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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Murdered in Court.

Little Murders

A bitter rivalry between two Ashland, Ohio newspapers turned bloody in a Cleveland courtroom on October 30, 1887. The details of the lawsuit have been overshadowed by subsequent events in the courtroom, but C. D. Mason, the editor of the Ashland Gazette, was the plaintiff in a suit to recover $52.50 from Elias Lutz on a note transferred to him from his brother James Mason. Representing Mr. Lutz was attorney W. H. Reynolds, who was also the editor of the Ashland Times. In a separate case, the Mason brothers were suing Reynolds for libel over an article in his paper characterizing the note transaction as a swindle.

The tension in the room was palpable when James Mason took the witness stand. As he spoke, W. H. Reynolds made irritating remarks regarding his testimony. D. C. Mason soon had enough of Reynolds’s comments; he stood up and struck Reynolds with a chair. Reynolds, who was lame, stood up as well, and supporting himself on a chair, began to strike D. C. Mason with his cane. James Mason came to his brother’s defense from the witness stand, by pulling out his .38 caliber revolver and firing two fatal shots into W. H. Reynolds. Spectators who were supporting Reynolds called for the lynching of James Mason, but cooler heads prevailed and with some difficulty, both Mason brothers were protected.

The coroner’s jury charged James Mason with first-degree murder and charged C. D. Mason as an accessory. However, at the preliminary hearing Judge A. G. Beer, after close examination of the facts, ruled that James Mason had not acted with premeditation. He changed the charge to manslaughter placing James Mason’s bail at $10,000, and he released C. D. Mason without any charge.

When the grand jury met in December, the charges changed again. The jury, made up of “the wealthiest and best men of the county,” listened to the testimony of twenty witnesses and deliberated for three days before charging both Mason brothers with premeditated murder. C. D. Mason was taken into custody and James Mason, who had not been able to make bail, remained in jail. Bail was now refused for both men. Judge Beer, and the proprietors of the Ashland Gazette were surprised and indignant over the verdict, but it was generally received with approval by the citizens of the city and county.

The Masons' trials were twice delayed by technicalities. In December, their attorney said that they were not ready for the trial of James Mason but were ready for C. D. Mason’s trial. The prosecution wanted to try James first because the case against C. D. was dependent on James’s guilt. The judge agreed, and both trials were continued until April. In April, thirty-six potential jurors were summoned, but because the defense had not been shown a copy of the venire three days before the trial, all were discharged and the trial postponed until June. In June, they summoned another thirty-six potential jurors but could only find seven who were agreeable to both sides. Another hundred were summoned before the final jury was selected.

In the end, the grand jury should have stuck with Judge Beer’s charge if they wanted a conviction. James Mason justified his actions by saying that he came to the defense of his brother. The jury agreed and found James Mason not guilty. Charges against C. D. Mason were dropped.

There was great public outcry over the results of the trial, which had cost the county as much as $15,000. The jury was not properly guarded, people said, and may have been subject to tampering.

Soon after the trial James Mason left Ohio for Washington Territory. It was speculated that C. D. Mason would probably leave soon as well. 


"A Murder Trial Postponed." Jackson Citizen Patriot 12 Apr 1888.
"An Ohio Editor Shot Dead." Patriot 31 Oct 1887.
"C. D. Mason Discharged." Plain Dealer 12 Jul 1888.
"Killed in Court." Saginaw News 31 Oct 1887.
"Masons on Trial for Murder." Plain Dealer 12 Nov 1887.
"Murdered in Court." National Police Gazette 26 Nov 1887.
"The Mason Murder Case Continued." Plain Dealer 20 Dec 1887.
"The Mason Murder Trial.." Plain Dealer 14 Jun 1888.
"Will be Tried for Murder." Plain Dealer 10 Dec 1887.


Graham Clayton says:
December 7, 2015 at 12:24 AM

It would be interesting to read the two Ashland newspapers and their accounts of the whole affair.

LadyMama says:
December 7, 2015 at 11:00 PM!

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