Creffield and the Holy Rollers made page one headlines from 1903 to 1907. When I was researching Holy Rollers: Murder and Madness in Oregon’s Love Cult I spent months transcribing hundreds of articles. I’m not sure why I was so obsessive. Maybe it was my way of immersing my self into a cult without joining one. Anyway, I’m posting them all for those who are really interested in the story, or are interested the history of journalism, or are interested in how a scandalous story played out in the "media" in a by gone era. Since I no doubt made typos and unconsciously corrected papers' typos, these web pages should not be cited in anything serious (e.g. your dissertation). For such projects they should only be used as starting points and you should refer to the original sources. If you want a shorter version of the story, buy my book. Enjoy.
September 22, 1906: Where is This Thing to End!
Seattle Daily Times 9/22/1906 p6
Where is This Thing to End!
Not long ago a woman shot her brother in the principal passenger station of this city with a revolver which she had purchased a short time before. She was accompanied by another woman who had made with her, according to their own statements, full preparations, in the twenty-four hours preceding the committing of deliberate murder.
Both women gave very clear accounts of what they had done and why they did it. The explanation was that the man they had killed had himself shot down in the streets of Seattle a man whom one or both of them loved. This would afford, to most persons, a good enough reason for the committal of a crime for people of a vindictive temperament. On its face it would not argue insanity.
The community, horrified by recent crimes, was glad to see these people immediately locked up. Nevertheless, while they were awaiting trial and were under strict confinement, there was a sudden movement to have them tried for insanity. This movement was not participated in by the public prosecutor. He, on the contrary, resisted it.
The officers sworn to execute the laws believe that these people should be tried for crime. If found innocent, they can go free, or if found insane on the criminal trial, they will be released and then an insanity charge be preferred against them. But, at present, being charged with crime, they must answer to trial like any other citizen.
As the law permits, on the trial of a crime, the defense of insanity, the average citizen will ask why these people were not put upon trial and left to set up then the defense of insanity. This natural and proper principle being, in the present instance, violated by Judge Frater, we must turn to the law and ask why. Turning to the law we find that when it is alleged that anybody is insane and is at large, a commission may be had for an examination in lunacy. The closest scrutiny of this law, however, bears no intimation that as to persons charged with crime there is any right whatever to a commission in lunacy before they have been tried for the crime. The commission is plainly intended for insane who have committed no crime, but who out to be confined because insane.
The commission, however, was appointed by Judge Frater over the protest of the prosecuting attorney. This commission was not made up of physicians eminent in the community, even if that could be any excuse for the formation of such a board. How was this commission formed. Was it composed of physicians well known in this city? Why, several of the commission were men whose names are almost unknown in this community. Is it any wonder the decision of a board thus formed and thus conducted does not meet with the approval of the people of this county.
Next, we find that the inquiries of the commission were secret. The public prosecutor was not allowed to come in and dispute the fact that these people were insane. He was rigidly excluded from participating in the proceedings of the board. The chief witness that testified to their insanity is a noted criminal lawyer who has been busy in our courts defending on the plea of insanity criminals charged with murder. What a farce!
If Judge Frater’s new system is to be carried out, it now follows that as soon as a man is committed for crime and is within the walls of a prison awaiting his trial, all that is necessary for his friends to do is call for a commission of insanity. The commission will sit in secret. The public prosecutor, who has tried to bring the criminal at least to trial, will be thrust out of doors and the room packed, if need be, by friends of the accused. Then he is declared insane and may be or may not be committed to a mad house. If he is committed to a madhouse; he may, on subsequent inquiry, immediately be freed on the ground that, though insane at the time the commission found him so, he has ceased to be insane and can be released. For it must not be forgotten that the criminal insane, under our existing laws, cannot be kept confined in the public asylums of the state one day longer than their insanity lasts, and that their friends have the right at any time to have it declared that it has ceased. In addition to this, the warden of the asylum has the right himself to discharge the insane, if in his opinion, he has ceased to be out of his mind.
We have already drawn attention to what the statute is. When anybody is at large and charged with insanity, not with crime, but with insanity, he may be tried for insanity, but once he is charged with crime and apprehended for it, neither the law nor the policy of the law permits such a thing as his trial to be avoided in the scheme that has lately been put in practice.
We are glad to perceive that the prosecuting attorney will take the most vigorous steps in his power to avoid this outrageous abuse of justice. If her were not doing so already, The Times would use every exhortation in its power and leave no stone unturned to have so dangerous a practice at once annihilated.
These is too much of this insanity business in criminal trials, and this way of applying it so as to avoid all trial on criminal charge is, so to speak, the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Nobody can or will submit to it any longer.
This community is sick and tired of this insanity plea being made every time cold-blooded murder is committed. Let the officers of the law bring to a speedy trial the murderers that now fill our county jail awaiting trial. If found guilty, let the criminals be punished summarily as the law requires. This is the only way to destroy the epidemic of murder that pervades our atmosphere. Until this is done, no man is safe from the assassin’s hand, even in his own home in the midst of his own family.
Seattle Post Intelligencer 9/22/1906 p1
Miller Objects to Board’s Report
Prosecutor Disagrees With Creffield-Mitchell Insanity Commission. Statement by Defense. Authority Upon Which Ruling Was Made Is Almost Parallel Case.
Mrs. Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell are likely to be taken across the state lines into Oregon within the next few days. In order to prevent such action, the prosecuting attorney’s office in King County must speedily secure from the Supreme Court at Olympia a writ of prohibition against the execution of Judge Frater’s order in pursuance of the findings by the commission that the two women were insane.
This was made plain during the morning session of court yesterday when Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John F. Miller appeared and made a plea in favor of trying the two women for the crime charged against them and against the action of the commission which found them insane after a number of days of examination. as yet the women are in the county jail and there they will remain until the prosecutors have had an opportunity to carry out their plans to place the matter in the hands of the higher court. Up to this time Mr. Mackintosh has not stated what action he will pursue in the matter. When court opened yesterday morning, A. E. Clark, attorney for Esther Mitchell, asked that the case against the young women be stricken from the trial docket, and this was granted without further opposition from the prosecutor than had already been made. Then Mr. Miller arose and declared, in no mild terms, that he believes the commission knew what its findings would be after the first day’s hearings; that the trial judge had not adhered to the statutes governing the cases and that the attorneys interested in the matters had been allowed to take no part in the proceedings. In brief, Mr. Miller said:
“Regarding the report that has been filed in the cases at hand, I must say that as far as myself individually, and the prosecuting attorney’s office is concerned, we are astounded. I am not only astounded, but inexpressibly surprised that the laws of this state for the protection of our lives and people can be set aside and criminals can avoid the consequences of their crimes on any such subterfuge as in this case. Neither the prosecuting attorney’s office nor other attorneys interested in this case were allowed a voice in the proceedings, and secret sessions were held. No one knows what transpired, but I do know that from the first to the last from the character of the words used by the commission, I feared the results of the inquisition.
“This commission has not only usurped all the rights of counsel, but has usurped the judicial functions of this court without any authority on earth, according to the statutes.
“The statute declares that the judge shall examine the charge, but there was not one hour that the court was present at the hearing. Not one question was asked by your honor, nor was your honor present at the sessions.”
At this point Mr. Miller was interrupted by Judge Frater and he stated in reply to assertions of the prosecutors to the effect that secret meetings were held, that at the beginning of the hearing if at any time the partied to the hearing were not satisfied they might ask to examine the witnesses. Mr. Miller denied that he had ever heard such instructions. In closing the prosecutor said:
A witness comes before the commission and says: ‘I know I violated the law, I know it was wrong to take a man’s life. I knew and expected to be arrested. I am willing now to suffer the penalty, but I am satisfied. I don’t care.’ It is your honor’s privilege, if you find these people are fit subjects to be incarcerated in the insane asylum to have them deported to Oregon. Your honor must obtain this from the facts and testimony. From the facts and testimony in this case, your honor, we simply demand that this case be conducted in the ordinary and usual manner, and that they be not deported.”
Here Mr. Miller was again interrupted by the court, who stated that he is satisfied with the testimony and the findings and that the women would be transported to Oregon if he was not prohibited from doing so. He stated further that the prosecuting attorney’s office is at liberty to proceed in any legal way it sees fit, and that no haste will be exercised by the court in getting the prisoners out of the state. Attorneys for the defense then arose to reply to Mr. Miller’s statements, but were denied the privilege. Later, A. E. Clark, attorney for Esther Mitchell, in speaking of the remarks of the prosecutor said:
DEFENDANT ATTORNEY SPEAKS
“I was surprised at the outburst of the prosecuting attorney. Many of the statements made by him in court this morning are lacking in foundation or fairness, and should not be allowed to go unchallenged. At the opening of the hearing before the commission representatives of the state and the defense expressed themselves as satisfied with the personnel of the board. Mr. Miller said this morning that the representatives of the state were not permitted to take part in the examination. As a matter of fact, at the opening of the commission the court stated that both sides would be given a full opportunity to ask any questions they desired and were requested to produce all evidence possible bearing on the case. He further stated that the attorneys would be given full opportunity to give such aid and offer such suggestions as they desired. Repeatedly during the hearing the prosecutor offered suggestions and questions to be propounded, and both sides were given the same opportunity.
“It is claimed that the commission held secret meetings. This was done in order to make physical examinations to discuss matters of delicacy and to bring out evidence which it was seen could not be secured otherwise. To show the attitude of the prosecutor to this method of procedure it is necessary to state that he himself, specifically requested that the testimony of physicians called by him be given without even the court stenographer present. Mr. Miller was the only one of the attorneys interested in the case who took the stand and testified in the matter, and while testifying he declared that if the defendants indulged in the practices testified to by other witnesses they evidently were suffering from a diseased mental condition. At no time did the prosecutor raise an objection before the commission, and it appears to me very remarkable that he should at this late date make the discovery that the affair was not carried on as it should have been. I believe that everyone who attended the hearing of the cases, I will not even except the prosecutor, is firmly satisfied that the women are insane.
WOULD PROHIBIT TRIAL
In speaking of the cases W. A. Holzheimer, attorney for Mrs. Creffield, said:
“While I will not state as an absolute fact at this time that such action will be taken, yet it appears to me that it would be much more sensible that a writ of prohibition would lie preventing the state from trying two insane persons than for the state to attempt to prevent the court from disposing of the cases as he declares he intends to do. In following the law, and the commission as appointed, for the commissioners are officers of the court whose findings must be legal ones, and they become an order of the court. If this commission had found the people sane it would not preclude the court from trying them for murder, but finding them insane, there is no law that will allow of their being tried.”
One of the members of the commission who examined the two women stated to a reporter for the Post-Intelligencer last night that one of the many authorities upon which the commission based its report bears so directly on the subjects as to give the idea that the opinion might have been based on the exact cases in question. This authority, “Berkeley on (illegible) Mental Diseases,” says in speaking of paranoia, the disease which the commission found the women to be suffering:
“Women are more frequently affected than men. In youth the patients are more noticeably deficient; they are apt to run after fancies or are terrified by night visions. Often they undertake long fasting, attend revival meetings, become excitable and uncontrollable. • • • To attend churches and listen to exhortations is to them the elixir of life. No reasoning can undermine their foundations, and although opposition and ridicule may for the moment make the patient doubt the correctness of their conceptions, certainty returns after an hour of reflection. These persons support their illogical misconceptions by diligent reading of the Bible, misapplying passages to their individual aims. • • • The slightest opposition calls forth the powers of wrath and the opposer is denounced as the child of the devil. • • • Patients of this class are, as a rule, found unbearable and soon find their way behind the walls of an institution. There the delusions continue and the loss of liberty is regarded as a consequence of their holiness and the institution as a place of martyrdom. • • • Comparatively few of these patients are really dangerous as long as they are unopposed, though occasionally one receives the command of God to destroy the life of some sinful individual. • • • The medical treatment of this form of paranoia is, so far as any hope of cure is concerned, without avail.”