20 April 2011

"It was hell. I could endure it no more," She Said. (Battered Wife, or Cold-Blooded Killer Part II)

Yesterday we discussed the newspaper reports regarding the killing of Dr. W. D. Vinson in 1922 Atlanta, Georgia. Today's post will inform you of Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson's side of the story.

Before Cora officially went on trial for the murder of her husband, she and her lawyers tried the insanity defense: "Special plea of insanity was being heard in [Atlanta] superior court today for Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson, widow and slayer of Dr. W. D. Vinson...The daughter of Mrs. Vinson testified that her mother is insane." (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Georgia, 2 May 1922.) It didn't work. Cora's trial began the first of June.

Cora Lou Vinson Makes Statement

The article the following appears in was published in the 4 June 1922 Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Georgia) after the verdict was rendered, as highlighted in the title which I do not yet want to give. :-) I will tell you this: A subheading was TWELVE MEN WERE OUT BUT TWO HOURS... Not exactly a jury of her peers. On with the statement!

The statement of Mrs. Vinson, which was given late Friday afternoon, was the sole testimony offered by the defense and as a result of this move, they have the opening and closing speeches in the argument.

The bitter story of a woman scorned was told to the jury Friday afternoon by Mrs. Vinson.

Mrs. Vinson, weeping the while, said she slew her husband [because] he had been cruel to her, had threatened her life, and said he was going to divorce her because of her wrecked physical condition and marry another woman young and wealthy [printed as "young and healthy" in other articles].

Ethel Robertson & Cora Vinson
She took the stand at 3:15 and delivered a dramatic recital for more than an hour. When she came to the description of the actual shooting, feeling in the court room was intense, and her daughter, Mrs. Ethel Robertson, who had been sitting with her mother all during the trial, fainted and had to be taken from the court room.

Mrs. Vinson at the outset took up the thread of the story leading up to the fatal shooting.

"I went to my husband's office to obtain funds to buy groceries on the afternoon of March 30. He only allowed me $7 a week for household expenses, and it did not give me enough to provide for myself and children."

"He was writing a prescription when I came into his office. I begged him to come back and live with me. He told me to sit down and shut up; that he was going to marry a young and healthy woman; that he was tired of me."

"I told him I loved him. I love him still, but he was so cruel to me I could not stand it any longer. When he told me there was another woman in his heart I became enraged. His coat flapped back and I saw the butt of the revolver he carried night and day. He previously had threatened to kill me, so I thought my time had come."

Tells of Shooting.
"I decided I would not be shot down like a dog. I drew my revolver from my coat pocket. I pointed the weapon at him...I was so weak I could hardly pull the trigger. Finally I heard a crash and knew the gun had gone off. They say I fired four shots, I only remember firing once."

"I had been in servitude for nineteen years. He treated me unkindly. He frequently threatened my life. On one occasion he tried to poison me and I was between life and death for five days. It was hell. I could endure it no more. And the problem took the natural turn of the whole sorry mess."

"But I loved him when I married him. And I love him now."

Mrs. Vinson spoke nervously and rapidly with occasional lulls when she would stop, evidently trying to concentrate. She had notes in her hand to which she referred from time to time.

Charges Assault
Mrs. Vinson prefaced her story of the shooting with a sordid story of alleged mistreatment during her nineteen years as Dr. Vinson's wife, charging that on various occasions he had threatened her life and on one occasion he shot at her and barely missed her baby's head.

She charged him with malpractice, with having made a dope fiend out of her, with having given her a social disease which was transmitted to one of the children, and with infidelity as far back as the time previous to the birth of their first child.

"I deprived myself of all pleasures to help him get a start in life," she declared. "He made me do all the work around the house, refusing to hire a servant because he said he had married me to work for him."

"He tried to run me away -- said I was a fool to live with him -- that I was so bony I would rattle if he held me up. But I loved him and begged him to stay in the house and avoid the disgrace of a divorce for our children's sake."
Cora Lou's attorney, Samuel Hewlett, in closing "declared the evidence showed that Mrs. Vinson shot in self-defense, and pictured her as a woman hounded by her husband, deprived of the necessities of life, and suffering great mental anguish as well as physical pain, at the time of the shooting." (Macon Telegraph, Georgia, 4 June 1922.)

"Dread of the hangman's noose is nothing compared to the fear I lived under before I killed my husband...

I killed my husband in self-defense. Therefore I have committed no crime."

- Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson

Tomorrow: "He Said."


Marian Pierre-Louis said...

My goodness, what a tale! I'm so glad you decided to look into it further! Now to hear what the courts decide!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the next one!

Anonymous said...

I am Gigi M. Jackson .. I am related to this family and would like to connect .. Cora Lou Jackson Vinson is my Great Grandaunt .. the sister of "Simp" Jackson who is my Great Grandfather. His name was Joel Simpson Jackson Sr. The J. S. Jackson in the trial was Joel Simpson Jackson Jr. .. his son .. the Roy Jackson in the trial was Roy Simpson Jackson Sr. another of Joel Sr.'s sons and my grandfather. My Father is Roy Simpson Jackson Jr. who was born Dec 31, 1919 .. that is 6 days after the night Cora visted my grandfather on Christmas night looking for Dr. Vinson her husband. I have read all your story and was not aware of all this history until last week after I was contacted by another person in S.C. after he noticed a post of mine on Find A Grave. He wanted to know my connection with some of these individuals so we started emailing .. and I started searching the internet on Cora and Dr Vinson .. I had them both in my tree but no other info .. this all explains the hush hushness of this part of out family growing up. I grew up close to my grandparents .. Roy Jackson Sr. and my grandmother his wife ... he was an honorble man. So much I could tell. I would like to chat. Email me at ggmojack@msn.com ... Thanks, Gigi