Unconventional judges occasionally make the news for their courtroom antics or unusual sentences. William Jefferson Pollard was one of those kinds of Judges.
A driver had been brought before the Judge, charged with cruelty to animals in that he had been driving a galled mule. The prisoner had an expert witness in a veterinarian, who testified that the sore on the mule’s back did not pain the animal in the least.
The Judge listened attentively to the long technical opinion, and then demanded to know where the mule was. He was informed that it was harnessed to a wagon on the street in front of the court building. The Judge ordered the court be adjourned for five minutes.
He took his cane and proceeded to the street. He approached the mule, and with the end of his cane touched the sore spot on the animal’s back. The mule almost kicked the dashboard off the wagon. Once again the Judge touched the sore with his cane, and the frantic beast almost demolished the wagon with its kicking.
The Judge returned to the bench. The prisoner was called before him.
“With all due respect to the expert testimony you have had introduced in your behalf to show that the sore on the mule’s back does not pain him I will find you $50,” announced the Judge. “I asked the mule if the sore hurt him, and he said it did.”
Some criminals in Pollard’s court got off by just taking an oath not to commit another crime, or drink a drop of alcohol, for a set period of time, or risk a harsh sentence. This became known as the “Pollard Pledge Plan” and became widely adopted.
POLLARD OF ST. LOUIS, A POLICE COURT SOLOMON: He Reforms Drunkards, Makes Homes Happy, Takes the Testimony of Animals Against Their Cruel Owners, and Has a Heart the Size of a Barn. (PDF)
From September 25, 1910