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Willard Richardson’s Story

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Surnames/tags: Richardson Violett
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In Which Willard Richardson Desperado, Was Sentenced to Death.


He allegedly meaning confessed to 2 additional murders to a Fellow Prisoner and Bragged about His Deeds—Weakened at Trial.

The following account of the trial of Willard Richardson, who was sentenced to be electrocuted on April 19th, by a jury in the circuit court of Bardwell, Ky., Saturday (as stated in The Citizen Saturday evening) is taken from the Paducah News-Democrat of Sunday.

In the presence of about two hundred spectators who crowded the dingy court room until almost every passage was blocked, Willard Richardson, indicted for murdering John Violett, a prosperous farmer of near Milburn, took the stand in his own defense and threw himself on the mercy of the jury, which had been empaneled after a venire of one hundred and fifty men had almost been exhausted. Less than two hours later, the jury marched up the aisle before Special Judge Sandridge and passed to the clerk their verdict, which sends the slayer to death in the electric chair.

The Trial

At 10:15 o’clock, after one hour and a quarter of hard labor, a jury finally was chosen from the venire of 150 men. But two witnesses took the stand for the prosecution. Each told how Richardson ran against Violett, cursed the dead man and then emptied the contents of a revolver into his body. Throughout all testimony, the crowd sat quietly.

At 10:30 o’clock, with head bowed, and almost too weak to reach the witness stand, Richardson told his story of the murder. Contrary to the general opinion, Richardson did not put up a plea of insanity. Instead, he acknowledged the crime in anything but a steady voice. “I was drunk,” he said “and didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing and wouldn’t have shot Violett. I was not at myself.”

In defense of Richardson, Attorney Shelbourne made a powerful appeal for the murderer on the plea that he was drunk and did not realize the enormity of the crime he committed. Following this, Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert L. Smith, of Clinton, in a slow but impressive argument, told the jury the prosecution’s side of the case. He said the crime was one of the worst committed in Carlisle and that the death sentence must be imposed on such a character as that which Richardson had proven himself to be.

After the Trial

Following the pronouncing of the sentence, Richardson asked that he be allowed to speak with Judge Sandridge. With tears in his eyes, the judge listened to the man’s story at the conclusion of which he thanked the court. After a handshake he left the courtroom.

When he arrived at the jail for the second time he played several games of cards.

Shortly after news of Richardson’s conviction had been received at the county jail, County Jailer Henry Houser and Deputy Jailer Charles B. Whittemore were called to the door which opens in the iron cage, wherein white male prisoners are kept. After ascertaining that Richardson had confessed to the murder of John Violett and that he had been sentenced to the electric chair, Jerry Moran, an aged man in jail for an alleged petty theft, told the jailers of the murderer’s confession, in which he (Richardson) had killed Violett because of an old grudge he had held against Violett for several years.

“I killed two men down in Texas ten years ago.” Richardson is said to have remarked “and if I could have got something to kill a nigger with, I’d got away from Bardwell. The nigger was guarding me by himself.”

The murderer also told Moran why he had killed Violett. “It’s like this,” Richardson said. “Some time ago Violett and me had some trouble about a trade about a sow and some pigs. I made up my minds I was going to get him. Saturday afternoon I was full of whiskey and drunk. When I saw Violett coming down the street, I thought I just might as well kill him then as any other time, and I pulled my gun and fired.

“I don’t care about dying for it. I got my man and I’m satisfied. The ___ ___ ___ ought to have died long time ago.” Following this, Richardson, according to Moran, asked him to write his mother, who is blind, and tell her “that I died game. Tell her not to worry about me. Tell her I was in the big ring to the last.” Richardson also confessed he was a dope fiend and that he used morphine excessively. He claims to escape conviction for one of his Texas murders by an insanity plea and the second by establishing an alibi. Another man, innocent, is serving a term for the second crime. A full confession from Richardson probably will be forwarded to Governor Colquitt, of Texas.

Published in The Cairo Evening Citizen, Monday, 26 Feb 1912


Slayer of John Violett Assumed Air of Bravado in Death Chair.


Death Ensued a Few Minutes after Current Was Turned On Eddyville, Ky., April 20—Walking jauntily between the death watch and preceded by the chaplain of the penitentiary, Willard Richardson convicted of the murder of John Violett, stepped to the electric chair and without a tremor took his seat in the place of death and awaited the adjusting of the apparatus that would take his life.

Turning to the small group of newspaper men and prison officials, he remarked, "It takes a brave man to do this, boys, doesn't it." As the chaplain prayed, the straps were tightened around Richardson’s body. The doomed man took no interest in either the prayers or the preparations, but as the hood was about to be placed over his face, he asked in a jocular tone: "I've got my false teeth in; do you think the shock will jar them out?" He had no desire to make a statement or receive any religious ministration, but with an air of bravado settled himself to await the end. The current was turned on and in a very few minutes Richardson was pronounced dead. Only the slightest movement of one finger outstretched on the arm of the death chair indicated that the strong current was passing through his body.

The electrocution was considered successful in every way. The body was in no way disfigured and death was instant. The officials at Eddyville assert that a more apparently depraved man than Richardson was never known at the penitentiary. He has carried himself with a "daredevil" air ever since his incarceration and has never expressed any contrition for his crime.

He ate heartily and slept well on the days and nights preceding his electrocution. His aged father entreated him to seek pardon in prayer, and to his solicitations Richardson replied, "Quit bellyaching around, you bother me."

Richardson's murder of Violett at Milburn, in Carlisle, County, on February 17, was absolutely unprovoked and mob violence was threatened at the time. He was twice taken to Paducah for safekeeping and before his trial feigned insanity, reverting to a confession when placed on the stand.

Published in The Cairo Evening Citizen, Saturday, 20 Apr 1912

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