Three days after a jury of 12 found Daryl Hillyard of Bethany, MO, guilty of robbing the Bank of Coffey in Daviess County in 1933, Judge Ira D. Beals sentenced Hillyard to 20 years in the state penitentiary at Jefferson City. But it was the acquittal of Hillyard from a murder charge in Harrison County just months before that may explain Hillyard’s harsh sentence.
With an accomplice, Hillyard was found guilty of robbing the bank of $800. Bank cashier W.T. Siple and assistant, James O’Hare, were in the bank at the time. O’Hare was forced to lie on the floor guarded by Hillyard’s accomplice, while Hillyard, with a gun on Siple, went to the money drawers and into the vault. Positive identification of Hillyard was made by these and a number of other witnesses placing Hillyard near the bank at the time of the incident.
This was Hillyard’s fourth trial in two years. He was accused of the murder of Mrs. Elizabeth Morrow, an elderly lady who lived near Bethany. The first trial at Bethany resulted in a hung jury, as did the second trial which, on a change of venue, was held at Trenton. The third trial, at Bethany, was an acquittal — which caused much public consternation, including the ire of Judge A.G. Knight.
Judge Knight’s criticism of the jury, attorneys later reported, was seldom heard in this courtroom:
“I am humiliated, to say the least,” said Judge Knight on the bench. “I have always been a strong advocate of the jury system, and am yet. I have always believed the judgment of 12 men is better than one. But in this case, the jury had only to apply the admitted facts and there could have been but one result. This is a miscarriage of justice. It is an example of what is bringing the judicial system into disrepute.
“I am curious to know what argument could be put forward to induce men to vote not guilty. I know that jurors are unused to separating wheat from chaff in legal arguments and evidence, but here is an admitted conversation. This case has had a harmful effect on the public.
“Many school children attended this trial. The youth of this land are taught that it is all right to lend your car to a man who is going out to rob; that’s all right. This was just a defenseless old woman murdered in cold blood.”
Judge Knight declared the administraiton of criminal law in Missouri is an anachronism.
“Administration of criminal law is behind the times,” he said. “It needs revision. In these days of racketeering, kidnaping, of murder, of robbery, if the people do not rise to the importance of it, we may as well have anarchy. I am no moralist, but I hate to see justice miscarried. I hope I may never again in this county or in this district or in this state see or hear of anything like this.”