Friday, September 23, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 23

September 23, 1918 – Reuben C. Curtis, who shot Ernest Lack on the night of June 25th after the latter had interfered when he ordered some children to stop playing in the street in front of his home, was found guilty of murder in the first degree by a jury in district court in Minneapolis this evening.

Curtis turned pale and moved his lips nervously as he heard the verdict. While his attorney, W. E. Hewitt, made his plea to the jury this afternoon, Curtis sobbed aloud. He was then led from the courtroom back to his cell in the county jail. The jury’s verdict meant a sentence of life imprisonment. The jury had gone out at 5:10 this afternoon and returned with its verdict at 8:40 p.m.

The shooting of Lack occurred early in the evening in front of his home on Tenth Ave. S. He died an hour later at the City Hospital. Children of the neighborhood, who always avoided the Curtis home because of Curtis’ known antagonism toward them, had been coasting down the sidewalk in front of Lack’s house. Curtis left the porch of his home just across the street, crossed over and ordered the children away, cursing as he did so, witnesses testified.

At that moment, Lack returned home and told Curtis to leave the children alone. They became involved in an argument and Lack led Curtis across the street to his own home. Lack was reentering his own yard when Curtis ran across the street again and shot him. Neighbors who witnessed the shooting said that Mrs. Curtis stood at the fence around her yard and watched her husband shoot Lack, while Mrs. Lack and her two children pressed their faces against the screened window of their living room and saw Lack fall mortally wounded on the grass. Curtis was arrested 10 minutes after the shooting.


The Curtis case went to the jury this afternoon following testimony of state witnesses that Curtis was not insane at the time of the killing, had full possession of his faculties and knew right from wrong. This testimony was followed closely by a stenographic report of statements made by the defendant at police headquarters the night of the shooting. These statements showed that Curtis knew what he was doing at the time he shot Lack, that he did it in a spirit of revenge and not for self-defense. Temporary violent insanity and permanent mild insanity with self-defense were the pleas of the defense.

Dr. W. A. Jones, psychologist, testified that an examination of Curtis showed him to be strong of body and mind. He expressed an opinion that at the time of the shooting Curtis was mentally sound and knew the difference between right and wrong.

Lack, a salesman for Swift & Co., was 25 years old. Curtis, 58 years old, was formerly employed by the C. Q. Stone Transfer and Fuel Company. He is the father of eight children, all married.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Curtis Guilty of Murder in First Degree. Slayer of Ernest Lack Sobs as Attorney Pleads for Him.”; Sept. 24, 1918; p. 1.


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