From the archives: J. W. Wainwright is acquitted

In January of 1911, a man stood trial for driving at a rate of of over 10 miles an hour in downtown Winters.

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The trial of J.W. Wainwright for exceeding the speed limit in traveling by automobile in the town of Winters occurred Tuesday. Most of the day was taken up by the trial although the hour was set 10 a.m. On account of the illness of Attorney P. Bruton, G.P. Hurst of Woodland was prosecuting attorney. Attorney W. A. Anderson defended Mr. Wainwright. The case came before Justice of the Peace W.P. Womack. Recorder McCoubrey had been subpoenaed as a witness but later was not used. His being a witness disqualified him to sit on the case. The jury box was filled in a short time, the following being chosen: W.D. Overhouse, G.M. Sanger, J.W. Doll, G.W. Cannon, David Hemenway, J. Rummelsbury, G.W. Babcock, J.W. Lamme, W.S. Stark, F.W. Wilson, W. P. Rice, W.S. Womack. Town Marshall J.H. Wolfskill was the first witness and testified in part that he was standing in front of McCourbey’s blacksmith shop on the morning of December 16 some time between 8 and 11 o’clock when J. W. Wainwright passed up Main street at a very rapid rate of speed in his automobile. Mr. Wainwright went up Main Street west and turned north on Fourth Street. Wolfskill took out his stop watch and caught the auto as it went between him and the Elm tree in front of Errington’s house. The machine was 32 seconds in making the distance between the tree and Fourth Street. He also testified that he had seen about 16 other automobiles breaking the town’s speed ordinance and had arrested just the two who happened to be his competitors in business. He, however, disclaimed any prejudice in the matter. He said he only noticed two people on the street at the time Wainwright passed. L. Fitzpatrick was the second witness for the prosecution. He testified that Wainwright passed at about the hour named by Wolfskill and that he judged he was going 12 or 15 miles per hour. He was in McCoubrey’s shop at the time. These were the only two witnesses put on by the prosecution. Dr. J. H. Haile was the next witness and he testified that at about 8:30 Monday morning Wainwright came down Third Street on his way home. Dr. Haile did not know whether this trip to his home was the only one taken by Wainwright that morning. “Jake” Wainwright then took the stand and testified that he only made the one trip up Main Street that morning and that he turned up Third Street and not Fourth Street as Wolfskill testified. He thought he was going about 8 miles per hour. He said his machine was cold and he was having difficulty in getting up any speed on that account but when a machine is cold and warming up it makes a lot of fuss. He thought the noise might have led the marshal and Mr. Fitzpatrick to believe he was travelling at a greater rate of speed than he really was. This concluded the testimony. Mr. Hurst, in his argument to the jury, laid stress upon the fact that the enforcement of the law had to begin somewhere; that there was no question in his mind that the machine was going at a greater rate than 10 miles an hour. That Wolfskill’s watch was accurate and was the only testimony that was definite in the regards to the speed on the machine. He argued that the town officials should be upheld in the enforcement of his sworn duty. Mr. Anderson in his plea to the jury cited that Wolfskill had timed about 16 violations of the town ordinance and had arrested none of them; that the only two men Wolfskill had arrested were his two competitors which showed a prejudice and that the marshal had not made this arrest in the unbiased performance of his duty. He argued that as two witnesses had testified contrary to the marshall’s statement about Waintwright;s going north on Fourth Street, the other testimony of the marshall’s should be reviewed with suspicious for he might be equally mistake in his timing of the speed of the machine. Mr. Anderson maintained that the evidence submitted was not sufficient to convict; that there was a reasonable doubt that the machine was going 10 miles per hour. The judge instructed the jury and they were locked up. Several ballots were taken, but as balloting progressed the votes for conviction grew less. The jury returned  a verdict that it was their opinion the machine was exceeding the limit but the evidence was not conclusive beyond reasonable doubt. The defendant and the jury were then dismissed.  ]]>

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