Weston State Hospital Investigation

Wheeling Sunday Register
August 20, 1899

Board Says Not Guilty

But What will the People, who Have Read the Evidence,
Say about Dr. Stathers?

They are the Appellate Court to Which the Prosecution Must Look, and Their Verdict will Count Far More in the End than That of the Board - A Long Secret Session Held before an Announcement was Made - the Verdict Not Unexpected and in Line with the General Belief that Governor Atkinson Had, by Intimation, at Least, Suggested a Whitewash.

Special to the Register.

WESTON, W. Va., August 19. - "Just verdict or whitewash?" This is the question to be decided by the public, the appellate court for the consideration of evidence adduced in the hospital investigation.

The board of directors has found Dr. Stathers not guilty.

All material facts stated by witnesses upon both sides have been presented to Register readers.

Will the finding of the board receive the stamp of popular approval?

Six members of the board say no other verdict would have been possible under the evidence. The seventh member, Alex. McVeigh Miller, Republican, dissented.

Dr. Stathers' friends are happy over the favorable termination of the investigation. He has received several congratulatory telegrams.

The prosecution contended that a case was made against Stathers which would have convicted him in any court of justice, but they affect to be not surprised at the result. They say he has [been] convicted in the eyes of the public and that they had little to hope for from a biased board, which popular report alleges to have been instructed by Governor Atkinson to "whitewash" the Superintendent.

The board was in executive session all morning, and until late in the afternoon. Counsel and representatives of the press were excluded. Conferences were numerous, recesses were frequent, but no information was given out relative to the matters under consideration.

Even after final adjournment, members were extremely reticent. Newspaper men were referred to the


entered upon the minutes, as the only public statement which would be made.

The order reads:

"On motion, it is ordered that the board proceed to consider the charges filed against the Superintendent, and all evidence presented in connection therewith, and after mature consideration the board is of the opinion that the prosecution has failed to sustain the charges so filed against said W. E. Stathers, Superintendent, and find him not guilty as charged."

Several questions arose during the sessions of the board, which provoked considerable discussion. The prosecution's request that the board subpoena O. C. Runge, superintendent of the St. Louis hospital for the insane, for the purpose of asking whether or not a woman was with Dr. Stathers in that city, and for the additional purpose of enabling him to determine if Harriet Green was that woman, was talked of informally. It was not acted upon.

President Meighen said anent this matter:

"It may be fairly presumed that both sides have made the best case possible, and I do not understand that the board should be expected to hunt up any evidence to incriminate its superintendent."

The Board was evenly divided, and President Meighen cast the deciding vote on the


of the vote until the next regular meeting in October. Three members urged delay in order to gain time for the preparation and weighing of the evidence and to enable the absentees, Messrs. Hardman and Keller, to vote upon the guilt or innocence of Dr. Stathers. After considerable wrangling the Board decided to take an immediate ballot.

Mr. Miller was the only member who did not vote for a verdict of not guilty.

By common consent, the supplemental charges go over until the next meeting of the Board, when they may not be investigated.

The local Republicans who have been associated in the prosecution are indignant over the finding by the Board, characterizing it an outrage. R. Ad. Hall and other prominent leaders announce that they will call a


for some evening next week.

Mr. Foster, principal attorney for the prosecution, said:

"The Board simply carried out the instructions of Governor Atkinson, its chief. The investigation was unfairly conducted, and the verdict is not warranted by the evidence. With the same facts, an ordinary jury would have returned a verdict against Dr. Stathers without more than fifteen minutes consideration. The Board was rendered itself particeps criminis to the disgraceful conduct f the hospital."

In just to N. B. Carpenter, hospital employe, and one of the defense's character witnesses, it may be said that he refused to testify against the veracity of Mrs. Sommerville and Miss Wilson.


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