdict seemed to meet with hearty approval by nearly all present and a mad rush was made to congratulate the defendant in the case, his attorney, and the judge.

It was not clear if the townsfolk were in sympathy with John Reed over the shattering loss of his little girl the week before or if they really did agree with his assertions, published on the handbills, that Marshal/Undertaker W. D. Richardson was charging excessively for his services. The judge’s decision was a rebuke for Richardson in either case.

This was not to be Reed’s only clash with the law. In January 1929, during Prohibition, the Park Record reported that the Rockport resident was in a “mix-up” with federal officers. In a raid on the Reed ranch, whiskey was found and apparatus for manufacturing the same uncovered.

Allegedly, the feisty 63 year old Reed tried to take a shot at Officer Fred M. Taylor and followed up by engaging him in fisticuffs. Mr. Reed was arrested and remanded to the Salt Lake County Jail until a bail of $3,000.00 could be raised.


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