February 14, 2018

"George Graham Vest served in the United States Senate for twenty-four years, from 1879 to 1903, but the act for which he is best remembered...

"... is a speech delivered in an insignificant court case while he was still a lawyer in rural Missouri."
The lawsuit that brought him immortality concerned the shooting of "Old Drum," the best hunting dog of a local farmer. A neighbor who suspected that Old Drum was moonlighting by killing his sheep gave orders to shoot the dog if it appeared on the property again. When Old Drum was found dead near the neighbor's house, the farmer filed suit, seeking damages of fifty dollars. After a jury awarded twenty-five dollars, the neighbor successfully appealed the ruling. The dog's owner, however, succeeded in his motion for a new trial and hired two skilled lawyers, one of them George G. Vest.... Rather than discussing the details of the case, he eloquently praised the loyalty of a dog to his owner in terms that brought tears to the eyes of the jury....
Bringing tears to the eyes of the "Death Valley Days" actors playing the jury listening to the Old Drum speech, here's Ronald Reagan:

18 comments:

Oso Negro said...

Yeah, well. So much for the rights of the property owner. Here in Galveston, two neighborhood cats are fixing to get the Old Drum treatment if they don't quit hanging out in my back yard stalking the birds.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

Well, compared to what most U.S. Senators leave behind, that’s freakin’ immortality.

Fernandistein said...

which he is best remembered.

Well, dang, no wonder he isn't remembered, at least not in memorable memories.

EDH said...

That speech covered everything special about a dog except the "peanut butter trick".

What? Oh, get your minds out of the gutter!

AZ Bob said...

Well, there you go again.

AZ Bob said...

I did have the privilege of meeting Beau:

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/beau-the-lab-who-could-do-math-passes-on/article_7200aa54-d71d-11e3-ae0a-0019bb2963f4.html

Ann Althouse said...

Wikipedia:

"Vest graduated from Centre College, Danville, Kentucky, in 1848 and from the law department of Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, in 1853. He was admitted to the bar in 1853 and planned to move to California. However, while en route, he stopped in Pettis County, Missouri, where he defended a young African-American man accused of murder. Vest's client was acquitted but soon burned at the stake by an angry mob. Vest's own life was also threatened, but he nonetheless decided to stay in Missouri permanently, settling in Georgetown. "

C R Krieger said...

Wonderful!

Regards  —  Cliff

John Tuffnell said...

Who's to say that the neighbor didn't have the same ... affection ... for his sheep (and vice-versa) that Old Drum casually murdered?

Opposing counsel missed his opportunity for sheepish remembrance.

Amadeus 48 said...

Reagan for president!

traditionalguy said...

Don't you just love Juries. They discern what happened because they know people. And then they speak the truth. Judges just rule for their friend's friends or against their friend's enemies. Which is why Juries were necessary to begin with, and still are.

Luke Lea said...

That's my Victor! (If only he didn't weigh 125 lbs.) https://goo.gl/oapqUA

Sam L. said...

There's a statue of Old Drum in Warrensburg, MO.

Ann Althouse said...

"There's a statue of Old Drum in Warrensburg, MO."

Just spent 20 minutes looking at pictures of that statue and the nearby statue of "Blind" Boone and YouTube videos related to Blind Boone....

Beldar said...

Texas trial lawyers pass down the lore of the Rule in Buster's Case.

At common law, every dog is presumptively entitled to one free bite. After that, the dog's owner is presumptively charged with notice that the dog is unreasonably dangerous, and therefore, instead of being charged with merely the legal duty to act as any reasonably prudent pet owner would act, is instead charged with the additional duties to keep the dog from causing harm that a reasonably prudent person with knowledge of this particular dog's dangerous history would employ instead.

Buster, a large German Shepherd Dog, had no history of biting anyone. But Leroy, his owner -- and therefore the defendant in Buster's Case -- was prone to inviting his friends over to his house to get good and drunk. And one of Leroy's buddies, Frank, had been pestering Buster, frankly abusing him with undeserved blows and kicks, since their second six-pack of the day.

Somewhere during the third case of beer, Frank decided that it would be fun to hook one end of some jumper cables to poor Buster's ears, and then to hook up the other end of the cables to a car battery. Buster took considerable offense at this, and lunged at Frank, growling and snapping, until Leroy was able to restrain him behind a closed door in the guest bathroom.

Later that day, when Frank drunkenly opened the guest bathroom door to empty his bladder, Buster got his revenge, and mauled Frank quite severely, resulting in the lawsuit.

Frank's lawyer argued that the jumper-cable incident effectively served as Buster's "first bite," and that Buster's attempts to bite Frank then put Leroy on effective notice that he needed to exercise extra care, which (according to Frank's lawyer) would have required at a minimum that Leroy put Buster somewhere behind a locked door that his guests couldn't accidentally wander into.

In his closing argument, Leroy's lawyer asked the jurors to put themselves into Buster's position:

"Imagine that you're Buster, and you're there, in this cramped, dark room. You can hear your master having fun in the next room, but you're being punished. You sniff at the door, and you listen. And then you hear someone approaching from the other side of that closed door.

"You paw at it, you sniff harder. You hope to smell your master, you hope he's coming to tell you that yes, you really are a good boy, and now you can come out. You begin to tremble with happy anticipation. But your ears are still throbbing.

"And your keen sense of smell tells you, as the footsteps approach: 'No, wait, this isn't my master. This is that man who hurt me!'

"And your ears begin to throb even harder, in time with the footsteps. You hear Frank's hands, those same hands that tortured you, scrabbling against the door handle, and you hear and see the handle turning. You can smell his drunken beer-sweat. You are transported back and forth, from the still vivid memory of those cables on your ear, to this new moment of opportunity, a moment you'd never dared even hope for.

"Doncha know, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, doncha just know, that at that very moment, Buster lifted his doggy muzzle and looked up to the ceiling and the heavens beyond them, and he said to himself: 'Thank you, Jesus! Thank you so much for bringing to me, and putting into my paws and jaws, the means to implement your divine retribution!' I urge you, therefore, to go into that jury room and promptly return a verdict in favor of Leroy, and a verdict in favor of poor, poor Buster."

The jury retired to the jury room and -- after some discussion about what kind of dog owner would permit a drunken friend to hook up his dog's ears to a car battery with jumper cables -- returned a verdict awarding Frank all of his medical bills and three times that amount for his pain and suffering.

Hence, the Rule in Buster's Case is:

Don't over-argue.

Matt said...

"After a jury awarded twenty-five dollars, the neighbor successfully appealed the ruling. The dog's owner, however, succeeded in his motion for a new trial and hired two skilled lawyers, one of them George G. Vest."

I think the description of the procedural posture here is off. My guess is that the verdict was appealed by the neighbor, reversed and remanded, and then there was a new jury trial which the dog owner won (not a motion for new trial).

Kelly said...

Did Reagen have a dog? His children certainly turned into a bunch of ingrates.

William Chadwick said...

Obama might be thinking, "If I'd had a dog, it would be like Old Drum. And I'd have eaten him."