52 Documents in 52 Weeks #21 – Jesse Repsher’s Indictment

Person of Interest: Jesiah K. Repsher, a.k.a. Josiah or Jesse Repsher
Relationship: paternal 2nd great granduncle


Source Citation: Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, indictment, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.


Document Description: This is a copy of the original indictment found in the criminal court case file for Jesse Repsher. Original document has printing/typing on both sides of the sheet. The paper size is legal. The copy quality is servicable and both the writing and typing are legible. Nothing appears to be cut off or missing when it was copied.


Document Scan/Transcription:
Typewritten side of paper
IN THE COURT OF OYER AND TERMINER AND GENERAL JAIL DELIVERY OF THE COUNTY OF MONROE.
No. 1  February Oyer and Teminer, 1917.
Monroe County, SS.

THE GRAND INQUEST of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, inquiring for the County of Monroe, upon their solemn oath and affirmations, respectfully DO PRESENT: That Jesse Repsher on the third day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixteen, at the County aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, in and upon one Charles Paul in the peace of God and of the said Commonwealth, then and there being, feloniously, wilfully [sic] and of his malice aforethought, did make an assault and him the said Charles Paul the said Jesse Repsher then and there feloniously, willfully and of his malice aforethought, did kill and murder, contrary to the form of the Act of the General Assembly in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

And the inquest aforesaid upon their oaths and affirmations aforesaid, DO FURTHER PRESENT That the said Jesse Repsher of the said third day of December in the year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and sixteen at the County aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, in and upon one Charles Paul in the Peace of God and of the said Commonwealth then and there being, feloniously did make an assault and him the said Charles Paul the said Jesse Repsher then and there feloniously, did kill and slay, contrary to the form of the Act of the General Assembly in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Ira A LaBar [his signature]
District Attorney

Typewritten/handwritten side of paper (middle section)
IN THE OYER AND TERMINER OF February Session, 1917, No. 1
COMMONWEALTH vs. Jesse Repsher.
INDICTMENT.
Murder; Second Count, Manslaughter
February 12th, 1917.
A TRUE BILL
Samuel B. Mikels, Foreman. [his signature]
Now February 12th, 1917, the defendant Jesse Repsher being arranged in open Court pleads not guilty.
Jessiah Repsher [his signature]
Eo die. District Attorney similiter, et issue.
M. J. Gilliland, Co. Dect., Pros.

Typewritten/handwritten side of paper (left section)
COMMONWEALTH’S WITNESSES:
M. J. Gilliland
Peter Warner
Dr. A. A. Wertman
Abraham Bush
Jerome Butz
Peter Transue
Joseph Mader
Frank Walter
Mrs. Frank Walter
Albert Smith
Adam Greenzweig
Addison Learn
Emmett Storm
Albert Springer
Will McWilliams
John W. Smith
Marie C. Paul
Chales K. Smith
Charles Engle

Typewritten/handwritten side of paper (left section)
Feby 21, 1917. Defendant sentenced to undergo separate or solitary confinement in the Penitentiary for a period of time not less than fifteen years and not more then twenty years.
By the court, Chas B. Staples, P. J.


Analysis: I had already discovered the newspaper articles written about Jesse’s murder trial but was curious to see what the documents related to the court case looked like. So, I sent away for them. This document is the indictment of Jesse Repsher found among the papers kept at the Monroe County Archives in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. An indictment is a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime.

I had to look up a few terms. I’d never heard of a court of “Oyer and Terminer” before this. Turns out, it’s an old court name either currently or formerly given to courts of criminal jurisdiction in some states, e.g. Pennsylvania and Georgia.[1] Oyer is from French law meaning a hearing or inspection and terminer is also from French law meaning the deciding or settling of the case. This indictment happened during the February session of the Oyer and Terminer in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. It was case No. 1.

In the indictment, Jesse was charged with a count of murder and a second count of manslaughter. I was curious about the difference and found an article written in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review in May of 1949 titled “History of the Pennsylvania Statute Creating the Degrees of Murder.”[2] This article takes the reader all the way back to 1681 to start the discussion.

Murder is a capital offense in Pennsylvania so there was much discussion around the degrees of murder and the appropriateness of the death penalty. Judge Charles B. Staples made sure to point out (and it was covered in the news articles) that he was personally against capital punishment. So, for Jesse’s sake, the jury needed to be very clear on what fell into first vs. second degree murder. I don’t, however, know what specifically was said since the transcription of the testimony and court proceedings was not among the papers sent to me from the Monroe County Archives. The final result was that the jury found Jesse guilty of 2nd degree murder and his attorney was successful in keeping him from going to the electric chair.

After inspecting all the papers sent to me in relation to this, I was stunned at the swiftness of Jesse’s indictment, trial, conviction, and sentencing. The entire trial, including jury selection and testimony of witnesses, took a total of just three days!

A chronology can be constructed from the documents in the file that were sent to me.

  • 03 December 1916 – Jesse assaults and murders Charles Paul in Pocono Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania[3]
  • 04 December 1916 – M. J. Gilliland, County Detective, presents information to the Justice of the Peace[4]
  • 04 December 1916 – A warrant for the arrest of Jesse Repsher was issued[5]
  • 03 January 1917 – Jesse petitioned to have attorney appointed to him[6]
  • 22 January 1917 – Jesse remanded to the county jail[7]
  • 10 February 1917 – Subpoenas issued to witnesses to come testify at the indictment to begin on 12 February 1917[8]
  • 12 February 1917 – Court appointed Samuel D. Shull to be Jesse’s attorney[9]
  • 13 February 1917 – Indictment occurred and Jesse entered not guilty plea[10]
  • 13 February 1917 – Trial jury picked[11]
  • 13 February 1917 – District attorney Mr. Ira A. LaBar opened the case of the commonwealth,witnesses were called and testified[12]
  • 14 February 1917 – Witnesses were called, Commonwealth rested, defense attorney Miss Dolly O’Dea opened their case, witnesses were called, Jesse was called to the stand[13]
  • 15 February 1917 – Witnesses were called/recalled, defense rested, Commonwealth recalled witnesses, Commonwealth plead to jury, Defense plead to jury, court charged the jury to return a verdict, jury retired, jury returned[14]
  • 15 February 1917 – Verdict of guilty of murder in the second degree entered by jury[15]
  • 21 February 1917 – Jesse sentenced to prison[16]

This indictment document is a copy of an original and does not appear to be tampered with during the copying process. I would classify this copy as being the same as the original. It is primary information in that it was recorded firsthand as the proceedings against Jesse took place. Different handwritings and signatures show this was a fluid document being updated as the events occurred. We can see foreman Samuel B. Mikels signed the True Bill accusing Jesse of first degree murder with a second count of manslaughter. We can see the sentencing written out a week later in another hand.

The indictment is direct evidence in relation to the research questions, ” What was Jesse Repsher of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, indicted for in 1917?” and “What was the sentence that Jesse Repsher of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, was given as a result of his murder trial in 1917?” It is indirect in that it does not answer the research question, “What was the charge, verdict, and sentencing (if any) in the murder trail of Jesse Repsher of Monroe County, Pennsylvania?” The verdict document found in the other related documents must be consulted and combined with this one in order to answer that question.

What genealogical information is gleaned from this document? To be honest, not much! It was more of a morbid curiosity thing on my part. While it does put Jesse in a particular place at a particular time, it does not provide any evidence related to his birth, marital status, or death. It does provide a clue where to look for him next (some penitentiary in Pennsylvania) and would explain why he wouldn’t be found in a census with family members in Stroudsburg in 1920.

CONCLUSION

The documents sent to me from the Monroe County Archives provided good facts around the particulars of Jesse’s indictment. A little dry, but interesting. We learn what witnesses were called and need to consider if these people were part of Jesse’s F.A.N. (friends, associates, and neighbors) network. We learn that District Attorney, Ira A. LaBar, accused Jesse of feloniously, willfully and with malice aforethought assaulting and killing one Charles Paul.  We learn that this indictment document, combined with the other papers stored around it, contains a good outline for when and what happened in the trial. I’ll leave you to read the newspaper articles (link above) for a much livelier account of what happened during the trial!


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyer_and_terminer
[2] Edwin R. Keedy, “History of the Pennsylvania Statute Creating Degrees of Murder,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 97 (May 1949): 759-777.
[3] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, information document, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, arrest warrant, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[6] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, petition for attorney, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[7] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, arrest warrant, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[8] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, witness subpoena, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[9] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, attorney appointment, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[10] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, indictment, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[11] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, court minutes, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Court of Oyer and Terminer, February Term 1917 , case 1, verdict, Commonwealth v. Jesse Repsher; Monroe County Archives, Stroudsburg.
[16] Ibid.

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