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The Legacy of Lubbock and the Law: December 2017

Compiled by Chuck Lanehart

100+ Years Ago

Statement Made Public in Amarillo Shows Remarkable Decrease in Crime

Crime in the borders of Potter County has shown an astonishing decrease within the past few years . . .

“An estimate of 90 per cent decrease in the numbers of crimes committed within the past two years, would not exceed the record,” said Sheriff W.M. Burwell yesterday afternoon, “but a conservative calculation would place the falling off at 80 per cent.”

“Long since outgrowing the ‘wild and wooly’ reputation which was attached to the Western country,” wrote the

Amarillo Daily News, “Potter County has taken her place among the most law-abiding, clean-citizened counties in Texas, if not the entire country.”

In the face of a redhot local option campaign, this will be a magnificent argument in favor of that city remaining in the prohibition column.

—Lubbock Avalanche, December 4, 1913

[Note: it is impossible to accurately document the veracity of this remarkable report, as crime statistics were not regularly and systematically kept in the U.S. until the late 1920’s. It is curious that the Lubbock Avalanche, the chief early Promoter for settlement of Lubbock, would run such a glowing report about one of Lubbock’s biggest rivals, Amarillo. The hide was likely an effort to Promote prohibition throughout the region, as is noted in the last sentence of the article.]

75 Years Ago

Desertion Suspect is Arrested Here

Manly Barnett was arrested here Monday on a charge of desertion from the U.S. Army by Sheriff Tom Abel and Deputy Sheriff Grady Harrist, and was lodged in the county jail.

Harrist said that the arrest was made after Lubbock relatives of the prisoner had reported him, following an alleged quarrel.

—Lubbock Morning Avalanche, December 8, 1942

[Note: more than 20,000 American soldiers were fried and sentenced for desersion during World War 11. Fourty-nine were sentenced to death, though 48 of these death sentences were subsequently commuted. Only one U.S. soldier, Private Eddie Slovick, was executed for desertion in WWII. Some 50,000 American servicemen deserted during the Vietnam War. Since 2000, the Pentagon report’s about 40,000 servicemen have deserted.]

50 Years Ago

Woman Murdered at Tech

Benjamin Lach as he was arrested for one of Lubbock’s most famous murders in 1967.

The body of a woman employee of Texas Tech, her head almost severed, was found in a blood-spattered laboratory on the third floor of the Tech Science building here Monday night.

Local police, with practically no clues to the identity of the killer, began their search for what one official labeled a “thrill slayer.”

The victim was identified as Mrs. Sarah Alice Morgan, 51, . custodian.

Lubbock Avalanche-journal, December 5, 1967

[Note: four months later, police staking out the crime scene surprised 23-year old Tech student Benjamin Lach, who was in Possession of master keys to the building. Lach fled, leading to a movie-style foot-and-auto chase and his arrest. The brutal scalpel murder was one of the most notorious criminal cases in Lubbock’s history, ending three years later in a Fort Worth courtroom after a change of venue. Lach, represented by Lubbock layers Bill Gillespie and A. W. Salyars, relied on an alibi defense, but was convicted of murder by the jury after two hours of deliberation. Lubbock Prosecutors Blair Cherry Jr. and Alton Griffin sought the death penalty, but presented no evidence at the Punishment phase. Lach was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but he was released in 1983 after having served 15 years of the sentence. Lach is believed to be living in Massachusetts.]

25 Years Ago

Vox Populi—by Hon. I.Q. Warnick, Jr. Local Doings

A recent monthly Bar Association Program was a report from the County Judge about the use of the newly purchased 112 story office building by the Lubbock County Commissioners. The County purchased the old Lubbock National Bank building and adjacent property.

The government will spend local taxpayer money to build a heated and air conditioned walkway above Main Street. This will allow elected officials to go from the Courthouse to the new building without having to go outdoors. The Judge said the Commissioners Court had decided to move only nonessential county functions to the new building. (Questions were not permitted after the Judge’s speech on certain prohibited topics. The Question which needed to be asked was, if you are moving non-essential functions to the new building then why didn’t you decide the first non-essential function to be moved would be the County Commissioners Court itself?)

The Judge did suggest we could get the Commissioners to buy anything if we painted it yellow and labeled it with the word “CAT.” (Now, we have a solution. Paint the new building Yellow, change the sign to “CAT” and put arrows directing the Commissioners to the basement.)

The Judge told us based on some of his experiences he is now a guest lecturer at the Texas School for New County Judges. His topic is “Writing Memos About Other Governmental Agencies,” or “Tradin’ Property with a City is a Topic About Which No Memos Should be Written.”

– Lubbock Law Notes, December 1992

[Note: The subject of Judge Warnick’s tongue-in-cheek discourse was Lubbock County Judge Don McBeath, who had been harshly criticized for his support of Lubbock County’s purchase of the old Lubbock National Bank building and construction of the connecting skybridge. The acquisition and skybridge erection have since been praised as perhaps the best decision by Lubbock County leaders since the merger of Old Lubbock with Monterey in 1891.]

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