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Sarah A. Kennedy

Female BET. 1830 - 1835 - 1850  (~ 15 years)

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  • Name Sarah A. Kennedy 
    Born BET. 1830 - 1835  [1
    Gender Female 
    Misc. Story of her murder Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Died 11 Aug 1850  Greenfield, Hancock County, Indiana Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Person ID I1311  Our Genealogy
    Last Modified 18 Sep 2008 

    Father Thomas Kennedy,   b. Abt 1791, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Bef 1882  (Age ~ 90 years) 
    Mother Mary [Kennedy],   b. Abt 1806, Ohio Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Bef 1825 
    Family ID F526  Group Sheet

    Family George W. Hudson,   b. 30 Mar 1828, Marion County, Indiana Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 Dec 1888, Montgomery County, Missouri Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 60 years) 
    Marriage License 15 Oct 1849  Hancock County, Indiana Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Married 17 Oct 1849  Hancock County, Indiana Find all individuals with events at this location  [5, 6
     1. James Riley Hudson,   b. 15 May 1849, Greenfield, Hancock County, Indiana Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 Sep 1925, [township not specfied], Montgomery County, Missouri Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 76 years)
    Last Modified 18 Sep 2014 
    Family ID F595  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • Dear Margaret,

      I've been reading diligently through the materials and mostly I have alot of questions, lots of unanswerable questions.

      First of all, I want you to be sure that I have nothing invested inThomas Kennedy's guilt nor George Hudson's innocence. I am a serious and dedicated historian and I am interested in the truth, but the more I read the more unlikely I find it that George Hudson killed his wife Sarah. I know you are convinced of Kennedy's innocence and George's guilt, but I would appreciate it if you would read through my thoughts on the case.

      I'm guessing you couldn't find the Hancock Co. Superior Court records for Thomas Kennedy vs. State of Indiana. [You had transcribed it as SupremeCourt, but I think it looked more like Supreure]. They would be our onlychance for anything approaching a transcription of the original trial. Knowing nothing of the prosecution's case, whose evidence convinced thejury, is a serious problem.

      ->"The first law providing for shorthand reporters for the courts waspassed in 1873. Prior to the passage of this act no evidence was kept inminor cases. For the more important cases, when parties demanded it, thecourt appointed one of the lawyers to take notes on the evidencesubmitted, who then wrote the same out in long hand. William R. Hough hasin this manner prepared the evidence for the supreme court in many cases." (Source: http://www.rootsquest.com/~indiana/hancock/1916/legal.html)

      Reading through the wonderful legal history of Hancock County availableonine, I was able to understand why the only record we have is ofKennedy/Walpole's objections and not anything about the prosecution'scase. It was normal procedure to make an official record of anything that the lawyer wanted to use later to try and get a new trial:

      ->"10. All application for special instructions to the jury must be inwriting, and not a word by way of application for counter instructionswill be heard. If any instructions given by the court are objected to,the party objectioning will say so at the time and the instructions willbe taken down, and the point reserved for argument on a motion for a newtrial, or for a bill of exception."
      ->"18. Any bill of exceptions containing any part of the evidence in acause, will have to be signed unless the party excepting will take downthe evidence before the witness retires from the bar - or the bill isagreed to by the opposite counsel". (Source:http://www.rootsquest.com/~indiana/hancock/1916/legal.html)

      The bill of exceptions was necessary because no transcript was made ofthe trial and all parties had to bear witness that what the lawyer excepted to really occurred - but the judges in the hearing upheld their judgement to the original objection to the question and we can assume that the Superior Court did the same.

      We can't know upon what grounds the judges upheld the prosecution'sobjection to Walpole's questions, but here are two rules they may haveconsidered:

      ->"8. In the argument of a case to the jury, no improper allusion shall be made to facts that are not in evidence before the jury, to public opinion, or to any other matter not legally connected with the cause, and not a legitimate subject for observation."
      ->"20. As the court sits for the purpose of administering justice, theywill, with benefit and pleasure, hear any arguments or authorities thatwill, in the least degree, aid them in the discovery of truth, or thedetection of fraud; but they will not unnecessarily consume the time of persons and witnesses and increase the public, as well as individualexpense, by listening to mere idle declamation or popular harangue madewith other views and for other purposes than the investigation of truth,or the advancement of justice."

      George's desertion and whether or not he was writing to a woman about marriage would speak to character and motive, but not to guilt. You don't see Walpole objecting to evidence not admitted that would have proved that Kennedy was somewhere else, or that George was the one who killed her. I think his objections have been misinterpreted and were attempts to undermine George's credibility as a witness and NOT to show he had motive for murdering Sarah. If the case was circumstantial, except for George's testimony, it would have been crucial to do so.Having grown up around law enforcement, I know that they tend to think very simply, they go with the obvious suspects, and a husband is certainly the top of any list in a woman's death. But they don't seem tohave considered him a legitimate suspect. Even Kennedy, in his original request to delay the trial so he could produce a witness, was interested in proving that George didn't see him through the window, not that George killed her:

      "163 that said Hutson stated to said Parker
      164 that the person that shot the said
      165 Sarah he did not know = that he had
      166 but a very slight glimpse of him"

      Of course we have the Peace Bond against Thomas Kennedy, taken out theday before the killing by his wife. This would have drawn their attention to him as someone to suspect, but I have still have a lot of questions. If Sarah and George were alone at the time of the shooting,why not suspect him? Were they alone? Did Sarah and George live inHancock Co. at the time? (I can't find them on census, though I knowthey did miss people) Was she killed at her home or her parent's? Where was her mother at the time of the shooting? The newspaper said Kennedyhad threatened to kill his wife, could he have been aiming at her? (which would make the premeditated charge unfair). Could Sarah have taken hermother's side in the argument and could he have then killed her on purpose? I think, too, you have to consider the possiblity that ThomasKennedy had lost him mind. He was old enough to be suffering fromsenility.

      Don't forget that George and Elendar were married and lived in Hancock County not only after the trial, but after Thomas Kennedy was pardoned. If he really thought George had killed his daughter, why didn't he or his family confront him? Why were they able to live in the community if people really thought Thomas was innocent or that George had railroaded him?

      The biggest problem, like in the OJ Simpson trial, is that the evidence,except for George's apparent testimony, was circumstantial. It'sincredibly hard to get a conviction with circumstantial evidence. Itwouldn't be the first time that a prosecutor has tweaked someone's memoryto get someone to say they saw something they might not have in order toconvict someone. Eye witnesses are notoriously innaccurate. And Georgewould have had little credibility: his desertion would have effectedthat, and his service record says that when he signed up in 1847 he was aresident of Marion County, so he was not a long-standing member of thecommunity, as Thomas Kennedy was. There is also the issue of Sarah'spregnancy and belated marriage: these things would not have added to his credibility, and yet the jury, all men who were also land owners and long-standing members of the community, believed Kennedy guilty.

      But then there's Walpole. Obviously this guy was a scoundrel and seems to have taken the family for everything they were worth. One wonders how diligent his defense was, except that the Bill of Exceptions shows he wastrying to get a new trial, and did eventually manage to get Kennedy clemency. Binford's history gives Walpole all the credit for getting himout, and sees no contradiction between Kennedy's guilt and his being pardoned. The pardon did not establish his innocence:

      "From Binford, J.H. History of Hancock County, Indiana, Greenfield, IN:King and Binford, 1882, page 123, Buck-Creek Township, Murder -- Hereoccurred the Kennedy tragedy, in which Thomas Kennedy killed his own daughter, the wife of George Hudson, for which he was sentenced to the penetentiary for life; but was in the course of a few years, through theintercession of his attorney, T.D. Walpole, pardoned after which here turned to his own neighborhood, where he remained till his death, which occurred only a few years since."

      It is, of course, even now quite rare for a father to kill a daughter. But human nature hasn't changed. The motivations of people in the bible are the same as motivations for people now. And Abraham was prepared tokill his son if he had to. Sometimes people feel they have to dohorrible things for all kinds of reasons. [part of Margaret's argument was that fathers didn't kill their daughters "back then".]

      The clemency requests themselves offer no evidence in Kennedy's defense, just the circumstantial nature of the case, and their strongest point is his age - the administrators of the prison supported the appeal forclemency and that was probably the determining factor in the Governor's decision. They would not have been dealing with Kennedy's guilt orinnocence, just his behavior as a prisoner.

      There will always be a question about Thomas Kennedy's guilt, circumstantial evidence is unconvincing, but I strongly suspect that even Walpole and Kennedy were not trying to establish George Hudson's guilt.It is a recent misinterpretation of the reasons for the items listed inthe Bill of Exception, which were probably not designed to prove George Hudson's guilt, but his lack of credibility as a witness.

      Anyway, those are my thoughts and questions as they stand now.

      Hope all is well,

      T.K. Painter

      [She remained unconvinced and has forbidden me to share the documents that she sent me. Margaret believes that his gambling, specifically the family story that he gambled away his wife's inheritance, shows him to have had a bad character. But her main argument is that "fathers didn't kill their daughters back then".

      When I can get to the courthouse myself, I will copy the materials and provide them here so everyone can make up their own mind. The most difficult issue for me is this idea that she (and the Kennedy researcher) somehow "own" the history. They consistently fail to mention that a restraining order was taken out against Thomas Kennedy on the day before his daughter's murder by his wife. Clearly he was upset about something in the family. It's just too bad transcripts weren't kept of the trial.]

  • Sources 
    1. [S316] 1840 Hancock Co., IN Census, 1F 5-10 (b. 1830-1835).

    2. [S3084] Binford, J.H., (Greenfield, IN: King and Binford, 1882).

    3. [S3083]

    4. [S4259]

    5. [S2509] Personal comment, T. Anderson Painter, Original marriage record provided by Margaret Prior Boyer, 17 April 2002, ..

    6. [S1946] Indiana Marriages through 1850, Indiana State Library, HUDSON George W. m. KENNEDY Sarah Hancock Co. 10-17-1849.

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