An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Ninety-Three

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Ninety-Two

Former Governor Thomas Mitchell Campbell, January 1918

“Missus Ramer, at last,” begins District Attorney McAskill. “Please tell us why Miss Burgemeister came to see you in October of 1914.”

“Miss Burgemeister met me in the Gibbs Building, at my office, because she desired to add a codicil to her will.”

“How did Miss Burgemeister behave when she signed the instrument you prepared?” continues the District Attorney.

“She shielded the document to conceal her name from the witnesses.”

“Missus Ramer, where were you that evening at seven o’clock?”

“At the Bismarck Café on Alamo Plaza.”

“Did you go there at the request of Miss Burgemeister?”

“No. But later, I was summoned to the Physicians and Surgeons Hospital. She wasn’t there, however, so they referred me to the Baylor Hospital where I found her under anesthetic.”

“Did Miss Burgemeister tell you that she expected serious trouble? That Otto Koehler was estranged from her and she was going to resolve things with him that evening?”

“Objection, your honor. Mister McAskill is questioning Missus Ramer about what her client told her in a private meeting. That should be privileged information.”

Judge Anderson excuses the jury.

“Your honor,” begins McAskill, “Missus Ramer testified freely about these matters before the Grand Jury. I only want her to repeat what she already said.”

“Your honor, Mister McAskill is slinging out questions that include theories not based on factual evidence presented in court in order to unduly prejudice the jury.”

“I rule,” proclaims Judge Anderson, “the testimony admissible.”

The jury returns.

“Missus Ramer,” resumes the District Attorney, “please answer my questions.”

“Mister McAskill, I cannot. As a lawyer, it is my duty to protect confidential communications from my clients.”

“Missus Ramer,” says Judge Anderson, “the points of law regarding this have been debated sufficiently while the jury was out of the room. We need not begin again only to attain the same outcome. Answer Mister McAskill’s questions.”

“She did not, sir,” answers Mrs. Ramer.

“Didn’t she tell you she anticipated having trouble with Mister Koehler?”

“She did not, sir.”

“Didn’t she make an appointment to meet you at the Bismarck Cafe?”

“She did not, sir.”

“Didn’t she tell you she planned to meet Mister Koehler that very evening?”

“She did not, sir.”

“Did she make any reference to Otto Koehler’s demand that she needed to gather any and all papers bearing his signature and return them to him?”

“She did not, sir.”

“What did Miss Burgemeister tell you in reference to any kind of settlement?”

“My client said she had two notes in her possession, each for $10,000, that she wanted me to collect for her. They both were due in May.”

“Did she reveal who had signed the notes?”

“She did not, sir.”

“Think carefully, Missus Ramer. Did she say anything about any kind of potential trouble?”

“Miss Burgemeister told me her life was in danger.”

“From whom?”

“She didn’t provide a name at the time, but I found out afterwards Mister Koehler was the danger she feared.”

“What did she offer as proof that her life was in danger?”

“She said that the man whom she loved had made appointment with her in a house that appeared to be a saloon or brothel or both in a neighborhood with a dubious reputation. The questionable location for the unusual assignation made her sense her life was at risk.”

“Missus Ramer, when you appeared before the Grand Jury, weren’t you asked if Miss Burgemeister had made a codicil to her will and you answered that she declared that she and Mister Koehler had been friends and had an estrangement and that she had a meeting with him that evening to have a settlement and that she….”

Thomas cannot tolerate this badgering any longer. “I object, your honor. That is no question. That’s a speech.”

“Mister McAskill,” directs the judge, “please separate that into a series of individual questions.”

“No, sir.” “No, sir.” No, sir,” answers Mrs. Ramer to each question posed by the district attorney.

“Your honor,” says McAskill, “I beg permission to summon members of the Grand Jury as witnesses to prove that the testimony Missus Ramer offered before that inquisitorial body differs from her answers today.”

Thomas rises again. “Your honor, Mister McAskill is attempting to link two distinct court processes. The Grand Jury determined there was enough evidence to bring a charge against Miss Burgemeister. Its duty was not to try the case or determine guilt, which is right and just, particularly as the Grand Jury was chaired by a partner and close friend of Mister Koehler’s. It is up to the prosecutors to make their case based on evidence presented during this hearing in this courtroom.”

“Mister McAskill,” rules Judge Anderson, “I am not going to permit the Grand Jurors to come here in order to impeach this lady. I sustain the objection of the defense.”

“No further questions of the witness,” says the frustrated District Attorney.

As Florence Ramer has corroborated Miss Burgemeister’s statements, there is no need for Thomas to ask a thing. “No questions.” So much for State’s star witness.

Skimming through notes as McAskill goes through repetitive questions with Policeman Harris, an unexpected turn in the descriptions of the weapons jerks him to attention. Thomas cannot believe what he just heard. McAskill is not having the best of days. Thomas rubs his hands together in anticipation of his cross-examination.

“Officer Harris, are you saying the gun the State has submitted into evidence, the gun the State has identified as the weapon that killed Otto Koehler, is not the same gun you picked up from the table at the residence of Miss Burgemeister?”

“It is not, sir.”

“This,” Thomas holds the piece of evidence in front of the policeman, “is not the weapon you found fully discharged, the chamber empty?”

“No, sir,” says Officer Harris, reexamining the weapon. “The gun on Miss Burgemeister’s table had a hammer. This weapon is hammerless.”

“Thank you, Officer Harris. I have no further questions.”

The District Attorney moves on to his next witness. “Mister Arnold, what do you do for a living?”

“I am a lawyer representing the Pacific Mutual Insurance Company.”

“And, as part of an investigation concerning the estate of Otto Koehler, did you hire a private detective?”

“Yes, we hired Crosby Marsden to verify the circumstances of Mister Koehler’s demise before authorizing payment of proceeds from a life insurance policy.”

“Your honor,” says McAskill, “may I submit the report prepared by Mister Marsden for Mister Arnold into evidence as verification of his employment.”

“Your honor, Mister McAskill has shared the report and the defense has no objections.”

McAskill calls another witness. “Missus Guly, what is your profession?”

“I am a trained nurse, sir.”

“And where are you employed?”

“At the Baylor Hospital.”

“And were you on duty while the defendant, Miss Burgemeister, was there in October of 2014.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Was there anything unusual about her appearance? Did you see any marks on her throat or neck?”

“No, sir. None at all.”

The District Attorney still is attempting to counter the jail matron’s testimony.

“Missus Guly,” asks Thomas, “are you saying there were no marks on Miss Burgemeister’s neck or you didn’t notice any bruises on her neck?”

“Well, I guess I mean that I didn’t observe any bruising there.”

Next on McAskill’s rapid parade of witnesses is Dr. Jackson.

“Doctor Jackson,” asks the District Attorney, “when did you first encounter Miss Burgemeister?”

“I was summoned by telephone to attend to an emergency at the house on Hunstock shortly after the shooting.”

“And, Dr. Jackson, did you notice any bruising on the defendant?”

“No, not that I recall.”

“Doctor Jackson,” says Thomas, “when you arrived at the home you found a dead man on the floor and a woman with a slit wrist. Did you stop to thoroughly examine Miss Burgemeister or did you minister to the immediate need of stopping the flow of blood pouring from her arm?”

“There was a lot of confusion around me. I did focus on her wrist to ensure she could be safely transported to the hospital.”

Time to call a witness for the defense to end the prosecutor’s attempts to deny Miss Burgemeister’s life was endangered.

“Doctor Largen, did you examine Miss Burgemeister while she was recovering at the Baylor Hospital?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And did you notice whether she had any bruising?”

“Discolored marks were on Miss Burgemeister’s throat and additionally there was discoloration on the tip of her left shoulder.”

“Doctor Largen,” asks McAskill on cross-examination, “Was it not two or three days after the killing before you examined Miss Burgemeister?”

“I cannot remember if it was two or three, but the shade of the discoloration indicated the bruising was from several days prior to my examination of Miss Burgemeister.”

This part of the trial was beginning to resemble a fast-paced tennis match. Quick volleys with a parade of witnesses.

“Mister Frost,” begins McAskill, “what is your position at Frost Bank?”

“I am Vice President.”

“What were your dealings with Miss Burgemeister in the fall of 1914?”

“Miss Burgemeister attempted to dispose of a note for $10,000 against Mister Koehler while he was out of the country. I declined to fund it without being able to contact him first.”

“Miss Burgemeister denied this, although she did say she called upon you to cash a check. Is that possible, Mister Frost?”

“I remember distinctly her request was for a large sum of money, which is why I hesitated to honor it without Mister Koehler’s approval. I feel confident it was a note for $10,000.”

“Your honor,” says Thomas, “Miss Burgemeister has acknowledged she went to two different banks for two different transactions. There is a possibility she confused the bank at which she cashed the check with the bank that refused the note. For the District Attorney to spend time on this is nitpicking apart Miss Burgemeister’s testimony.”

And now witness after witness. All friends, vouching for Saint Otto.

“Mister Ball,” continues McAskill, “you are both a lawyer and a banker. What was your relationship with Mister Koehler?”

“I was a close acquaintance of his for more than twenty years,” answers Mr. Ball, “and during that time had numerous business dealings with him.”

“Your honor,” says Thomas, “the defense objects to this line of questioning. No one denies that Otto Koehler was a man of immense wealth who had many business dealings.” Overruled.

“Mister Ball,” continues McAskill, “would you consider Mister Koehler a man of an amiable disposition or one who was even-tempered and good-natured?”

“Oh, I always found him of a mild disposition, even-tempered and good-natured.”

What other possible answer would pass from the lips of an obsequious banker? And, surprise, surprise. The always-too-ill-to-testify Otto Wahrmund is able to make it to the witness stand.

“Colonel Wahrmund,” says the District Attorney, “Miss Burgemeister has described Otto Koehler as raging ‘like a bull when he got mad.’ Does that sound like the man you worked with for so many years?”

Colonel Wahrmund shakes his head. “No, not all. Why, I never once saw Otto Koehler angry in his entire life.”

Thomas fingers the folded message to him from Otto Koehler which he has carried in the breast pocket of his jacket throughout these proceedings.

“Sheriff Tobin,” asks McAskill, “how did you find the temperament of Mister Koehler?”

“He always was very gentle, amiable and extremely kind.”

“When you first saw Miss Burgemeister after the shooting did you notice any marks on her throat?”

The District Attorney refuses to leave this alone.

“Well, no,” answers the Sheriff, “I failed to see any bruises or discolorations on her neck at all.”

“Judge Newton,” continues McAskill, “what kind of man was Mister Koehler?”

“I was Otto Koehler’s personal attorney for twenty years,” says Judge Newton. “I knew him intimately. He was a most amiable man.”

Realizing he had started tapping his right foot impatiently, Thomas quiets it.

“Judge Newton,” continues the District Attorney, “where is your office?”

“In the Kampmann Building.”

“At the behest of Mister Koehler, Miss Burgemeister claims to have visited your offices above the Newton, Weller & Wagner Store on Commerce Street. Have you ever had an office above the Newton, Weller & Wagner Store?”

“No, I have not.”

Time for an intervention.

“Judge Newton,” asks Thomas, “do you know what is upstairs from that store?”

“Well, yes. On the second floor there are the rooms of the Scientific Society, Red Cross and John Stevens’ offices. On the third floor, there is the University Club.”

“How to you get up to the University Club?”

“By elevator.”

“Your honor,” interposes McAskill, “What does this possibly have to do with this case?”

Judge Anderson does not hinder Thomas from pursuing this further, but he decides to let it drop anyway. He need not sink to the same level of nitpicking.

“Mister Hummel,” McAskill addresses the county auditor, “you say you never saw Mister Koehler lose his temper. Do you know what he was like at home?”

“Oh, he was most decidedly a good father and a good husband.”

Thomas hears more than a few snickers from the audience over that answer as he rises to object.

“The jury,” agrees Judge Anderson, “should disregard Mister Hummel’s answer to that question.”

Judge Anderson must be tapping his foot under his robe by now.

Footnotes

The Author hates to drag the reader through every bit of the trial but wants to provide you with enough information to feel comfortable assuming the role of one of the jurors in the courtroom. Or as uncomfortable as the actual jurors were confronted by conflicting statements offered by witnesses during the trial. Is Hedda guilty of murder, or did she shoot Otto Koehler in self-defense?

Continue to Chapter Ninety-Four

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