Fight for Rights: The Chicago 1919 Riots and the Struggle for Black Justice

Walter Colvin

While Johnson told a consistent story and fit his claims of abuse in whenever he could, Walter Colvin rambled.

Colvin answered questions he was not asked and was often confused about the sequence of events. When Pollard asked him what he was doing on July 28, he began to talk about playing horseshoes, then jumped to discussing being arrested several days later.

Still, the account of his mistreatment at the hands of the police and prosecutors emerged during his testimony.

He said that when he was first questioned, after he denied having anything to do with the Lazzeroni murder, the state’s attorney said, “You are a damn liar,” and told him that John Green and Frank Coachman said the three of them chased after Lazzeroni's wagon.

Colvin claimed that the state’s attorney accused him of cutting Lazzeroni. And when he denied it, the state’s attorney called him a “lying “n*****r son-of-a-bitch” and said, “If you don’t say you cut him, I will beat the hell of you.” 

Colvin, like Johnson, said he was beaten with a club. He claimed he was punched and kicked by police officers after he continued to deny that he was involved in the crime. He also said that one of the state’s attorneys told him that if he said he did it, they would let him go.

And Colvin said that when he continued to deny he was involved in the Lazzeroni killing, one of the officers, Colvin thought it was Lieutenant Burns, told him he was a “hard n****r” and hit him in the stomach and face after warning him not to make any noise.

Colvin also testified that he was taken to the Hyde Park Police Station because he denied having anything to do with the murder. He said Daliege drove him to that station, where he stayed for three days in an unsanitary cell and was only fed bread and water. Then, he said, Daliege took him back to the station at Forty-Eighth Street and questioned him some more. This time, when he was asked if he knew Green, Coachman, and Johnson, he agreed he did. Not long after that, he said, Dollie Herman saw him and accused him of killing Lazzeroni.

Oddly, his testimony was more straightforward during cross-examination. Pressed by O’Brien for details about the killing of Lazzeroni, he insisted he had not seen Green, Coachman, or Charles Johnson on July 28 and that he first heard about the murder from his sister.

He also insisted, repeatedly, that when he confessed, he made up the story he told, that he only confessed one time, and that he confessed because he had been beaten and mistreated.

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