Tales from the Morgue: Deadly road trip, conclusion

2014-08-21T06:00:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Deadly road trip, conclusionJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 21, 2014 6:00 am  • 

Paul Hadley's execution date was set for April 13, 1923, and efforts at a commutation were appearing to be unsuccessful. Hadley, known throughout his first trial as William S. Estaver, still proclaimed his innocence.

An Arizona Daily Star reporter interviewed him the day before the execution. Hadley also made an "eleventh hour" statement.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Friday April 13, 1923:

 

Hadley Resigned to His Fate
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Scheduled to Hang Today at 5 A.M.; Maintains His Innocence in 11th Hour Statement to Star Reporter
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Hadley Maintained Nerve Despite the Approach of End
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(By Special Correspondent)

Florence, Ariz., April 12.—Separated from death by a bare eight hours, knowing that it was incontrovertible, beyond the range of the smallest chance that he would be alive after five o'clock of the following morning, what would be the inmost feelings of a strong man?

Iron will quavers eight hours from the death that they know no option or appeal of theirs alone can avert. A strong man, convicted of a crime for which death is impending frequently has at this point reached the decision that they dare not face an unknown hereafter burdened with a crime unconfessed.

Paul V. Hadley, recognizing that death faces him at eight hours distance; that he is helpless to combat it; that it is inevitable unless the efforts of an indefatigable attorney to call together the Board of Pardons and Paroles and present his case in a favorable light, is tonight a remarkable psychological study. The prison authorities and the one newspaper correspondent whom he saw on the last day preceding that set for his execution, were puzzled at the demonstration of either a stoical cynicism or the exemplification of a conscience free from any memory of a crime.

Tomorrow morning at five o'clock, Paul V. Hadley will march to the death chamber watched by several witnesses. Convicted to die, he will be asked whether he has any final statement, a hood will close the world from his view, and the man whose stoicism has excited an unprecedented attention will face a hereafter where he declared tonight he has no accounting of crime to make.

Starting with the beginning of what he termed his troubles in Beaumont, Texas, Paul Hadley tonight gave an account of years of misfortune which he holds to have been a visitation not merited by intentional criminal conduct of his own.

Stoicism would be an unsuitable term for the demeanor of Paul Hadley on the last day before his sentence, for stoicism perhaps implies cynicism. Paul Hadley is not cynical. Visibly affected, his eyes glowing or dry in turn, Hadley was helpless in the face of his sentence.

"I try to keep my last thoughts off the people whom I believe have wronged me," said Hadley to the representative of the Arizona daily Star. "Vengeance, I think, would be an unsuitable sentiment for my last hours of life."

Hadley related the circumstances of the death of Mrs. Anna Johnson, told his version of the story of an attack by bandits and assaults upon himself, and finally his own puzzlement when arrested the following morning.

"Peter Johnson I do not hold a vengeful spirit against. If I believe a man had killed my wife, I would be just as vengeful. Mr. Johnson has been misguided from the start; made to believe me guilty without actually knowing that I was."

Told by Warden Sims that the last word from Phoenix was not encouraging to his opportunities for a commutation of sentence and that he regretted being forced to bring sad news, Hadley replied with resignation: "You can't bring what you haven't got."

Hadley thanked the prison authorities for courtesies and declared his treatment has been above reproach. That he holds immeasurable gratitude for the long fight waged by John L. Van Buskirk, Tucson attorney, for his freedom, was expressed by Hadley who declared the lawyer had done so because he believed in his innocence.

Peter Johnson, husband of the woman of whose murder Hadley was convicted, was in Florence tonight accompanied by Ben B. Mathews, assistant prosecutor in both trials, and intended witnessing the execution.

Hadley declined to see the representative of another Tucson newspaper, with the declaration that that publication had been distinctly unfair to him and that he did not care to assist one definitely unjust toward him. An exclusive interview was given a Star representative, together with a written communication to the public prepared by the doomed man on the last day before his sentence.

Prison authorities and those in Florence in connection with the execution had tonight virtually given up expectation of action by the government or parole board, although word reached here at a late hour that attempts were being made to call the board together. Among those who would be present at the execution will be: Peter Johnson, husband of Mrs. Anna Johnson; Ben B. Mathews, Tucson attorney; John C. Haynes, Tucson attorney; A. J. Upham, Tucson business man; R. B. Sims; T. A. French; Mr. Hart, assistant Maricopa county attorney; Mr. Duffy, representative of the attorney general's office; Sheriff Chappell of Yuma county; a representative of the Arizona Daily Star; Ira Rickerson, and several guards.

On the final day before his execution, Hadley spent practically the entire day in his cell and did not take his usual walk about the prison grounds.

Below is Handley's statement, which ran in the same edition of the Star:

 

"I BELIEVE IN GOD — I WILL NOT GO INTO HIS PRESENCE WITH A LIE ON MY LIPS — I AM NOT GUILTY" —P. HADLEY

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Editor's note—The following is an eleventh hour statement of Paul V. Hadley, condemned man, who was scheduled to meet his maker at 5 a.m. today. At The Star's request, Hadley typed the final statement to the public last night on a typewriter furnished him by some person interested in his case. Hadley characterized it as his final statement.

_____

Florence, Ariz., April 12, 1923.—To whom it may concern: I have only a few more hours to remain in this world, for all hope of receiving justice at the hands of the law have vanished and my doom is certain; but I have a few words that I would like to leave behind for the citizens of this country to consider. First, I want to say that I believe in God and that if a man does not confess his sins and ask and receive God's forgiveness he is forever lost and I do not want to take my chances of going into his presence with a lie upon my lips. But my words now and my last words will be that I have been convicted of a murder upon circumstantial evidence of which I am not guilty, and on that conviction I have been sentences to hang, which sentence in a few hours will be carried out.

Now I wish to state a few things about capital punishment and these follow: that as long as capital punishment remains in your laws, other men eill without doubt be put to death on circumstantial evidence who are not guilty but have been found so at the hands of a prejudiced jury. Capital punishment is not justifiable in the eyes of God under any conditions, and this according to our New Testament cannot be argued.

If the citizens feel that for their own protection this capital punishment law must remain, let them make it the duty of the county attorney, the judge and the jury to conduct and execute the condemned man themselves in the counties where the man was sentenced. If this were a part of the law there would be fewer ambitious prosecutors arguing to bring in a death penalty unless the evidence was positive and direct, and no doubt then the crime would have to be one of great enormity for them to even ask for a death sentence for it is easy for a man to say, "Hang him," if they know that someone else must bear the responsibility of the hanging.

While no man wishes to give up his life, death is not a penalty, for if a man is prepared to meet his God, you are just relieving that man of his troubles and placing him in a peaceful rest.

My only wish is that before the murder of Mrs. Johnson has been forgotten, that the true facts of the murder will come to light, for the good of all men as well as my children which I am leaving behind, for I believe if it does, it will be the direct result of forever banishing from this state as well as perhaps others, this custom which is only a relic of the past barbarous stages.

Very respectfully submitted by
PAUL V. HADLEY.

The was no last-minute reprieve. Handley was executed on Friday the 13th — April 13, 1923.

From the Star, Saturday, April 14, 1923:

 

HADLEY MEETS DEATH WITHOUT LOSING NERVE
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Marks Last Chapter of Thrilling Murder Case
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GETS PRISON BURIAL
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Held to Claim of Innocence Until Lips Sealed
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"I am innocent of a murder: this might happend to any man here. But I am going to my God. I am ready to go."

No plea for mercy from his fellow man; no indication that he bowed in spirit beneath the death decree imposed upon him first by the Pima county superior court, marked the final utterance of Paul V. Hadley.

Protesting to the ned, without a qualification, his innocence od that crime for which he was sentenced, Paul Hadley dies yesterday morning a few minutes after 5 o'clock.

Rumors that Hadley made a statement while standing upon the trapdoor which lowered him to eternity, which implied a confession, namely, "I am an innocent murderer," were without foundation or verification, and witnesses declared that no outward indication of a reversal in his stand was apparent.

Scorning to accept assistance in walking up the flight of stairs from his own cell to the death chamber, Paul Hadley briskly, yet without show of overconfidence, walked directly to the death trap. Halting here he awaited the prison officials as they firmly strapped his arms and legs preparatory to his execution.

It was then that Rev. James Hunter of Florence, Hadley's confidant in the lastr hours of his life, stepped to him, placed his arm about his shoulders, and delcared:

"Gentlemen, an innicent man is to hang this morning. I know it."

Died in Eight Minutes

Eight minutes were required for death to come to the stricken man after the trap was sprung a physician awaiting the cessation of pulsations of his heart before he was removed and his remains placed in the bare wooden box, in which he was interred yesterday morning on the prison grounds.

Statements that Hadley had declined to look above his feet while making his final statement were without confirmation.

The false charge was made last night by a Tucson newspaper that Hadley had become angry, threatened to have thrown from his cell a representative of the Arizona Daily Star, on the ground that he had testified against him.

Drawn from the imagination, perhaps, of a disgruntled newspaper correspondent whim Hadley declined to see, this story was without foundation. Hadley had on the previous day requested the presence of a representative of the Arizona Daily Star, to whom he desired to make his last statement.

When the Star corespondent approached Hadley's cell, seen in dim light through the bars, Hadley mistook for a moment the representative for a reporter whom he declared had testified against him. When assured that the correspondent was an accredited representative of the Star, Hadley offered a sincere apology and admitted his own error, inviting the representative within his cell for a final interview which last for one and one-half hours. This correspondent  was the only one whom Hadley consented to see on the final day of his existence.

Hadley Lauded Star

"The Star has been fairer to me than any other paper," said Hadley. "I could not see a representative of the Tucson evening newspaper because it was unfair to me."

Peter Johnson, husband of the woman for whose murder Hadley was convicted, yesterday presented likewise his heartfelt gratitude to the Arizona Star, before leaving Tucson permanently.

A final statement, typed on a machine provided by the prison authorities, with his own hand, was on the night previous to the execution given the Arizona Daily Star by Hadley. This declaration of his innocence and his feelings, was exclusively the Star's But one copy was prepared for the convicted man and this given a representative of the Star, although it was copied as an official statement made public in another Tucson newspaper.

A broken confidence of one purporting to be a friend marred the last hours of Hadley. But a few hours after his death there appeared in the Tucson evening newspaper under sensational headlines, facts of the conversation of which he had asked secrecy but a few hours before his execution.

Having not read the Tucson Citizen reports of the murder, trial and execution, the Morgue Lady has no opinion on the matter, and she is only assuming this is the "evening newspaper" to which the Star reporter refers. Competition for a story was often fierce and may have led to hard feelings. The Star reporter does come off as being a bit smug about it all in the Morgue Lady's opinion.

One may never know if Hadley truly met his maker with a clean conscience or if he did, indeed, shoot and kill Anna Johnson. We can only say what evidence was brought out in his trial and judge whether that was conducted fairly.

The deed is done, and the story is ended.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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