20 Mar 2017


Lost Capitol Hill: Daniel W. Jarboe, Murderer, pt 2.

Last week we learned about the death of John R. Nally at the hands of Daniel W. Jarboe. Both men worked at the Washington Navy Yard; Jarboe was incensed at Nally for refusing to marry Jarboe’s sister. Jarboe was duly incarcerated and put on trial.

Two days after the Daily American Organ had outed Jarboe as a Democrat, the newspapers reported that his trial had been set. Finally, on July 26 a jury was empaneled and the following Monday, District Attorney Philip Barton Key opened his case by declaring that this was, indeed, a homicide.

Charles Lee Jones, Jr, one of the defense attorneys, countered by saying that this was a case of “justifiable homicide, or at least excusable homicides,” according to that evening’s Star.

Mr. Jones went on to depict, in animated language, the aggravated provocation which led to the deed. He contended that said provocation was cause enough to frenzy any man’s mind. He spoke of the prisoner and the deceased – acquaintances and friends; of the deceased having been the avowed suitor of the sister of the prisoner; of the betrayal of this sister by the deceased in some weak, unguarded, confiding moment. The deceased had not only accomplished his hellish purpose, but had gloried in his infamy and publicly boasted of the deed; day to day, he insulted the family of his victim.

The trial lasted only two days, with most of the witnesses being those who were deposed during the original examination. The stories they told did not deviate much from their previous tellings, though there were some questions about Jarboe’s general and specific state of mind. One witness indeed mentioned that “it had never occurred to [him] that Jarboe was insane.”

Washington’s City Hall, which also housed its criminal court in the east (right) wing. This image was engraved just a few years before the Nally murder and trial (LOC)

A Mrs. Jeffers gave some more background on the Nally’s connection to Jarboe’s sister:

Deceased was at Jarboe’s every day during the autumn and after autumn, when he got work in the Yard, every night after work; both deceased and Mss Jarboe visted at her house; they both spoke to her of their engagement; deceased told witness that he loved Miss Jarboe better than any girl he knew; Miss Jarboe was called “Sis Jarboe;” witness had told deceased what Miss Jarboe had said; that if he would only marry her to save the disgrace from her father she’d be his slave, she’d do anything, she did’nt care if he never lived with her, so he’d marry her; deceased replied in a very insignificant manner, turning up nis nose. “that he’d never marry her;” … Jarboe said no, he would’nt hurt a hair of Nally’s head; he said if deceased would only marry his sister, so as not to disgrace his old father. He’d divide his last dollar with deceased to assist them; prisoner told witness that he was almost crazy about the matter.

Unsurprisingly, the DA instructed the jury to ignore any and all provocations, that murder was murder and that this should be exactly how they should decide the case. In reply Joseph H. Bradley (pic), one of Jarboe’s lawyers, “contended that the prisoner’s mind was unhinged at the time of the transaction” and that “a man may be perfectly sane on all subjects but one.”

Bradley then went on at length; in spite of having originally insisted that he would “be very brief,” he spoke for an hour and a half. He was followed by another speech by an additional lawyer of Jarboe’s. District Attorney Philip Barton Key had the last word, and “urged that the act of killing was a case not of insanity or self-defense, but an act of vengeance.”

Next week: The jury decides – and the long shadow of this case.

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