Did you miss part of the story? Links to Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

You’ve read all the facts I could find about the murder of Dr. Allen S. King and the trial of Leo Olivier, the 15-year-old boy who killed him. This post has no new facts, just my own thoughts about the story.

We know there is a lot of missing information but based on what we do know, I have questions about the veracity of Hazel Olivier’s story, which was the foundation of everything that happened. Her family, the newspapers, and law enforcement appeared to take it on faith that she was being honest. She may have been, but it’s not the only possibility.

Hazel’s story doesn’t sound right. In a small town like Morgan City, if she was having an affair with the doctor, someone would have known it, but no one did until she returned from New Orleans and announced it herself. Her trip to New Orleans is off, too. Hazel didn’t have a lot of money, she was in a strange city, and abortion was illegal; how would she even know where to go to procure an abortion? When she returned home, she wanted to go to Sacred Heart to talk to her priest, but it wasn’t clear if she wanted to confess or if she was seeking guidance. Either way, it’s unusual she would have invited a friend.

I wondered if perhaps Hazel was infatuated with Dr. King and he had rejected her, so she invented the story to get even with him. The signs that were festooned all over town the day after Dr. King returned were a clear attempt to humiliate him. But would an indignant friend or family member, who would likely want to keep the story as quiet as possible, really paper the town with this announcement? Only someone who wanted everyone to know the story about Hazel and Dr. King would do this. Someone like a rejected paramour.

A week passed after the embarrassing poster incident with no other news. Then, per their account, Hazel spoke to her brother about it, and he murdered the doctor the next day. Leo seemed like a level-headed boy. Could Hazel have deliberately incited him to take action?

The other thing that bothered me about the case was that the defense’s case was so absurd. I felt like they weren’t even trying. Leo was a likeable kid and my guess is that his sister manipulated him into murdering the doctor. Given his age and record, together with possible/probable manipulation by an adult, he probably should not have been held entirely responsible.

But the defense’s case was so obviously false as to be insulting to everyone who heard it.

First, how is it even possible Leo did not find out about his sister’s story about the doctor until the night before the murder? The entire town was gossiping about Hazel’s story for weeks. Even if that escaped him, didn’t Leo wonder about all those posters all over town? I believe that Hazel had a conversation with him the night before he killed Dr. King, but it’s difficult to believe he knew nothing about it before then.

Second, the defense was clearly betting that the jury would actually judge Leo on the unwritten law defense. The plea of self-defense was only a formality, but… they ought to have found a better formality. Leo took a revolver to the doctor’s office, knocked on the door, and immediately shot him without saying a word. How could it possibly be self-defense?

The defense said the doctor was lying in wait with his brass knuckles. If Dr. King was smart enough to get through medical school, he’d know better than to bring brass knuckles to a gunfight.

Please share any thoughts or opinions you have in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

This is Part 4 of The Kings of Louisiana. Be sure to read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3!  

The trial opened in September.  The large audience was almost entirely male, except some family members. Leo’s stepmother sat with his sister Hazel. “The defense says they are not fully decided to put Miss Olivier on the witness stand. It may not be necessary and if it can be avoided they would be glad of the opportunity,” the New Orleans Times–Democrat reported.

Mrs. Sallie King, Dr. King’s mother, appeared in heavy mourning. She sat next to her daughter and son-in-law. The doctor’s wife, Mrs. Phoebe King was present with one of her daughters, probably Phoebe, who was 14 at the time. This was the extent of the coverage of the doctor’s wife and daughters in the papers. They were never mentioned again.

The prosecution immediately ran into difficulties. A jury could not acquit Leo due to the unwritten law, but they suspected the case hinged on whether jurors were sympathetic to the idea. To their alarm, they were forced to accept several jurors who admitted they agreed with the unwritten law. However, they promised to put aside their personal feelings to act according to their oath as jurors.

The opening argument of Samuel Montgomery, ex-District Attorney of New Orleans, lasted over two hours. “This is the most horrible murder that has ever stained the fair name of our state,” he declared. “You have it from [Leo’s] own lips that he went to the office of Dr. King on a peaceful mission to force the doctor to marry his sister or leave the community.”

He snickered. “Think of it, gentleman! That big infant going to a man the size of Dr. King to force him to marry his sister. He knew Dr. King was already married. Then what did he go there for? He went there on a peaceful mission, armed with a big pistol.”

After the medical testimony and character witnesses, the defendant took the stand. The boy was calm and answered the questions put to him clearly. He said the family had known Dr. King about five years.

The defense contended that Hazel told Leo her story the night before he killed Dr. King. “She wanted to go see him,” Leo said, “but I said, ‘No, I’ll go see him myself.’”

“I went to Dr. King’s office to demand an explanation,” the defendant testified. “I wanted him to do the right thing and marry my sister.” Leo said when he entered the office, Dr. King at once tried to draw a weapon. “I fired as he rose. He staggered toward me.”

After shooting the doctor, Leo thought he may not have killed him. He returned to the room and found Dr. King struggling to get up. “I struck him once or twice with my revolver.” And shot him again.

“You went there mad enough to kill him, didn’t you, Leo?” the DA demanded.

“I can’t say I was mad,” Leo replied slowly. “I was not ready to shoot him down like a beast. I was not in the heat of a passion.”

“You went to see Dr. King to force him to marry your sister or leave the community?”

“Yes.”

“Would you have tried to force him to do so to the extent of killing him?”

“I might’ve done so,” the boy said coolly.

Closing arguments lasted over eleven hours. The prosecution railed against the unwritten law and ridiculed the self-defense plea, speculating that Leo brought the brass knuckles with him to Dr. King’s office and planted them in his victim’s hand.

The defense argued that Dr. King was the aggressor; Leo was just defending his sister. They said if Miss Olivier had been allowed to tell her story, it would have made the jurors’ blood run cold. It was an odd point for the defense to make, as they worked hard to ensure Hazel would not testify.

At 7 o’clock, Judge O’Neill charged the jury. He told the jury they could not consider the unwritten law. “You are not to arbitrarily substitute your private opinion of what the law ought to be. This would violate your oaths as jurors.”

The jury was out for 40 minutes. They voted unanimously to acquit Leo Olivier. A Semi-Weekly Times and Democrat reporter wrote, “The whole courtroom rose to its feet when the verdict was read and it was evident a noisy demonstration would’ve ensued had not the sheriff stopped the cheers.”

Leo Olivier received the verdict with surprising composure. He had been so confident of his acquittal, he packed his suitcase before leaving for court that day. He shook his lawyers’ hands and hugged his sister. Hazel Olivier pushed back the heavy veil she had worn throughout the trial, “her face was wreathed in smiles.”

Mrs. Sallie King was not in the courtroom to hear the decision.

Counsel for Olivier claimed this wasn’t a vindication of the unwritten law. “I regard it as an endorsement of our strong case of self-defense.”

The reporter took the trouble to state that no one believed that. In his judgement, it was primarily the jury’s sympathy for the unwritten law that caused them to acquit Olivier. The enthusiastic handshaking and back-slapping as the boy left the courtroom spoke volumes.

I have some thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours. Go to Part 5 of The Kings of Louisiana!

This is Part 3 of The Kings of Louisiana. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 first!  

 

According to the Hattiesburg Daily News, the doctor’s killer was 15-year-old Leo Olivier.

“Last Tuesday, Dr. King returned to the city and immediately resumed his practice. The day following his return the town was placarded with large printed posters which heralded his return and branded him as the betrayer of women. It is believed that the poster was what inflamed the youthful brother with a desire to avenge the wrong.

“Arming himself with a 32-caliber automatic revolver, young Olivier proceeded to the office of the physician yesterday morning. The boy told police he had committed the murder because Dr. King took advantage of his sister Hazel.”

By the time the Marshal arrived at Dr. King’s office, a number of people were crowded into the tiny room. Deputy Sheriff Leroy Olivier arrived first. He had the same name as the boy who killed the doctor, but they were not related or connected in any way. Shortly afterward, Dr. E. G. Cherrault, was summoned to assist the doctor. But Dr. Allen King was beyond help.

Marshal Maitland glanced at Cherrault, who shook his head. Rather than examine the body at once, Maitland pulled Deputy Sheriff Olivier aside. “Tell me what you found.”

“The doctor was lying on his face with his hand stretched out,” Olivier said, demonstrating with his own hand. “He had a pair of brass knuckles on his right hand.”

The marshal looked up sharply. Brass knuckles would indicate that possibly Dr. King had intended to defend himself. How could he have known about the boy’s intention?

Dr. Cherrault corroborated the deputy sheriff’s statement. “I’m absolutely positive Dr. King had on a pair of knuckles when I came to his side.”

Brass knuckles

 

And indeed, the brass knuckles were still clutched in the doctor’s hand.

“While the town is divided to a certain extent, those who are in sympathy with the boys seem to be in the majority,” the Hattiesburg Daily News declared. “However, there are those of friends of the dead doctor who said that he was a particularly honest and upright man, and that he is the victim of unfortunate circumstances.”

The details of the story, as told to the police by the boy, seemed to check out. Multiple eyewitnesses had seen him throughout the morning. Miss Bibbins had seen him, heard two gunshots, and peered around the corner to watch as Leo descended to the ground floor. Leo had said he fired twice before his gun jammed, and a third cartridge was found stuck in the chamber.

The death record of Dr. King (Terrebonne Parish)

 

Leo spent the night in jail and was escorted on to the train the following morning. He would be tried for the murder in Franklin, Louisiana. At the depot, a reporter from the New Orleans Times–Democrat called out to him, asking why he killed the doctor.

Leo shook his head. “I cannot say.”

When the reporter persisted, the teenager continued, “I would rather not talk of the affair. One of my attorneys is on the train, and you will have to see him. I would rather that he do the talking if there’s a need for any to be done.”

After a moment, Leo added, “But I don’t think that either of the attorneys is prepared to talk as we have it pretty well understood not to say anything for publication just at this time. However, all of the facts will be made known later and then the whole world will be told.”

Reporters freely opined Leo’s real defense would be the unwritten law.

The unwritten law typically referenced cases in which a woman was compromised and the man who had seduced her was likely to go unpunished by the law. In these cases, the unwritten law compelled a woman’s male relatives to punish the man who “ruined” her. In this case, Dr. King had seduced Leo’s sister, caused her to have an abortion, and destroyed her reputation, and it was his duty, as Hazel’s brother, to ensure the doctor didn’t get away with it.

 

The unwritten law was not legally valid, of course, so the official defense was a plea of self-defense. Bail was set at $10,000, far out of reach for the Oliviers. Prominent citizens of Morgan City paid Leo’s bail for him.

A snippet of the Morgan City Daily Review.

 

Read Part 4 of The Kings of Louisiana!