He is guilty of assault; she, of murder.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

On Tuesday, therefore, the criminal docket was taken up, when Lewis Chavers, a free man of color, was put upon his trial for an assault and battery on Mr. Drury Kemp, a white man. Chavers was found guilty of the assault, which was of an aggravated nature, and fined one hundred dollars, and ordered to be sold for the payment of the fine. …

On Thursday, Harriet Durham, (a free woman of color,) charged with the murder of Grace, a negro woman, the property of Mr. John Pennington, of this county, was put upon her trial, and pleaded not guilty. The evidence in this case was entirely circumstantial. It seemed, from the proofs, that the prisoner and the deceased slept together in the same log-cabin; that on the night the murder was committed several of the witnesses were in the cabin with the prisoner and the deceased, and that they observed the signs of ill will between them; that the witnesses left the cabin about midnight; that next morning, about sun-up, one of the witnesses discovered the deceased lying in the jam of the chimney outside the cabin, with her skull broken; that the prisoner was interrogated by the witness before the body was found, as to where the deceased was, and that the prisoner said she did not know, but that somebody had called upon the deceased that night in a low voice, and asked her to come out of the cabin and go to a certain place; that another witness, after the body was found, told the prisoner she might as well confess herself the murderer, for she would have it to do; that the prisoner was afterwards asked why she had killed Grace, and that she answered because Grace had threatened to kill her; that the prisoner admitted she had struck the deceased two blows with a very heavy iron pestle, which caused her death. It was further in evidence that there was no way of getting into the cabin but through the door, which was fastened inside every night with a strong pin; that the iron pestle, which had been rusty and out of use before, was found that morning bearing the marks of having been scoured in the ashes; that blood was sprinkled upon the bed-clothing, on the floor, and upon the walls and loft of the cabin; that there was blood upon the door-sill, and evidence upon the ground outside the door of some one’s having been dragged upon it; that part of the bed-clothing had been washed, and that the blood had dried upon them in circles; that they were scortched in some places, and a portion of an old rug, the property of the deceased, cut out and hid or destroyed. This was the substance of the evidence on the part of the State. The prisoner offered no evidence. The case was opened by Hugh McQueen, Esq., for the prisoner; he was replied to by the Attorney General, and as the prisoner offered no testimony, was entitled to the concluding argument. This argument was more upon the facts than his opening speech, and was consequently extended to greater length; and we believe the opinion of all who heard it was that it eminently sustained his reputation for ability and ingenuity. The verdict of the Jury was, Guilty.

The North-Carolina Star (Raleigh), 12 April 1843.