Audio version: Download MP3 or use controls below:
Mindful of the $500 reward that was being offered for information leading to the arrest, he promptly told them Jack Wade had done the shooting — basically confessing the whole thing, without so much as asking to see a lawyer.
The police soon found Jack Wade in his room at a different boardinghouse, and arrested him as well. Both Dalton and Wade admitted the murder had happened, but each claimed the other was holding the pistol when it went off. No doubt the police played on their ignorance of the law in letting them do this, since clearly they did not at first know that legally it didn’t matter who did the actual shooting. Under Oregon law, if a crime goes wrong and an innocent person dies, every member of the conspiracy is held just as culpable as if each had been the trigger man.
This is surely why the trial was so very short. Having depended on a defense that wasn’t a defense, the two of them had, by the time they were assigned lawyers, essentially confessed their crime, utterly destroying all chances of acquittal. Wade’s attorney advised him to go for the Hail-Mary pass, pleading guilty and throwing himself on the court’s mercy. It showed him none. Dalton, who pleaded innocent, was convicted promptly as well, and both men were sentenced to hang.
Also during their jailhouse stay, the mayor of Portland, Henry S. Rowe, happened by and recognized Dalton as the man who had mugged him a few weeks before. Nothing could be proven, of course, and Dalton denied it — but he did so with a shaky and nervous demeanor that didn’t do much to convince anyone he wasn’t lying.
On the Sunday before the hanging, Dalton announced plans to fast. “It is the last Sabbath I shall ever spend on Earth,” he declared, “and I think too much of my Blessed Saviour to take my thoughts from him.”
“I’ll eat,” Wade shot back. “I have a long road to travel.”
And so, under the disapproving (and probably hungry) eye of his ex-partner, he tucked into his chicken dinner. Then he looked up from his repast. “What did you have for breakfast, Billy?”
“Tea,” said Dalton primly.
“They must have put something in it!” Wade crowed.
“It’s tough!” he hollered, winking at the crowd.
But then, as the appointed hour grew near, he quickly grew serious, for almost the first time since his arrest.
“Don’t any of you fellows follow in the tracks of Jack,” he told them. “Now don’t you do it. You may think I am happy here. I am not.”