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Sex, Murder, and the Unwritten Law: Courting Judicial Mayhem, Texas Style

Overview


From the 1880s until after World War I, Texas prosecutions for adultery, fornication, rape, seduction, and sodomy were many, but formal penal code seemed much too merciful to suit most southerners, who believed in direct and personal redress of such wrongs. “Unwritten law” seemed to justify the killing—or at least maiming—of almost anyone who by actual physical contact or inappropriate comment offended southern notions of female virtue, male honor, or sanctity of marriage.Illicit sex is the catalyst in all the ...
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Overview


From the 1880s until after World War I, Texas prosecutions for adultery, fornication, rape, seduction, and sodomy were many, but formal penal code seemed much too merciful to suit most southerners, who believed in direct and personal redress of such wrongs. “Unwritten law” seemed to justify the killing—or at least maiming—of almost anyone who by actual physical contact or inappropriate comment offended southern notions of female virtue, male honor, or sanctity of marriage.Illicit sex is the catalyst in all the Texas murder trials recounted in Sex, Murder, and the Unwritten Law. In each account the victim, at least in the perception of the defendant, had committed some sexual impropriety. In every case the defendant opened fire with premeditated intent to kill. And in all the resulting trials, the defense relied at least in part on unwritten law.Bill Neal explores the imaginative machinations of defense lawyers who extricated obviously guilty clients when there appeared no legal basis upon which to peg a defense. Typically defense attorneys outmaneuvered prosecutors and judges, whose efforts to rein in excesses met with little success. These courtroom triumphs and underlying strategies are remarkable to lawyers, historians, and laypersons alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896726628
  • Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Series: American Liberty and Justice Series
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 1,380,378
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


As a practicing criminal lawyer, Bill Neal spent more than four decades frequenting county courthouses in West Texas and hearing tales of sensational crimes and celebrated trials of bygone years. During law school Neal was comment editor of the Texas Law Review, and after graduation he served for a year as a briefing attorney for the Texas Supreme Court. He and his wife, Gayla, live in Abilene, Texas.Gordon Morris Bakken teaches American history at California State University, Fullerton. He is the author of twenty books as well as numerous articles and law reviews, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews.
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Table of Contents

Illustrations

Introduction Sex and the Law, Both Written and Unwritten 3

1 John Hallum Tried for Shooting a Preacher: Defends Himself in an Irate Community 18

2 The Seduction of Verna Ware: The 1909 Gatesville Courthouse Massacre 40

3 Miss Winnie's Revenge: The Family Murder 59

4 A Valentine's Day Tragedy: The Boy from the Wrong Side of the Tracks 84

5 The Cursed Fortune - Part One: Floyd Holmes and Warren Wagner 148

6 The Cursed Fortune - Part Two: Priscilla and Cullen Davis 184

Afterthoughts: Some Reflections on Frontier Law, Written and Unwritten 229

Notes 239

Bibliography 261

Index 271

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2009

    Terrible book

    This is one of the worst books I have ever read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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