Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Notable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940 » Liewellyn and Edith Banks Trial: 1933 - A Millionaire Before The Depression, Banks Supporters Bully County Officials, Banks Flees To Avoid Arrest

Liewellyn and Edith Banks Trial: 1933 - The Trial Begins

prescott defense life jury

Banks and his wife were both charged with first-degree (premeditated) murder and faced the death penalty if convicted. Initially, Banks intended to say that a bodyguard, whose name he did not recall, had shot Prescott and escaped during the ensuing confusion. His lawyers eventually convinced him to drop this idea. Instead, their strategy was to focus on Banks's feelings of persecution and the threats from his enemies as part of a temporary insanity defense.

Arguing that the residents of Jackson County were so biased that an impartial jury could not be selected, the defense moved for a change of venue. The motion was granted and the trial was moved 150 miles to the circuit court in Eugene, Oregon. After a jury was chosen, a three-week trial began on May 3, 1933.

According to the prosecution, Llewellyn and Edith Banks killed Prescott with premeditation. "Banks laid in wait for Prescott and took dead aim at him through the partly open door," argued one of the prosecution's attorneys. It was also revealed that, the previous February, Banks and Fehl had urged Sheriff Schermerhorn to arrest Jackson County district attorney George Codding and to hold Codding for ransom or, if necessary, to kill him. When Schermerhorn rejected this plot, Banks met with some GGC members to organize a secret army and to arrange for the storage of weapons in abandoned mines.

In his own defense, Banks took the witness stand and testified about the injustices he suffered at the hands of his opponents. He also spoke of conspiracies, dizzy spells, visions, and of his fears for his own life. According to Banks, when Prescott and O'Brien were at his front door, "I saw what I believed to be a pistol." Convinced that Prescott was trying to break in, Banks shot in selfdefense. Other defense witnesses claimed to have heard Prescott threaten Banks's life or to have seen Prescott climb up Banks' front porch with a gun aimed to fire. However, testimony from the prosecution's rebuttal witnesses cast serious doubt on this version of events.

The jury deliberated for 10 hours. On Sunday, May 21, Edith Banks was acquitted, but her husband was found guilty of second-degree (unpremeditated) murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Liewellyn and Edith Banks Trial: 1933 - Aftermath Of Trial [next] [back] Liewellyn and Edith Banks Trial: 1933 - Banks Flees To Avoid Arrest

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