Floyd Allen Trial: 1912
Virginia Tries Floyd Allen For Murder
Allen's murder trial began on April 30, 1912, in Wytheville, Virginia before Judge Walter Staples. His defense lawyer was J.C. Buxton, and the prosecutors were W.S. Poage and J.C. Wysor. The other Aliens were tried separately. There were scores of witnesses who had actually seen Allen fire shots in the Hillsville courthouse, and so there was no plausible defense to the charges. On May 18, 1912, the jury found Allen guilty of murder, and he was sentenced to death by electrocution.
Of the many other Aliens involved in the courthouse shooting who were also tried for murder, several bear mentioning. Allen's son, Claude Allen, went to trial on May 20, 1912. It took three trials, however, before a jury could agree on a verdict. On July 17, 1912, Claude Allen was found guilty of murder and also sentenced to death. Friel Allen, who had cooperated with the authorities during the manhunt, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after his trial in August 1912, despite the fact that the authorities had promised him a sentence of only five years. Sidna Allen was tried in November 1912 and sentenced to 35 years in prison, but on April 29, 1926, Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd pardoned him.
On March 28, 1913, Floyd and Claude Allen, father and son, were electrocuted in Richmond, Virginia, within 11 minutes of each other. The Aliens were one of the few people in American history who tried to escape justice by assassinating the trial judge and the prosecutor. As Judge Staples said in his sentencing order:
You, Floyd Allen, were in custody of the law: When ordered to jail, you uttered your defiance of its authority, such a defiance as was never before heard in Virginia court.
—Stephen G. Christianson
Suggestions for Further Reading
Gardner, Rufus L. The Courthouse Tragedy. Hillwville, Va.: Unknown Publisher, 1962.
Parker, George Martin Nathaniel. The Mountain Massacre. Bluefield, WV: Country Life, 1930.