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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Get Out of Jail for $700


When we published the story about George Bopp, the only police officer shot in the line of duty in Lawrence County (See our book Lawrence Lore Vol 2 for all the details), we did not know the following part of the story.


April 22,1893 Sumner Democrat R. E. Mabry of Fairfield, who came up short in his accounts as Circuit Clerk of Wayne County, and late clerk of the Chester penitentiary is about to be investigated by the house committee on penal and reformatory institutions on a charge made by Samuel Palmer, a farmer living near Sumner, Illinois. Palmer has a son in the penitentiary, who is serving a sentence of twenty- one years for the murder of a constable who was attempting to arrest him.


The old gentleman claims that last fall he made a contract with Mabry by which the latter was to secure his son’s release from prison. He says he gave the chief clerk $300 and agreed to increase the amount to $700 when his son was liberated. Mabry was to use his influence with the Governor to secure the young man’s pardon, and, in case he failed, Palmer says, he was to get back all the money but $85, which would be applied to Mabry’s expenses.


The agreement, Palmer claims, was that the pardon would be procured by Jan 1. That date has passed, Mabry has left the prison, and Palmer is now demanding that some action be taken whereby he can recover the money he claims to have paid the clerk. The matter will be brought to the attention of House committee by Mr. Black at Palmer’s request. (Originally printed in the Louisville Ledger.)


(Ed Note: A man in an attempt to get the man’s son out of prison paid a large sum of money to the clerk of the penitentiary and when the clerk took the money but failed to procure the release of the prisoner, the father sued the clerk for his money back. Sounds like something you might read in the paper today under political malfeasance. In this particular case, a year before, on March 9, 1892, a petition was sent to the governor asking for the pardon of Tom Palmer because the prisoner had consumption. This apparently failed to release Tom, and the father, desperate that his son not die in prison, may have felt this was his only recourse. The researchers have not been able to learn where and when Tom actually died.)

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