The Odd Case Of Charlie Ware

Ed. note: this is the second of three articles by a second year student at Harvard Law School on the strange trial of Charlie Ware in Baker County, Ga. Ware, a Negro, was charged with deadly assault on the Sheriff. His lawyers, C. E. King and Donald Hollowell, attempted to prove the charge was a phony one intended to excuse the Sheriff for having shot Ware four times in cold blood.

The first article discussed the prosecution's case, which rested heavily on the testimony of the Sheriff, L. Warren Johnson. This article begins with the presentation of the defense.

At about 3 p.m. Wednesday the defense began to put its witnesses on the stand. Charlie's wife Louise was the first to testify. She insisted that she never invited the Sheriff into her house, and saw that she saw Charlie lying on the ground when she looked outside, and later found his glasses at that spot.

Then the defense called five Negroes who testified to Charlie's conduct at the ballpark on Ichauway Plantation. All agreed that Charlie Ware was not drunk. They said he had grabbed Coke Malone's arm to keep him from entering the spat between his mother and Bud Walker. The witnesses further agreed that Charlie left when Touchstone's man told the people to leave, and that Charlie did not curse at Touchstone.

The cross-examination of those witnesses reflected traditional "Southern" attitudes rather than the normal mode of courtroom proceedings. All the Negro witnesses were addressed by their first names only, since no Negro in the South is accorded the decency of any title, even one so simple as "Mr." In addition, the tactic of the State's attorney was to establish that each one of the Negroes at the ball park had had something to drink; thus attempting to cast these persons in their traditional mold as irresponsible, happy-go-lucky, and rather stupid.


The attempt to ridicule the witnesses backfired, especially in the case of Rosa Lee Jones, one of the protagonists in the fight at the plantation. She drew herself up with dignity and stuck to her story in a clear and even noble tone.

Although the trial had lasted at this point 'til about six o'clock, there was no sign that the court intended to adjourn. Actually, the judge intended to continue the case until late at night; the prosecution knew that the defense had an important witness arriving the next day, and it hoped to force the defense to rest its case before that witness could testify the next morning. When the conspiracy between the prosecution, the Sheriff and the judge became patently obvious, defense attorney Hollowell frightened the judge into a recess by hinting there were several more witnesses to testify that night.

The "surprise" witness for the defense was James Markham, the "cow-man" who figured in the Sheriff's story. Born in Iowa, he had been working on the Newberry Plantation at the time this incident occurred and left Baker County about a year later.

Knowing that Markham's testimony would challenge the Sheriff's assertions and therefore possibly endanger his life, defense attorney Hollowell attempted to contact Burke Marshall in Washington to obtain Federal protection. As Marshall was unavailable, the Justice department referred Hollowell to the man assigned to southwest Georgia, who suggested Hollowell contact the state attorney. Hollowell dismissed this proposal as "naive" and was unable to get any Federal help. Two FBI men subpoenaed to testify refused to follow Markham back to Albany from the trial, even though they were going the same way.

a.m. Thursday and took the stand. He testified that the Sheriff had been drinking on the night of July 4th, and that, when he tried to push the Sheriff's car, the Sheriff kept putting on the brakes. To avoid cracking up his own car, Markham had to go back to the plantation to pick up a battery.

After he had completed his testimony, the State refused to excuse him although he had told the judge there were sick cattle he was supposed to aid.

Markham arrived in court about 10 He was locked in the witness room with the Negroes, creating probably the first integrated witness room in the history of Baker County. (During the two hour recess for lunch, Markham remarked that someone had told him that the Sheriff had finished a whole bottle of liquor at his place the previous night.)

At this point Charlie Ware took the stand to make a defendant's statement. (Since such testimony is not made under oath, he was not subjected to cross-examination.) The gist of his story contradicted that of the Sheriff's at almost every point. He indicated that during the afternoon of the Fourth of July he had had about three beers, that he had tried to prevent Coke Malone from getting into the fight by grabbing Coke's hand and walking him off the ball park. He denied cursing at Guy Touchstone.

He said he spent that evening with friends and returned home at approximately 2 a.m. As he was undressing for bed, the Sheriff appeared at his door saying something like "Open this damned door and come out."

Ware stepped outside, was ordered to the car and told to place his hands on the front fender while the Sheriff searched his pockets. He found the penknife but returned it to Ware. Ware said Johnson then asked him, "Why have you been hiding from me all night?" When Ware replied that he had just gotten home and hadn't been hiding, the Sheriff knocked him over the left eye with the butt of his pistol leaving a deep gash that required two stitches..