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Deadly Censorship

Murder, Honor, and Freedom of the Press

James Lowell Underwood

Publication Year: 2013

On January 15, 1903, South Carolina lieutenant governor James H. Tillman shot and killed Narciso G. Gonzales, editor of South Carolina’s most powerful newspaper, the State. Blaming Gonzales’s stinging editorials for his loss of the 1902 gubernatorial race, Tillman shot Gonzales to avenge the defeat and redeem his “honor” and his reputation as a man who took bold, masculine action in the face of an insult. James Lowell Underwood investigates the epic murder trial of Tillman to test whether biting editorials were a legitimate exercise of freedom of the press or an abuse that justified killing when camouflaged as self-defense. This clash—between the revered values of respect for human life and freedom of expression on the one hand and deeply engrained ideas about honor on the other—took place amid legal maneuvering and political posturing worthy of a major motion picture. One of the most innovative elements of Deadly Censorship is Underwood’s examination of homicide as a deterrent to public censure. He asks the question, “Can a man get away with murdering a political opponent?” Deadly Censorship is courtroom drama and a true story. Deadly Censorship is a painstaking recreation of an act of violence in front of the State House, the subsequent trial, and Tillman’s acquittal, which sent shock waves across the United States. A specialist on constitutional law, James Lowell Underwood has written the definitive examination of the court proceedings, the state’s complicated homicide laws, and the violent cult of personal honor that had undergirded South Carolina society since the colonial era.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Cover

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pp. 1-3

Copyright

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pp. 5-7

Contents

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pp. vii-8

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-9

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

The twentieth century produced many trials grandiosely labeled “trial of the century,” largely because of the involvement of celebrity defendants and famous lawyers known for dazzling displays of legal pyrotechnics. Such trials usually featured grisly or shocking crimes laid bare in graphic testimony. An early entry...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiii

Anyone who seeks the solution to the historical puzzle presented by the Gonzales/Tillman affair needs a great deal of help. I owe thanks to the many people who provided it. Librarians and archivists are accustomed to helping wandering authors through a thicket of historical documents and books. The...

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1. An Editor Is Censored

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pp. 1-40

On Thursday, January 15, 1903, at 12:40 p.m., Lieutenant Governor James Hammond Tillman adjourned the South Carolina Senate, over which he presided. Just before 2:00, accompanied by two state senators who had no foreboding of what was to come, Tillman walked out of the capitol building and across Gervais...

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2. Pretrial Maneuvers

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pp. 41-66

Despite the relative comfort in which he was incarcerated, at the jail but amid his own furniture and fresh-cut flowers, Jim Tillman wanted out. His attorneys decided to apply for bail. The South Carolina Constitution at that time provided: “All persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties...

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3. The First Round of the Trial

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pp. 67-79

Jury selection went faster than expected, taking only two hours. A jury pool, called a venire, of thirty-six men had been summoned. These names were written on individual pieces of paper placed in a broad-brimmed hat owned by Sheriff Thomas Caughman. A cloth covered the hat. The custom was to have a...

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4. The Prosecution Case

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pp. 80-118

Even before the first witness was called, there were strong signals that the focus of the case would not be on the details of the shooting but on challenges to the fairness of the State’s editorials attacking James H. Tillman and on whether they drove him to kill as the only way to stop them. Tillman’s argument that...

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5. The Defense Case

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pp. 119-131

When the defense began its case, it had several aims: to show that James H. Tillman had reason to fear N. G. Gonzales because he had threatened to attack Tillman, that Gonzales made “demonstrations,” aggressive movements, just before the shooting that prompted Tillman’s reasonable fear that he was about to be...

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6. Tillman's Testimony

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pp. 132-165

Tillman’s defense counsel had skillfully orchestrated its witnesses to lay a predicate for their self-defense strategy and to show by the defendant’s testimony that he had suffered relentless criticism in the State newspaper, edited by the deceased, but it was up to Tillman himself to convince the jury that reasonable...

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7. The Closing Arguments

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pp. 166-200

Having the burden of proof, the prosecution made the first of the closing arguments. Solicitor J. William Thurmond began by emphasizing the grave duty facing the jurors. To him the case was a tragedy as well as a contest in a court of law. He noted that the jury had two pictures before it. The first showed that “a...

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8. The Verdict

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pp. 201-223

Judge Gary began by telling the jurors that he would instruct them only as to the law that they should apply to the facts. The jury had the exclusive prerogative to determine the facts. Prior to the adoption of the South Carolina Constitution of 1868, judges could charge juries on the facts in a case as well as on the law. But...

Notes

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pp. 225-276

Bibliography

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pp. 277-292

Index

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pp. 293-308


E-ISBN-13: 9781611173000
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611172997

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2013