From the July 7, 1915 edition of The Evergreen Courant:
MURDERERS GIVEN DEATH PENALTY
John Salter and Robert Watkins Will Be Hung Aug. 6
John Salter and Robert Watkins must hang by the neck until they are dead for the murder of Mrs. Martha Lassiter, which occurred just two weeks ago. Such was the verdict of the jury in the trial yesterday and the sentence of the court was that the two should be executed on Fri., Aug. 6, just 30 days, the earliest that the law will permit. The crime for which these men were convicted was committed on the night of June 23, just two weeks ago, a detailed account of which was printed in The Courant last week.
Court convened yesterday morning shortly after 10 o’clock, and after the jury was organized a recess was taken until one o’clock, when the trial proceeded. The taking of testimony and arguments by counsel for the state and the defense were completed at 2:55 and at 3:20 the jury returned the verdict.
Never before in the history of Conecuh County was there such a crowd in the court room as on this occasion, and the court room could not hold much over half the crowd.
The people did not attempt to use the seats, but the immense crowd stood throughout, packed like sardines in a can, enduring the intense heat from the beginning of the trial until the last words fell from the lips of the presiding judge pronouncing the death sentence upon the condemned criminals. The people were remarkably orderly and well behaved, but determined to see all that transpired and to hear every word uttered.
The main witness and the one about whose testimony the greatest interest centered was Wiley House, whose miraculous escape from death has been the wonder of everybody. Mr. House was cool and collected and detailed to the jury with clearness and accuracy the story of the harrowing experience through which he passed while at the mercy of the murderers on that June night in his own home when Mrs. Lassiter was brutally murdered, himself the victim of their murderous assaults, his home robbed and burned, and his remarkable escape from death.
Throughout the trial the negro, John Salter, did not show the slightest excitement or uneasiness. It was quite different with the Watkins negro. When brought into the courtroom, his black face was almost ashen and his body quivered like an aspen. Throughout the trial he was nervous, and when led from the courtroom he had to be supported by deputies.
The people are generally perfectly satisfied with the speedy justice that will be meted out to those criminals. Negroes as well as white citizens express their hearty approval.
Elsewhere in that week’s paper:
In his charge to the grand jury last week Judge Gamble took occasion to congratulate the citizens of this county on the manner in which they have stood for the observance of law and order under the most trying circumstances. And yesterday in their appeals to the jury to mete out adequate punishment to the two murderers, Solicitor Bricken and County Solicitor Jones very strongly commended the people for their course. The Courant is proud that Conecuh’s citizenship does not tolerate the mob spirit.
In the cases just tried speedy justice will be meted out and it was done in an orderly and legal way. It is best for the people and best for society that it should have been done in this way – far better than for a stain to rest upon our county, such as would have been had a lot of infuriated men forcibly taken the prisoners from the custody of officers and executed them as mobs usually do in such cases. The people will always be glad that they restrained themselves from acts of violence and permitted the law to be executed in an orderly way. If a similar crime should unfortunately occur in this county in the future the people have the assurance that our court officers will give as speedy a trial as the one which occurred yesterday.
Forty-four days from the commission of a crime to the execution of the criminals on the gallows should be speedy enough to drive away the mob spirit. We believe it will do it in Conecuh. It should do it in other counties.
That the law’s delay in cases of this character breed the mob spirit cannot be denied. Conecuh has set the pace. Let others follow and in a short while the mob in Alabama will be unheard of.