Benjamin Murphy v. David McElmurry
On November 5, 1821, Benjamin Murphy filed suit in Pulaski County, alleging that David McElmurry had taken his horse on September 22. Murphy asked for the horse back and also alleged that he had suffered $150 worth of damages. Murphy was represented by Territorial Secretary (the territorial equivalent of a lieutenant governor) Robert Crittenden. Deputy Clerk Richard Mennifee, acting for Court Clerk Alexander H. Rennick, issued a writ to the Pulaski County Sheriff, Gabriel Greathouse, to retrieve the horse and summon McElmurry to the next term of court. Meanwhile, Murphy filed a bond for $300. Charles Sinclear was his surety. Robert Patterson witnessed the bond.
The sheriff executed the writ on November 6, seizing the horse and summoning McElmurry. McElmurry's attorney, Ambrose H. Sevier (later to become Arkansas's first senator), appeared in court and claimed that McElmurry had purchased the horse at a constable's sale. McElmurry "put himself upon the country" (requested a jury trial).
On November 28, the three "worshipful" lay judges of the Court of Common Pleas, James Newall, Thomas Tennant and James Lemon, holding court at Cadron, the county seat, heard the defendant's plea in the case.
On March 5, 1822, a jury trial was held. The jurors, summoned by Sheriff Henry Armstrong, were Jenkin Williams, James DeBaun, James Rogers, Thomas Grear, John Tucker, Prewit Sinclear, Abraham Sinclear, John Clark, Hew Holland, Samuel McHenry, James Kelham and William Carlile. They found the defendant not guilty. The same day the plaintiff filed a bill of exceptions in court, claiming that the judge had incorrectly instructed the jury that it must find that the defendant was the one who took the property from the plaintiff. Thomas Eskridge was the attorney who filed the bill of exceptions, so either he was working with Crittenden or had taken the case over from him. McElmurry filed an appeal, which the court granted. He made an appeal bond. Jenkin Williams, Reuben Blunt and Samuel McHenry were his securities. Thomas Newton, Deputy Clerk, prepared the record and certified that it was correct, standing in for Clerk Samuel Anderson.
From the record book of the Superior Court, it is not clear when the court heard the case. It issued an opinion on April 24, 1822, identical to its opinion in Murphy v. Tindall, issued the same day. It agreed with Murphy that the jury had been wrongly instructed, and remanded the case for a new trial. Andrew Scott, Joseph Selden and Benjamin Johnson were the judges sitting at that term.
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