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The Killing of John Sharpless: An Interview with Stephanie Hoover Part 1
On a stormy November evening in 1885, John Sharpless answered a knock on his door. Less than an hour later, he was found dead in his barn from a blow to the back of the head; his bloodstained hat lay next to him on the ground. A $3,000 reward for the killer sparked an overzealous bounty hunt across southeastern Pennsylvania, and numerous innocent men were arrested. Samuel Johnson--a local African American man with a criminal record--was charged. Despite the Widow Sharpless's insistence that Johnson was not the man who had come to their door, he was tried and sentenced to hang. Author Stephanie Hoover offers an in-depth investigation of the crime. From the events of that night and the mishandling of the investigation by a corrupt police force to the trial and conviction of Johnson and the efforts of the Quaker community to appeal the sentence, Hoover profiles a miscarriage of justice in Delaware County.
Stephanie Hoover is a professional writer and researcher specializing in Pennsylvania history, genealogy, and culture. She has written over 200 articles for local and national newspapers and magazines. She also owns and writes for Hauntingly Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Research.
Stephanie, thank you so much for joining us on Crime Capsule.
[00:00:08.250] - Stephanie
Thank you for having me.
[00:00:11.430] - Ben
You tell a fascinating story about a case which had once been and sort of long forgotten in the dusty Pennsylvania archives. And yet you stumbled across it in a way which brought it back to life.
[00:00:29.850] - Stephanie
Yeah. It's funny. I think that probably a lot of writers of history or nonfiction probably have had this happen. But I was researching something. It couldn't have been more different. It was a pretty simple family history research assignment that I was on. And as I'm scrolling through the newspapers, I saw some really fascinating headlines that really popped out about heinous slaughter of a well known Quaker in Delaware County. And the first time I saw the first when I saw the first headline, I thought, well, that's really amazing. That sounds like a fascinating case. Kind of slid right out of my mind, moved back to what I was doing. Then I saw a second headline and a third headline and a fourth headline. And by the time I left for the day, I had all sorts of notes written about this murder of a Quaker named John Sharply. And I thought this might be a great idea for a book.
[00:01:38.730] - Ben
You didn't find the case. The case found you is what you're saying.
[00:01:45.420] - Stephanie
Felt like it did. I really do. I felt like it did. It's funny that you say that because the way that it just kept popping up and the headlines just kept sort of coming out at me, jumping out at me, I thought I almost felt like I was meant to tell this story.
[00:02:10.310] - Ben
So take us back to Philadelphia. In the late 1800. Media today is really just kind of a suburb of Philly. It's part of greater Philly, the sort of wider Metro area and so forth. But 140 years ago, it was anything but. It was much more remote, wasn't it?
[00:02:35.330] - Stephanie
It was considered a rural area outline Philadelphia. Yes, that's absolutely correct. Now, Delaware County itself was by the 1880s, experiencing a real influx of Philadelphia wealth because people were trying to escape Philadelphia to what they considered a more rural area. And that was because of there were various diseases that would pass through the city that people thought they could escape in the country. Yellow fever, other sort of epidemics that all cities across America were experiencing, certainly not just Philadelphia and also the proximity to the shores. A train line made it very convenient for the wealthy to leave Philadelphia, come into Delaware, and then go further south to the Delaware shore or to the New Jersey shore. So Delaware really had started to sort of experience a greater influx of Philadelphians by that point in time.
[00:03:44.450] - Ben
And this aspect of kind of the traffic going back and forth and the three ways actually becomes fairly important to the murder investigation, doesn't it? Because as opposed to being sort of completely isolated where there are only one or two possible culprits in a given sort of farm stead or what have you. You actually have a much wider net that has to be cast once these events transpire not only a wider net of suspects.
[00:04:19.130] - Stephanie
But because John Sharply, the victim, was a wealthy man and because he was very important and elder in the Quaker Church, there were some very substantial rewards that were awaiting anyone who could find his murderer. And at the time, as unbelievable as it sounds in modern life, police officers could collect rewards, and this meant that police officers from all around the country, but from Philadelphia and Surround particularly came into Delaware County, which wasn't their jurisdiction, but they were able to do so in pursuit of these rewards.
[00:05:05.390] - Ben
So before we talk about the end of John Sharplus's life, tell us a little bit about the middle of his life. He came from a distinguished family. They were sort of from a line of English Gentry that had settled in the colonies very early on, even before William Penn, I believe, had arrived, as you write.
[00:05:27.710] - Stephanie
Yeah. About two months before William Penn, actually.
[00:05:30.610] - Ben
So, yeah, they were pretty much on the first boat. What I was fascinated by, Stephanie, was you have this photograph in your book of the Sharplus clan, and there are hundreds of them. I mean, the photo, it's almost like one of these sort of panoramic photos that you would generate on a smartphone now. But here you have just row after row after row after row of faces in this sort of wooded area, and they're all Sharplaces of some sort or sort of married into. What kind of family was this?
[00:06:07.130] - Stephanie
Well, because they were such early immigrants to the new world, to the new nation, they were very, very proud of their heritage. So these family reunions that they had attracted sharply from across the country and even from England, sharply from England would come over. And that photo that you mentioned, you're absolutely correct. The turnout, the year that John Sharply organized the family reunion was so large, the group actually had to be taken in two separate photos. And the Sharplus reunions were such a well known event that even The New York Times covered them. So, of course, the more publicity, the more Sharplaces came. So it was a huge event.
[00:06:56.330] - Ben
And now he was living on land that had been deeded to him by William Penn in the early days. It had been passed down through his family. And I mean, he was sort of what they would call a gentleman farmer. Is that right? He didn't really do much farming himself, but was sort of custodian of the land, shall we say?
[00:07:20.210] - Stephanie
Yeah, he worked on his farm, but he didn't have to do so for the income, as you say, the original land grants encompassed well over 300 acres. By the time that John's father had inherited the Sharplus lands. It was down to about 300 acres because they had started to parcel it off. So when John Chartless father passed away, he sort of divided it up between John and his brother George, and they each got somewhere in the vicinity of 100 plus acres. One of the brothers, George, got the original homestead, and John got 111 acres adjoining the original homestead. So they both got substantial amounts of land in a county where land was valuable.
[00:08:19.580] - Ben
This book is so much a study of contrast. You hear you have very wealthy family that had been here for years and years and years and kind of among what you would call the Pennsylvania elite. And then you have a man named Samuel Johnson who is born without a chance. I mean, he's not born on first base. He's not born on home plate. He's born in the dugout. Right. And you write about Johnson's upbringing, that it was almost like every couple part of the deck was stacked against him from the get go, no doubt.
[00:09:18.730] - Stephanie
Well, you're absolutely right about how Samuel Johnson really got the worst start that you could possibly imagine. He actually was born in the state of Delaware, which back in those days just prior to this time frame was considered one of the lower three counties of Pennsylvania before it became its own state. At the time that Samuel was born, however, it was part of Pennsylvania, which meant that it had to abide by Pennsylvania's poor laws. And this is the saddest one of the saddest things about the story. Samuel Johnson was actually born in a poor house and the law at that time. And here again, it's just staggering when we view it through a 21st century lens. But the law at the time said that a black or mulatto woman who gave birth in a poor house had to serve three years of indentured servitude to the state. So Samuel's mother gave birth to Samuel and then had to fulfill this obligation of indentured servitude, and he was then sent to his grandparents to be raised. But the truth about Samuel Johnson is, throughout his life, he was described as intellectually challenged. He not only started under poor social and economic circumstances, he probably was slightly, I say because there's no way to really know probably was slightly mentally challenged and was not as quick or as able to defend himself as he should have been, but nonetheless, he moved from Delaware to Maryland into Pennsylvania.
And he had been committing petty crimes along the way. And none of them were violent. There was no record of violence in this man's background, nothing at all. He stole chickens probably because he was hungry. But at the time, this was a tremendous jail sentence. This was eight months in Eastern State or Moya Messing. And these were not gentle prisons. They were not good places to be, even for the most hardened criminals. In any event, he eventually made his way to Delaware County, where it's pretty much assumed that in his career of taking odd jobs because he really wasn't qualified for much else, that he had actually worked for John sharply. And therefore, the assumption would be that John Sharplace would have known Samuel Johnson by seeing him, by appearance, he would have recognized his face. That's how those two men intersected. Of course, once we get into the criminal investigation, then that raises a whole different sort of circumstance.
[00:12:31.140] - Ben
Absolutely. Sure. For our purposes here, I do not assume because you do not assume in your writing that Johnson killed Charlottes. It is not conclusively established he was spoiler alert, tried and convicted for the murder, but it is not actually proven beyond a shadow of the doubt that he was the killer. And I want to hold that front and center here, because so much of your story is a study in how our legal system can at times punish the poor for being poor or punish minorities for being minorities. Right. And I think that that's something that we have to remember because it happened right here. This is the story that you tell. We can't pretend it didn't. So let's just jump right in. What happened on the night of the murder.
[00:13:29.650] - Stephanie
The evening of the murder. It was November 22 of 1885. And the evening of the murder, there was a horrific storm that was passing through Delaware County. Heavy rains, howling winds, the typical kind of storm you think about in any murder mystery, right? Yes.
[00:13:50.770] - Ben
Snoopy was on the top of his dog house, sort of like doing his thing, right? Yeah.
[00:13:58.730] - Stephanie
The chartlessness were all at home. They were in their home. They were all in their sitting room. John was reading. His wife Susan was writing a letter. Her sister Jane lived in the household, and a cousin named Lydia was there visiting with the family. Well, in the midst of this storm, there came a knock at the front door. And John, as was his custom, immediately went to the front door and opened it, because that's just who he was. The women heard him say, what does he want? Using the Quaker language of the day. And they could hear sort of a conversation going on between John and whomever had knocked, but they couldn't really make out the content. So after a few moments, Jane, his sister in law, Susan's sister, went to him at the front door and said, John, what's going on? Who's here? What do they want? And John said, well, a carriage has broken down out on the road, and they need some assistance repairing it so they can get back on their way. And I'm going to go to the barn and I'm going to get some tools and I'm going to help them.
Well, Jane, whether it's women's intuition or maybe sort of the weather had set the mood. Jane was immediately suspicious. She thought something wasn't quite right. So she looked out and the man that she saw standing outside the house, she got a very odd impression of him. First of all, she could not tell what race he was. She even suspected that he was a white man, perhaps trying to make himself look black. She described his face as very smooth, almost as if he may have been wearing a mask. And this really set her nerves on end. And once again, she begged, John, please, just give them. We have plenty of supplies here in the house. We have some tools. Just give him those things and send them on his way here again. That's just not who John Charcalis was. He was determined to help these people. So he went to the barn and was in the barn for quite a while, I think almost about a half of an hour. In the meantime, the ladies remained in the sitting room and were quite surprised to hear the front door of the home open. And they saw a black gentleman come into the sitting room.
And he stood there and he looked at them and he asked for money. And at this point, Susan Sharply, who was, by all accounts, a very reserved person, she said, we're not in the habit of keeping money in the house. I'm sorry, I can't give you money. Then he asked if there was a young girl living there. And Susan thought that he may have been referencing they had a young servant girl, right. And Susan was very protective of her and said, There is a young girl here. She's not our daughter, and we can't give you permission to see her. So this man sort of waited a few seconds and then he left the house. Well, at this point, the women were, of course, very concerned about what in the world was happening. So Jane went to the barn to see if she could find John. All that she could find outside the barn door was John's umbrella, and she called his name. There was no response. Quite reasonably, she panicked and ran to the neighbor's house, the nearby neighbors, those two men came back to John Sharplus barn and along with Jane, entered the barn and found John Sharplus dead, lying on the ground just inside the doors.
[00:18:05.750] - Ben
Let me ask you, as I was reading your account, it struck me that you have managed to uncover quite a lot of the detail, down to the words, the statements, the questions that passed between everybody that night. This exchange is really well recorded. Okay. Normally I ask this sort of question later on in our conversation, but as I was reading it, I was really struck by the fact that you had managed to unearth really what almost exactly transpired between all of the participants involved. Where did you get this particular information about the conversation in the farmhouse that night?
[00:18:50.930] - Stephanie
Yes. The great thing about covering a trial that is a notorious murder case is that the transcripts of the day's court records are often one either still in existence or B printed exactly as the stenography took them in the newspapers. So between the actual court records and the transcriptions that appeared in the newspapers, it really made it possible for me to fully capture what happened. And the interesting thing about that is different newspapers ran how do I say some coverage was more in depth than others? Some coverage, as I said, they literally simply just typeset the transcript. So it was actually not that difficult, thankfully, to put together the events of the night of the murder. There are other situations throughout the case that were less easy to sort of sort through, and I'm sure we'll get into that. But other suspects, other confessions, they were a little more difficult to really get a handle on. But the testimony in trial was very well recorded.
[00:20:15.190] - Ben
So what did Jane find when they opened the barn door, and what condition was John in, and what did we learn from the condition that his body was in?
[00:20:30.850] - Stephanie
The first thing they noticed was John's hat on the floor of the barn just beside him, and it was covered in blood. And the reason for that was John Sharplus had been struck in the head so violently that his skull was broken into several pieces, and death would have likely been instantaneous or nearly instantaneous. And it was just one devastating blow that just took his life. And the theory by the investigators of the day was that somebody was already waiting in the barn. John didn't get more than perhaps two or three steps inside when he was struck from behind and killed.
[00:21:24.950] - Ben
Now the number of men is key for later developments. There's one account which says there was one person, there's one account which says maybe there were two people. It's ambiguous what was taking place up at the main farmhouse as opposed to what it was at the barn. There's a lot of uncertainty around how many perpetrators were actually involved from beginning to end, isn't there? And that actually becomes much more important later after the trial?
[00:21:57.990] - Stephanie
Absolutely. It's a confusing thing to try to figure out. Was the person who came into the house, even part of the group that led John sharply to the barn? And again, there was confusion as to was the man that knocked on the door, black or white? Was there an accomplice in the barn while the man was knocking on the door? You know, obviously the black man that came into the sitting room wasn't part of the murder because he would have been in the house while John was being killed in the barn. So you're absolutely right. The number of individuals. The identity of the individuals is far from clear and I'm not sure that it ever will be, although as you say, as the case progresses, we do get a pretty good idea of who the likely killer was, but we'll never really truly know.
[00:23:05.130] - Ben
Was there even a broken down carriage in the Lane? I mean, there's just a lot of questions. Who set the barn fire at his neighbor's parcel in order to throw the police off the trail moments after the killing? I mean, there's just a lot that is left in the wind, so to speak. So what did the family do to alert the police when you can't pick up the phone, right, when you don't have the access to the technology that we have today and you are in a remote location comparatively for that part of the city. And where did they go?
[00:23:54.130] - Stephanie
As I recall, the neighbors took their carriage and went and got the authorities to come on scene and it was interesting because immediately that night, while the authorities were on site, neighbors already knew what had happened and it was already generating an incredible amount of not only sympathy for Susan and horror at the crime, but interest in the case who could have done this? Neighbors were already appearing on scene and it was particularly difficult for Susan because John and Susan years before had had only one child and that child died at the age four and Susan never really fully regained emotional strength after that. So then her father had just recently passed away, now her husband was murdered, she was not in a good place. Who would be right? So the police tried to ask her questions immediately when they arrived and she was having a very difficult time, but what they finally were able to tease out of her through her distress was that a description of the man who came to. Well, Jane provided a description of the man who came to the door and Susan described the man who came inside the house, who entered the house.
Jane's description wasn't particularly helpful because here again she didn't know who she saw. Susan's description was fairly detailed considering the emotional state she must have been in. She thought the man was about 510, she thought that he weighed somewhere in the vicinity of £160. Now one can only assume maybe she was comparing him to John's height and size. I'm not quite sure how she came up with that, but the thing that stuck out to Susan most of all was that the man had very prominent teeth, we would call it. We used to call him when we were kids. Buck teeth, sure, and that because of that he spoke a bit oddly, so they knew he was wearing a slouched hat and had maybe a white handkerchief tied around his neck, but there was very little specificity other than those specific items. And that's what they had to start with. As far as the investigation, the police ran with the theory that the suspect was black. In the police mind, there was no question, even though there was question in Jane's mind about what she saw and of course, bringing this around to Samuel Johnson. If Samuel Johnson had indeed worked for the family, it would seem just to be common sense that when Jane said to John, who's at the door, John would have said, well, it's Samuel Johnson.
His carriage broke down and he needs some help.
[00:27:10.630] - Ben
I want to come to Johnson in just a minute. But before we do that, none of this is ameliorated by the fact that the crime scene itself is being totally ruined. Right? I mean, any investigation which is attempting to understand sort of sequencing or patterns or anything like that. I mean, you have this horrific weather coming in which is soaking the whole area, and then you have the lookyloo's, right? There are always these looky loos who just decide that they can start trespassing on the Sharply land and seeing what they can see for themselves. And we cover cases a lot where you have sensationalism, of course, where you have folks who feel entitled to the case, even though they have nothing to do with it whatsoever. But this was really a new low. I mean, it was really extraordinary just how quickly the integrity of that crime scene was completely compromised, wasn't it?
[00:28:12.190] - Stephanie
There's no doubt about that. And as I say, it was because the sharplaces were so well known. First of all, the fact that anybody would want to harm John Sharply was beyond the capacity for his neighbors to understand. They knew here again, Susan was in sort of a fragile condition. So I'm sure part of it was just true human decency. They wanted to make sure that Susan was as OK as she should be. But then, as you say, there are just the people that for some reason feel that they are perhaps citizen detectives who want to be in on the case from the beginning so they can help or advise the police in their mind. But yes, it was a scene that would have been corrupted, as modern police officers would say.
[00:29:07.180] - Ben
in the book world We say everyone's a critic, right? Sports world. Everyone's a Monday morning quarterback. In the crime world, everyone's a Pinkerton, aren't they? Yeah. And it doesn't neither is this helped by the fact that the officers assigned to this particular case, David Roche and Thomas Alexander. I mean, they're Philly's finest, but they are not Philly's finest, are they?
[00:29:33.770] - Stephanie
No. And Interestingly, they became a part of the case officially when they decided that Samuel Johnson was their prime suspect. And when they arrested him. But here again, they were really more interested in the reward. Now, the real problem with that is two fold. Obviously, there's a conflict of interest if you're getting money to solve a case. You're going to arrest anybody who looks good. But in addition to that, and there's no way to say it, Roche was a racist. That's just who he was. His career actually ended when he opened fire on a group of African Americans and men who were simply socializing together. I mean, he finally was removed from the police force, but he had a propensity for violence. He had an extremely dubious arrest record. And his partner, Thomas Alexander, had made something like 610 arrests. And it was well known even in the day that most of them were not legitimate arrests. So these two guys, I don't think that I came out and said it in the book, but my sense always was they were going to arrest somebody, anybody, just so they could be part of this case and just so they could get the reward.
[00:32:00.590] - Ben
So how is it that in your research on looking at early policing in Philadelphia, early, by which I mean mid 1800, mid to late 18 hundreds, how is it that such practices and methods were deemed acceptable, that they were used? Was it simply that there was very little oversight of cops on the actual beat and that what happened in one of the outskirts of town, kind of stayed in the outskirts of town, even if you had to rough somebody up to get some information out of them, was it just kind of a turning a blind eye, or was there something more sort of deeply systemic about this culture of vigilante cops who could just kind of do what they wanted when they were out on a case?
[00:32:50.310] - Stephanie
There was no doubt that initially, especially while Roche and Alexander were police officers, that the corruption started at the top. This was something that Chiefs of police and mayors, they knew what was going on. They knew there was a systemic racism. They knew that there was violence toward African American men and women. It wasn't confined to just men. It was African American residents of Philadelphia in general were at the mercy of the sometimes violent tendencies of police officers. And their actions went unchecked for the most part. And don't get me wrong, there were socially conscious individuals who publicly stated that these behaviors were unacceptable, but it did not in any way, shape or form change police policy at that point. It was something they did. It was something everybody knew they did. It was something police officers knew they could get away with. And sadly, we think now here again, looking back from the 21st century, how could it possibly be that this sounds so much like what some say that certain police officers these days are still doing? How could this go on for hundreds of years? Sadly, that is just a fact of history that can't be changed.
[00:34:30.570] - Ben
One thing that really struck me as I was looking at their sort of approaches, which we would never condone in the modern age, they might still exist. Of course, there are plenty of examples just from the past five years that have proven that. But one thing that really struck me was your account of the very early reenactment of the entire murder scene that Roshan Alexander staged in the farmhouse. This is before the hearing and the trial and so forth, in which they basically asked the grieving widow and the associated family members to watch what happened all over again. And they paraded in a couple of suspects and had them sort of stand in particular spots and say the words that were said that night all over again. And they're just saying, hey, why don't you relive the worst night of your life for our benefit and see what we can get out of it? And what did they get out of it? Absolutely nothing.
[00:35:36.250] - Stephanie
No. Because Susan well, first of all, how Susan survived that is beyond me. But here's the really vital thing to remember. She loved John. He was her beloved husband was the term that was used. If there would have been any knowledge that she had, if there would have been anything that she could have told them, wouldn't she have poured her heart out and volunteered this information? But she kept saying over and over, that is not the man that was in my home. That is not the man that was in my home. Even Samuel Johnson, to the time that the woman died, she said that was not the man that was in her home. But they just kept I think that they truly believed that they could wear her down to the point where she would just pick someone just to have it all be over and done with. And God bless her for her strength. She never did that. She never threw what she believed to be an innocent man under the bus, even though they were talking about the murder of her own husband.
[00:36:47.150] - Ben
You know, another aspect of the injustice which was on display here, and you still see this in policing in certain parts of the country, which is very sad. But all that was known at the time or all that was surmised at the time was that it was a black man who had been involved. Right. And so a couple of biographic indicators height, weight, the tooth issue, there's a sort of speech pattern issue. But what do the Philly cops do but basically go and round up every African American man in the region who even remotely fits that particular description and I mean remotely fits. And just because they're black and they haul them in and they accuse them, sometimes they charge them. And then I'm thinking of one or two instances in which men were kept in jail for up to a week before their names were cleared, alibis were established, conclusively alibis were established, and they didn't have anything to do with the crime. They just happened to be black. And the investigation just sallied forth as such. It's really remarkable when you look back on it.
[00:38:00.890] - Stephanie
It wasn't even just police band. I mean, there were just average citizens that would see a black man walking down the street or a black man would come into their place of business, and they didn't particularly like the way he looked, and they thought he looked suspicious. And maybe he's the one that killed John Shufflers and they would lock these men up in storerooms and back rooms and barns and keep them for days. It's astounding what occurred. It really, truly is.
[00:38:32.750] - Ben
One thing that is kind of interesting is that you describe a somewhat of a circuitous route by which the investigators came to find Johnson. It's not exactly as though somebody connected the dot right up front and said, here's this individual who has a known criminal record, who has actually been on the Sharplace farm before and would know that Sharpness was a man of means, who probably had money and okay, we just need to put the pieces together here and think here's a person of interest. At the very least, there's none of this methodical kind of approach. Right. What was kind of funny was your description of how they actually found him, thanks to some very, very colorful women who were involved in Johnson's own life. Can you tell us exactly kind of how this came to be?
[00:39:38.630] - Stephanie
Well, basically, it was a sperm girlfriend who decided that she had overheard some conversations that implicated Samuel Johnson in the Sharply murder. But even during the Magistrate's hearing, even the Magistrate didn't buy her name was Molly. Even the Magistrate didn't buy her story. And in fact, there was a second woman who said, no, he could not possibly have done it because he was with me overnight. I know every moment of his activity the night of the murder. But yet a pattern in Samuel Johnson's life, unfortunately, seems to be that women that he cared for and should have probably looked out for him and taken better care of his benefit failed to do so.
[00:40:51.910] - Ben
It'S not funny. I don't mean to laugh at anyone's misfortune but it is kind of funny that you have a pretty good illustration of the rule that he'll hate the Fury like a woman scorned right. And here you have a woman who felt like she had been betrayed by this individual and she decided to sell him out further reward money because he'd burned that bridge and he kind of got what was coming to him in her eyes right?
[00:41:20.120] - Stephanie
That's exactly right. And here again when you combine that with the police not really caring if any of his circumstances fit the description of the criminal or if he had any other kind of an alibi or if he simply could provide some other story as to what he was doing that night none of that mattered none of that mattered they wanted to arrest a black man this woman gave them cause to arrest this black man and as I said even though the Magistrate was fairly suspicious of her motivations and stories which she admitted during the hearing the Magistrate flat out asked her you don't like Samuel Johnson very much, do you? And she basically said no. In a modern court of law with a dream team of lawyers in the 21st century she wouldn't have had more than 30 seconds worth of airtime or legitimacy but back then her story fits the narrative that the police wanted to build.
[00:42:30.790] - Ben
he's born with the deck stacked against him his early life he's having to scrounge and to commit petty crimes to get by. He's not able to get educated at the moment at which we meet Samuel Johnson in this story he's not a victim but he's definitely facing the consequences of a lot of broken relationships probably because he didn't have the capacity to understand good relationships at that time. As you say there was some impairment there. Stephanie what chance in this legal system did Samuel Johnson have the moment he was brought into that first hearing?
[00:43:23.990] - Stephanie
No, he didn't have a chance in hell to use the vernacular and you've got to remember not only were Samuel Johnson's personal challenges really stacking up heavily against him the legal system at the time there was no Miranda rights. There was no requirement that an indigent defendant be given an attorney so not only were his personal shortcomings going to be used against him the legal system itself was no friend to Samuel Johnson.