Connor Pleads Guilty of Manslaughter in Beason Case
The Connor-Beason Killing
George Connor, aged 52, was sentenced to not less than 3 years nor more than 4 years at hard labor in the penitentiary, by Judge James L. Webb, after he had entered a plea of manslaughter through his counsel, Quinn, Hamrick and Harris, on Tuesday morning. The prisoner admitted killing Clyde R. Beason, of near Cliffside, in a cafe on the afternoon of Easter Day, March 31, by stabbing him in the heart with a clasp knife. He claimed that he had been struck on the head with a coca cola bottle before the killing and consequently did not remember anything about the ensuing fight which resulted in the death of Beason. The State was assisted by C. D. Ridings, of Forest City.
Trial Begins Monday
The trial began Monday morning and a remarkable feature was the empanelling of a jury without a single juror being rejected by either the State or defendant. Practically all of Monday was consumed in the taking of testimony, and when Connor took the witness stand he made some damaging admissions. Fred D. Hamrick made a stirring plea for mercy and rose to great heights during the speech. On both days of the trial the courtroom was packed and even standing room was at a premium.
First Witness Testifies
Dr. G. O. Morse (sic), a witness for the State, testified that he was called to attend Clyde Beason but that he had been dead for possibly five minutes before he arrived. He had a laceration between the fifth and sixth ribs, beginning just at the left border of the breast bone and extending about three inches, approximately. He had quite a lot of hemorrhage from the flow, possibly a half gallon of blood. He later probed the cut and it seemed to be a stab inward right at the breast bone and then pulled outward because the laceration was shallower at the exterior of it. “Later, at the undertaker’s, I saw what I could through the opening. The space between the ribs of course was very narrow, about the width of a finger. I could see the heart and there was quite a bit of hemorrhage in the fat around the heart. I probed into the muscle but did not go completely into the chamber of the heart. From the cut, I think the blade would have had to be around three inches unless part of the handle went in.”
Paul Beason, a witness for the State, testified: “Clyde Beason was my nephew. I ran the cafe where this occurred, at Cliffside, Rutherford County, on Easter Sunday, March 31. Clyde Beason and Buren Hamrick came into the cafe while Mr. Connor, Fate Padgett and myself were there; Marvin Lovelace was there part of the time. Connor had been in several times that morning and was there when Clyde came in. The cafe is about 26 feet long, with two entrances, both in use, but the back door was closed in order to prevent the air from blowing out the oil stove. Connor was up near the front of the cafe, pulling a slot machine when Clyde and Buren Hamrick got off their horses and mules and came in and sat down and ordered some eggs. I went back in the kitchen to fill the order and left Clyde sitting near the back end, on the last seat. I had two of the eggs cooked when I heard Clyde say, ‘You __ __ and I can prove it by you.’ I don’t know what they had said before that because I was in the kitchen. He was talking to Connor. I came back in and saw Connor coming towards Clyde and Clyde threw a salt shaker at him and hit him on the head. (Witness exhibits salt shaker to the jury.) It was sitting on the table directly in front of Clyde and I guess Connor was 6 or 8 feet from him at the time. I did not notice anything in Connor’s hands. They went together like they were going to fight and then they went in between the counter and the door and on into the kitchen and I followed them. Clyde first went to the kitchen door and turned and went back against the kitchen wall. Connor sort of had his hands up and said, ‘Don’t cuss me or I will cut your throat.’ Clyde said, ‘Don’t cut me with that knife,’ and he said, ‘I have already cut you.’ Then I saw the knife and grabbed it; then I saw the gash.
“I laid the knife down on the floor and called the doctor. Connor is a bigger framed man than Clyde, but I don’t know what he weighed. Clyde was about 23 years old and I suppose Connor is about 50. Connor took the knife out with him. The handle of the knife was in his hand and the blade was about like the one you have. I think Clyde was sober as I had not noticed any signs of his drinking. Their tones of voices did not seem to be mad. Clyde had on laced boots and pants and two spurs, and was in his shirt sleeves.”
Cross examination by Mr. Hamrick: “Connor was in a good humor. He was pulling the slot machine, but I think he had been eating and peeling an Easter egg with his knife earlier that morning. I can’t say whether the blow Clyde gave him addled him or not. Clyde weighed about 160 pounds.”
Marvin Lovelace, a witness for the State, testified that he saw Connor pulling the slot machine and Clyde came in and sat down about 20 feet away at the other end of the counter. “Connor was pulling the slot machine and said, ‘I bet anybody a dollar I can win this time,’ and Clyde said, ‘I bet you haven’t got any sense and I can prove it by you,’ and Connor told him he was a ___ ___ lie. Connor took his knife out of his right pocket, opened it and put it back into his pocket and I left. That looks like the knife.” (Examining knife exhibited in court.) Lovelace said he went on out to Paul Beason’s house to meet a boy whom he was expecting; that in a little while, the little Beason boy came running and told them something and as a result of this conversation, he went back to the cafe and found Clyde dead in the floor. “Clyde did not appear to be drinking that I could tell.”
Part 2 – Connor Pleads Guilty of Manslaughter
On cross examination by Mr. Hamrick, this witness denied that he left the cafe because he feared trouble; said he had gone to get a package of cigarettes; that of course he could not tell that something might not happen when folks were acting like this.
Boyd Bostic, a State’s witness, testified as follows: “I have seen George Connor with a knife like that, (examining knife handed him by solicitor) but of course I can’t swear it is that identical knife. On Wednesday before the killing, I saw him trying to swap the knife to the McDaniel boy. Then on Friday night following, I heard George say that he would not trade the knife until he had killed him a man with it.”
On cross examination, Mr. Hamrick put this witness through a rigid examination. Mr. Bostic said he had talkied to no one about this except his wife and brother and was not subpoenaed until Saturday to testify in the case. He admitted that at the time what Mr. Conner said made no special impression on him.
Buren Hamrick, a State’s witness, testified as follows: “I had been with Clyde Beason since about 10 o’clock that morning. We had ridden our horses to Sandy Run Creek and had drunk a half pint of liquor; we came back to the cafe and went in and ordered some eggs and sat down at the back end. George Connor was up near the front pulling the slot machine. We were about 15 or 18 feet from Connor and I was between Conner and Clyde. Conner says, ‘I bet you a dollar I win this time,’ and Clyde says, ‘I bet you a dollar you ain’t got any sense and I can prove it by you.’ Conner told Clyde he was a ___ lie. George pulled up the machine and Clyde said the same thing again. Conner called him a lie again and Clyde told him he was a ___ ___. They started towards each other and Clyde picked up the salt shaker and threw it at him and hit him with it.
“Connor cut me but he afterwards said he did not mean to do it. They were together and scuffled around and on back into the kitchen. I heard Clyde say, ‘Don’t cut me with that knife,’ and I heard Conner say, ‘I have done cut you now, damn you,’ and said, ‘If you cuss me any more I’ll cut your ___ throat.’ Paul told Clyde that he was cut and had better go to a doctor; and then Paul said ‘No, there ain’t no use, he’s dead.’ I told Connor he cut me as he came by and he said he didn’t airm to.
On cross examination, Mr. Hamrick showed this witness an affidavit that he had signed in his presence but the witness insisted that he did not know whether he had signed the affidavit before or after it was read to him. He told the lawyer he was swearing on the stand, whereas he had been talking to him to get rid of him. Cross examination lasted for some few minutes, questions being fired at the witness so rapidly that the State objected several times in order to give the witness time to answer.
The State rested.
George Conner, the defendant, was sworn and testified as follows: “My family live in Spindale, but I work at cliffside. I am 52 years old and have lived in Rutherford County all my life except one or two years. I work in the machine shop at Cliffside Mill. I went to work in July, 1914, then farmed a few years, then went back in 1922 and have been there ever since.
“Easter Sunday morning I had gone to the cafe to meet some fellows: we were planning a trip to Chimney rock, and while I was waiting there, Clyde and this boy got off their horses, came in the house and passed by me, and went back and sat down on some stools in the rear end of the cafe. As he passed, Clyde said, ‘Old man, I bet you a dollar you can’t pull down anything.’ I told him I didn’t bet and didn’t even look around. I never paid any attention because we were all friendly. Paul stepped back in the kitchen to fill the order, then Clyde said, ‘Old man, you are a __ _fool and I can prove it to you.’ I still took no thought about it and said ‘Clyde, you’ll have a hard time proving it.’ He said, ‘You are just a __ __ __,’ and that made me look around. I says, ‘Clyde, don’t call me a ___ ___,’ and he says, ‘You are a ___ old black headed, gray headed, __ __’ and grabbed the salt shaker and threw it at me. I dodged that. Then he picked up a soda water bottle off the counter and hit me in the left temple. All I saw for a few minutes was like a light blaze of fire. I guess it addled me; I didn’t know anything; I was just knocked out, that’s all I can tell you.
“The next thing I remember was Mrs. Paul Beason standing in the door and saying, ‘Conner has killed Clyde.’ The next thing I know, I remember Frank Dotson running up to the steps where I was standing and he asked me what was the matter; I told him I didn’t know but that somebody said I had killed Clyde and I told him I knew nothing about it. Then I left the cafe. I had been eating Easter eggs and was peeling them with my knife. I never did put my knife in my pocket open and I don’t remember telling Bostic anything about not trading the knife until I killed some one. I did not tell him that at all. Frank Dotson and Russell Goode brought me on to jail, and I told Frank I wanted to give up to the law. I had trouble with my head and still have it. There was a knot on it as big as a hen’s egg and Dr. Twitty and Dr. Norris treated it. It stayed for possibly two weeks. I never called Beason a damn lie and never said a word out of the way anything more than I have told here on the stand. I never had a cross word with any of the Beasons in my life. I gave the knife to the High Sheriff—it was a punch board knife that I had swapped with a negro in the shop.”
Part 3 – Connor Pleads Guilty of Manslaughter
On cross examination by the solicitor, Mr. Connor stated that he did not have either of the Doctors summoned to appear as a witness and would leave it to his lawyers to summon them if they desired to do so. He stoutly maintained that he did not remember anything after Clyde hit him with the bottle until everything was over; he said when he realized what had happened that he got Dotson to bring him to the Sheriff’s office, where he gave himself up. He denied telling the Bostic boy anything about killing someone with the knife before he traded it but he said he was talking to him about swapping knives.
The solicitor asked him a good many questions about being connected with the liquor business, all of which he denied. He admitted that his wife had had him up for non-support, but had stopped the proceedings voluntarily.
Frank Dotson, a witness for the defendant, testified that he had been in the cafe that morning but had stepped out to look at a pen of shoats and when he came back everybody had left the cafe and Connor was standing there rubbing his head. He said Connor told him that some of them had told him that he had killed Clyde Beason but that he did not know anything about it, but he wanted to go and give up to the law. Dotson said the cafe looked as though there had been a right smart scuffle and that he saw the contents of a coca cola bottle spilled on the floor. He said there was a right smart excitement and he thought best to get Connor to the Sheriff’s office; that he went by home and got his gun for his own protection, and that he and a fellow named Hawkins and Russell Goode brought Connor on to jail; that when they got there, Connor gave his knife to the Sheriff and told him that folks had told him he had killed Clyde Beason.
Russell Goode, a defendant’s witness, corroborated the story told by Dotson about their bringing Connor to jail. He said that when they got to jail Connor gave the Sheriff his knife and told him that was all he had in his pocket except an apple and he wouldn’t give him that. He said that Connor told them not to ask him any questions and if there was any fighting to be done or anyone tried to mob him, to give him a gun and that he would protect himself.
A number of character witnesses were put on by the defense who gave Connor’s character as good. On cross examination, some of them admitted that they had heard that he had been connected with the liquor business; some of them said that the reports had been circulated more since the killing than before.
Paul Padgett, a defendant’s witness, said that he had been subpoenaed by the State. He said he saw Clyde reach for the bottle and hit Connor a pretty hard lick. He said Clyde weighed about 150 or 160 pounds. He told practically the same story that was told by the State’s witness, except that he said that Connor had said to Clyde, “The same thing back at you,” when Clyde called him a ___ ___.
Before this case ended and before the arguments began, the defendant, through his counsel, tendered a plea of manslaughter, which plea the solicitor for the State accepted, and it was agreed that the jury might return a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.
The defendant’s counsel asked permission of the Court to put up some witnesses, the first being Dr. Phillip Norris, who was admitted as an expert by the State, and who testified that he saw the defendant on the night he was brought to the jail and said that in his opinion, Connor was in a state of shock induced by concussion of the brain; that he noticed a place about the size of a silver dollar on the left temple of the defendant, that there was an abrasion but the skin was not broken. He said that in his opinion a man could be in possession of his physical faculties and at the same time be mentally blank from shock. He stated that the county physician, Dr. Twitty, made a physical examination of the defendant, that he [Norris] only made a mental examination.
Sheriff Hardin testified that after he heard about the trouble and while preparing to intercept the escape of the defendant, in the event he tried to make same, that the defendant came to the jail and gave himself and knife up. He said that [Connor] was in a dazed condition, had large knot on his temple and that he acted as though he were not in full possession of his mental faculties.
A number of witnesses were called by both the State and defendant to testify as to the characters of the deceased and defendant.
Judgement of the Court was that defendant be imprisoned in State’s prison at Raleigh at hard labor for not less than 3 years and not more than 4 years.