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Thursday, July 4, 1935
THE DIVORCE |
COURT MURDER |
Bv Milton Propper
\ . M ■ ■ 1
At 3:15 on the Wednesday after
noon of June 7th, on which the law
offices of the firm of Dawson, Mac-
Quire & Locke became the scene of
a crime that was to startle Philadel
phia, and indeed the entire nation,
by its sensationalism and mystery,
six people were gathered in Mr.
Dawson's private office. Of these,
one pair sat together in deep chairs
upholstered in brown leather, off to
the right and before a long black
mahogany table. One was a man
approaching middle age, and the
other a younger, handsome, woman.
A second couple, both youngish
men, sat to the left of the table,
directly opposite the first two, and
facing them. The fifth individual
was Mr. Dawson himself; he lounged
in a swivel chair back of the table.
He thus directly confronted the sixth
person, a man, seated on the other
side of the table.
Outwardly, the gathering ap
peared peaceful and quite enough.
Yet an alert witness could have
sensed, beneath the surface, a preg
nant air of tension, an almost ex
plosive clash of human emotions,
the chief of which were a mutual
distrust and hostility.
The woman on the right was
clearly angry, though she subdued
and suppressed her resentment. Her
eyes glistened metallically, in dis
tinct menace; she compressed her
lips vindictively, and clenched her
hands in her lap until her knuckles
whitened with the pressure. Her
older companion's excitement vfys
apparent in his determined, flushed
face and vicious scowl. Beads of
sweat glistened on his wrinkled
brow, and from time to time he
wiped it nervously with a kerchief.
Of the other pair, the apparent
calm of the younger man was also
deceptive. Actually, he bent for
ward in his chair, taut and alert to
everything that transpired. The man
sitting beside him wore an expres
sion of anxiety and indignation.
Only Mr. Dawson and the sixth
person in front of him, at the table,
gave no intimation of being troubled
by the provocations swaying the
others. Judicially aloof and com-
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posed, the lawyer was well pre
served for his fifty-five years. He
had a commanding personality; his
wide forehead and clear, penetrating
eyes betokened a shrewd intellect
and a keen faculty for decision.
The man opposite him was also
middle-aged, rotund and somewhat
nearsighted, and wore glasses; he
had a totally bald head, a round
owlish face, and vague, amiable
features. A notebook on the table
directly befoie him proclaimed him
a clerk of some sort.
His attention centered on a blue
typewritten pamphlet open on the
table, Mr. Dawson was speaking
slowly and deliberately.
. . about these new develop
ments in the case of Rowland vs.
Rowland," he stated, "as I under
stand them, the defense has uncovered
new evidence, since our last meet
ing, two weeks ago, so that M)r. Row
land can now produce positive
grounds for resisting his wife's libel
for a divorce. And the court has
granted him leave to amend his
answer to introduce these facts.
He looked up from his pamphlet
toward the man he addressed, the
older and less agitated of the two
men on his left, the lawyer for the
Mr. Trumbull nodded. "It is, Mr.
Master," he replied casually.
#"Then we must now consider the
significance and bearing on the case
of your claims," Mr. Dawson said.
"You are . .
The woman's companion leaned
forward suddenly and raised his
"Just a moment, Mr. Master," he
interrupted Mr. Dawson swiftly, "I
object to the introduction, by the
respondent, of any evidence im
pugning Mrs. Rowland's chastity
or the conduct of her private life."
Mr. Trumbull turned sharply and
inimically toward the speaker, as
Mr. Dawson lounged still farther
back in his sVivel chair and folded
"On what grounds, Mr. Willard?"
he inquired calmly.
"Because, Mr. Masters," Mi - . Wil
lard replied eagerly, "when Mr.
Rowland originally answered these
divorce proceedings by hig wife, he
made no suggestion of any such
evidence. Indeed, he put in no de
fense whatever. He had the oppor
tunity at the beginning of the action
to indicate how he would contest it,
in hig formal reply. Having failed
to do so, it is now too late, after I
have presented all the testimony in
Mrs. Rowland's behalf, for him or
lawyer to produce any fresh affirma
Mr. Trumbull half rose in his ex
cited appeal to the arbiter behind
"These new facts, Mr. Master,"
he declared, "occurred only since
our last meeting or they would have
been offered long ago. All this was
argued before the court last week
and decided in my favor. My client,
Allen Rowland . .
Mr. Dawson interrupted him with
a gesture. "That is correct" He
faced Mr. Willard solemnly. "Judge
Pinley heard Mr. Trumbull's motion
to change his original answer, to en
able him to present this new evi
dence before me in the respondent's
favor. You had notice of that hear
ing and were there; despite your
arguments against it at the time, the
motion was granted. I have no
power or intention, now, of recon
sidering that finding," he pro
"But the answer comes as a sur
piise against which my client has
had inadequate warning," Mr. Wil
lard protested, "it is insufficient
it fails to specify the nature of the
grounds on which Mr. Rowland
bases his defense. And it gives me
no fair chance to prepare to refute
Before the master could reply Mr
Trumbull met the objection crisply
and scornfully. '
"It complies with all the formal
requirements, Mr. Willard. It states
that his wife was also guilty of
adultry, the charge she brought
against him. The rest is a matter
of proof for these hearings, at which
the details will be fully established
by the testimony of witnesses."
Said the woman's attorney. "Just
the same, Mr. Master, it isn't
enough. The answer fails to identify
the man with whom Mrs. Rowland
is alleged to have had . . . immoral
relations. He should have received
notice of the charge, so he could ap
pear and refute it,- if he chose, just
as any co-respondent might. He> is
as much a party to this action as
Mr. Rowland or his young lady, Miss
"He has been fully informed of it,
Mr. Willard," Mr. Trubull re
turned quickly; "in fact, he is pres
ent in the outer office. I have sub
poenaed him as a possible witness.
instantly, Mr. Willard leapt to his
feet, and extended both arms; his
flushed features ruddy with anger,
he trembled in agitation.
"Mr. Master,_l insist this entire
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proceeding is irrevelant and inad
missible!" he cried hoarsely. "It's, a
put-up Job to attack my client and
sully her leputation, because she has
erposed her husband's infidelity
with Miss Edmund and established
h»>r right to a divorce. There isn't
a word of truth in it!"
His opponent rose just as quickly.
"Mr. Willard is evidently permit
ting himself to be carried away by
his personal prejudice in the case.
Because he happens "to be Mrs.
Rowland's brother as well as her
representative is no excuse for his
claiming dishonesty on the part of
The crash of Mr. Willard's fist on
the tabletop punctuated his reply.
"My relationship to my sister is
a private matter, which has no con
nection with the merits of my
claim,", he declared vehemently. "I
protest the introduction of person
alities and demand an apology for
Mr. Trumbull's insult!"
"And I demand, Mr. Dawson,"
Mr. Trumbull retaliated hotly, "that
Mr. Willard's accusation, imputing
chicanery to the defense be stricken
from the record. It is his offense;
he owes me an apology for his at
tack on my integrity."
"I didn't say, Mr. Master, that
Mr. Trumbull's participation in this
fraud is deliberate. But I claim this
evidence has no place at this hear
Mr. Trumbull interrupted sarcas
tically. "It is clear that Mr. Wil
lard is not yet well acquainted with
divorce law. Then I must enlighten
him. Where one party sues for
separation on the ground of adul
tery,. his or her adultery is a good
defense. This is known as recrimi
nation; the complaining-spouse will
not be granted a decree where it can
be shown that he or she was also
guilty of the same immorality."
Thus appealed to, Mr. Dawson
looked soberly from one antagonist
to the other.
When, at length, he spoke his
voice rang with his curt reprimand.
"Both of you gentlemen, be seat
ed," he ordered brusquely. "This
meeting will be conducted in a re
spectable, courteous manner or not
at all . . . Mr. Simpkins, you will
please disregard these last remarks
in your notes."
The clerk nodded. When the two
attorneys had reseated themselves,
Mr. Dawson addressed Mr. Trum
"I think we may proceed with the
business. No doubt, you are fully
prepared to sustain your contention
that Mrs. Rowland was unfaithful
to her husband?"
"Yes, Mr. Master." Mr. Trum
bull nodded; then hesitated, some
what uncertainly. "By an unusual
set of circumstances, my client can
produce a young lady, who was al
most an eye-witness to her affair.
. . . She is in this suite now, waiting
to be summoned to make her dispo
"This woman is your first witness
of the afternoon, Mr. Trumbull?"
the master inquired.
"Yes, I shall offer her evidence
now. Afterward, if there is still
time today, my client himself will
take the chair to support her state
Mr. Willard sose again, more
calm and self-possessed.
."I enter an objection, Mr. Master,
to hearing any testimony by Mrs.—
by Mr. Rowland's witness. It is im
possible that she has any direct
knowledge of this action. She is
barely acquainted with 'my sister
and not on the best of terms. In
fact there are strained relations be
tween them, which would prejudice
her against my client and render her
"I deny that!" Mr. Trumbull an
swered excitedly. "Her information
is personal, the result of her own
observation. And her position is
unimpeachable. She is a member of
Philadelphia society and the wife of
one of its most prominent citizens;
she would never lend herself to any
"Nevertheless, her words cannot
be accepted in these circumstances,"
Mr. Willard maintained. "Antagon
ism is apt to blind her to the truth."
Unexpectedly, the woman inter
posed, as though compelled by her
resentment she could not contain.
"Mrs. Keith isn't to be trusted,"
she insisted angrily. "She's utterly
unmoral and holds a grudge against
Allen Rowland as promptly took
up the cudgels. " "That's a damned
lie!" he flared. "She has afl excel
lent reputation and doesn't deserve
to be slandered . .
Mrs. Rowland's lawyer looked
pained, his chief concern appearing
td be Mr. Dawson's possibly unfav
orable reaction to her unpleasant
outburst.*. "As I started to say, I
ask that the witness be excluded."
He broke off, subsiding abruptly,
as Mr. Trumbull laid a restraining;
warning hand on his arm.
Frowning, Mr. Dawson pondered
the request, then shook his head.
"I cannot allow the objection, Mr.
Willard," he declared, "as there is no
concrete evidence of her bias. If
she is prejudiced you will be able to
discredit her, after she has been
questioned ... You may bring your
witness in, Mr. Trumbull."
(Continued Next Week)
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