March 10, 1909 (Wednesday)
BOYS SAY THEY LEARNED FROM A MOVIE HOW TO BREAK INTO A HOUSE IN WEST QUINCY; COULD THIS BE AN EARLY EXAMPLE OF THE COPYCAT EFFECT? Yesterday, some boys broke into James Wastson's house at 4 West Street, West Quincy, and stole $60 [about $1,200 in 2009 money]. Police apparently found the guilty boys fairly easily. Here's how the Globe described the thought process:
... police were notified. They learned that a boy who had been before the court recently on a larceny charge had been seen going to Boston on a train with two other boys. Acting inspector Goodhue got hold of this boy, and he admitted going into the house.
The boys told police they had KNOCKED on the DOORS of the house and discovered that NOBODY WAS HOME. They then FORCED OPEN a BULKHEAD DOOR and entered the basement. Then they climbed to the upper floors and found the money.
Police say the boys had a "novel excuse" for breaking the law.
Here it is, as described by the Globe (with emphasis added):
They said they had seen a house entered in a moving picture exhibition by men who first KNOCKED AT THE DOORS and then TRIED THE CELLAR BULKHEAD with success. They followed the line suggested by the pictures, also with success.
The headline writer tried to capture this by writing: "Taught by Picture Machine".
It's not as creative as the "Twinkie Defense" that was recently -- and somewhat erroneously -- emphasized in "Milk." But you have to give the boys credit for bringing attention to the great powers of suggestion offered by this new medium of the moving pictures.
DEFENSE LAWYER SAYS 'UNWRITTEN LAW' CAN PROTECT SOMEONE WHO KILLS A JOURNALIST .... WHO HAS OFFENDED HIM IN PRINT: General M.H. Meeks spent about FIVE HOURS in a Nashville courtroom yesterday claiming that the "unwritten law" protects the three men accused of killing former U.S. Sen. E.W. Carmack (right) in
the shooting of Carmack on Nov. 10, 1908.
Today's Globe says Meeks' "invocation was sprung during Gen. Mills' speech to the jury. The article quoted him at length:
You talk of the liberty of the press. Why, gentlemen, no man lives who believes more firmly in the liberty of the press than I do. But, when a man in an editorial position turns the liberty of the press into license and undertakes to defame and defile you and your family, what are you going to do? The prosecution will tell you you have your recourse in the courts. Yes, and you get a judgment for $25,000 against a man not worth the price of a plug of tobacco. Is that satisfaction?
O, gentlemen, I tell you that the streets of this, our city, have run red before with the blood of men who improperly used other men's names in public prints."