Norfolk Landmark, September 22, 1885

The Trial of Dr. John Dennis Pitts for Murder.

Moral -- Murder

Dr. J. D. Pitts, charged with the murder of Dr. L. T. Walter, on Tangier Island, Accomack county, in May, 1884, was brought into court, in the County Court, yesterday morning for trial for the second time, his first trial in Elizabeth City county, in September, 1884, having resulted in conviction and a sentence of eighteen years imprisonment in the penitentiary. The court room yesterday was well crowded. Dr. Barton Pitts and Mr. Edward Pitts, formerly of the Norfolk bar, brothers of the prisoner, were present. Mrs. Walter, wife of the murdered man, and her brother, from Accomack, were also present

Hon. John Neely appeared for the defense and Hon. John Goode, with Capt. George D. Parker, Commonwealth's Attorney of the county, represented the Commonwealth.

Twenty-six witnesses came over from Tangier Island, several of them females. There are six witnesses for the prosecution.

One very important witness for the Commonwealth, Captain George Thomas, an invalid from rheumatism, on Tangier Island, was not in court, but the prosecution hope to have him present tomorrow, a messenger having been sent after him last night. There are no new witnesses, and the testimony will be the same introduced at the Justice's examination on Tangier Island, and again at the trial in Hampton last Fall. It was hoped to have present a new witness in the person of Mrs. George Thomas, an invalid on the island, but it was found she could not be removed.

Dr. Pitts, the prisoner, appeared in the dock in a cassimere suit of a dark gray mixture, and looked the picture of good health. He has been in the county jail since the first of June, and notwithstanding his contracted and repugnant quarters appears not to have suffered in the least by his confinement.

Captain Parker, the Commonwealth's attorney, asked the court to continue the opening of the trial until Wednesday morning, as one of the most important witnesses for the Commonwealth, Captain George Thomas, was absent, and rules would have to be issued for him. Mr. Neely objected to a postponement, and said that the defense would agree to submit to the jury the testimony of Captain Thomas as already written down, and let it go. If the trial opened on Wednesday it would hardly conclude by Saturday, and he had to attend an important criminal trail in Accomack on Monday next. It was finally agreed to let the testimony of Captain Thomas, as written down, go before the jury, and if he arrives before the jury takes the case, to examine him orally also.

It was nearly 1 o'clock when the prisoner stood up to hear the indictment read by the clerk and at its conclusion, Mr. Neely, the prisoners council, submitted a plea that the Court ought not to proceed further with the prosecution on the ground that four regular terms of court had passed, during which the prisoner had not been brought to trial, and that such failure to try was not caused by the accused or his defense. He then read the statute and sundry certificates of S. E. Brickford, Clerk of the County Court of Elizabeth City county, and asked that the prisoner be "forever discharged." The matter was argued by the respective counsel, and overruled by the Court. A second plea was entered and overruled. The clerk then proceeded to empanel the jury, but out of a panel of twenty-four only eleven jurors were found qualified to try the case. They were as follows: Luther Etheridge, Thos. W. Butt, Lemuel McLean, Ira Armstrong, Samuel A. Etheredge, J. B. Ferret, H. F. Grinalds, J. G. DeBaum, R. B. Wilson, J. G. Mullins and C. Miller. The court then adjourned until 10 o'clock this morning to allow the sheriff to summon a new panel.

Norfolk Landmark
Norfolk, Virginia
September 22, 1885