John B. Walker's Life Saved
Sentence Commuted by the Governor to
Imprisonment for Life.
A special dispatch from Lincoln to the Omaha Bee, dated March 2, says:
Governor Holcomb this afternoon commuted the death sentence of John B. Walker, the Dawson county murderer, to imprisonment for life. Following is the order issued to Clerk of the Supreme Court D. A. Campbell and Sheriff Hobson of Dawson county:
Whereas, It appears that January 26, 1894, judgment and sentence of death was pronounced against John B. Walker in the district court of Dawson county upon conviction of the crime of murder in the first degree; and,
Whereas, A writ of habeas corpus was by the said John B. Walker, presented to the supreme court of the state of Nebraska, and upon hearing and review by said court, the sentence and judgment of the district court of Dawson county was affirmed and the date of execution of sentence fixed on January 19, 1896; and,
Whereas, On January 6, 1896, a respite of the said sentence of death against the said John B. Walker was by me granted until March 6, 1896, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. of said day; and,
Whereas, It has been made to appear to me that the said John B. Walker is a fit and proper subject for exectuive clemency;
Now, therefore, I, Silas A. Holcomb, governor of the state of Nebraska, under and by virtue of the authority in me vested by law, and for good and sufficient reasons unto me appearing, do hereby by these presents commute the sentence of the said John B. Walker from the death penalty to imprisonment in the state penitentiary of Nebraska at hard labor for the period of his natural life.
In witness hereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the great seal of the state of Nebraska. Done at Lincoln this 2d day of March, in the year of our Lord 1896, the 30th of the state and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and nineteenth.
SILAS A. HOLCOMB, Governor.
J. A. PIPER, Secretary of State.
HISTORY OF THE CRIME
Walker killed Farmer [George] Stevens in the summer of . The murderer had entertained a grudge against Stevens and when the latter one day crossed Walker's homestead he followed him to Farnam, a small town near there, and shot him with a pistol on the street. This was done without a word of warning. Public sentiment was at once aroused against Walker, and at the trial before Judge Silas A. Holcomb but little credence was given to the plea of not guilty, under which plea insanity was set up as a defense. Following the affirmation of sentence by the supreme court, strong affidavits and petitions were forwarded to Governor Holcomb, especially from Kentucky, asking for executive clemency. These were followed by an investigation last week, the result of which is the commutation of sentence issued today. In the interim between the first date of sentence of death and the respite to March 6, a commission of insanity inquired into his case. Under instructions of District Judge Green, who presided at the inquiry, the jury found that Walker’s condition mentally was the same as it was at the time of the trial that he was consequently sane. At the inquiry last week affidavits from Kentucky were read which conclusively showed that since Walker’s reconclusively showed that since Walker’s removal from that state a remarkable mental change in his condition had taken place. For several years during his residence in Nebraska Walker was known as “Crazy Walker,” and he lived a life of isolation on his homestead, possessed, apparently, of the idea that there was a conspiracy against his life. Aside from the Kentucky affidavits a large number of petitions were received by the governor from citizens of Dawson county. Dr. L. J. Abbott, superintendent of the Lincoln Hospital for the Insane, and Dr. Coffin, his assistant, both agreed that Walker was insane. Five physicians of Lexington, Dawson county, gave the same testimony. But one physician, a Dr. Krecorian, dissented from this opinion. The commutation of sentence seems to give satisfaction to a majority of those who today learned of the governor’s action.