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Conflicting stories, lack of evidence, and an upcoming election are just a few issues and factors that converge in a South Louisiana courthouse during this trial.
The story of Ada LeBoeuf continues with the trial and sentencing that writes fate into the state’s history books as Ada becomes the first and only woman to be executed by hanging in Louisiana.
The trial started Monday, July 25th, and ends with a guilty conviction on August 6th, which is a Saturday. It’s at night. Both Ada and Dr. Dreher take the stand, and they fare very, very poorly. Jim Beadle, whom everybody is expecting to take the stand, and has said in numerous newspaper articles he’s going to take the stand, doesn’t. And of course, on August 1st, that’s when he confesses, accuses Dr. Dreher, and then asks for separate legal representation.
Essentially, Beadle gets the best two attorneys in the area for free. Where it really gets good is that Emile Vuillemot, the DA for the 16th Judicial District, is an excellent cross-examiner. Other people testify in terms of where supposedly the crime took place; people who saw Beadle and Dreher tie the boat up. So, there are numerous witnesses for the prosecution. The defense lawyers—from the beginning, it looks like their strategy is they’re going to get this overturned on appeal. Jury deliberates about 90 minutes. The verdicts rendered are Ada and Dr. Dreher are convicted of capital murder. Jim Beadle is convicted of capital murder with leniency, which means he gets life in Angola.
Now, the defense automatically starts filing appeals, and they’re rather involved, and they’re delayed. It isn’t until late November/early December that the parole board meets. The first meeting, the parole board agrees to the death penalty. The second meeting is split, in which two of the members ask for leniency. But the third one, who is James Seamont [phonetic], still says its capital murder.
Well, Huey Long is now governor, and he can overturn the parole board decision. But he supports the first decision, which is execution. It goes back to the State Supreme Court. Goes to the Supreme Court, and it’s a split decision for three. The clerk for the Supreme Court calls Sheriff Pecot and tells him to proceed with the execution. And the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Charles O’Niell, who was from Franklin and knows both of them, says anybody can issue a stay of execution.
“I’m issuing a stay.” Now, he’s issuing this over the majority. You can’t do that. Huey Long says, “We’re going to give a little more time to the court for this to be an orderly proceedings,” because there are two sets of contradictory orders. It goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. They refuse it. And so, on February 1st, 1929, between the hours of 12:00 and 3:00, Dr. Dreher and Ada LeBoeuf are executed.
Next time on The Verdict, we meet with members of Ada’s family. I’m David Laborde, and I’m Digger Earls. We’ll see you next time on The Verdict.
This presentation of The Verdict on News 15 was brought to you by Laborde Earls Injury Lawyers.