"God and Abraham on My Side," Says Slayer
Schmidt, Held in Tombs for Murder of Aumuller Girl, Thus Informs His Lawyer, Who, Sure Client Is Insane, Will Enter Not Guilty Plea.
Alphonse G. Koelble, the lawyer retained by Schmidt, said yesterday, after a visit with the prisoner, that the priest seemed to be utterly unconcerned whether he had a lawyer or not.
"He declared over and over again," said Koelble, "that God and Abraham would take care of him, and it was only by way of concession on his part that he finally agreed to accept counsel. Even then he intimated that it was only a temporary arrangement, or, as he put it, 'until God or Abraham directs otherwise.' "
Koelble said that he had come into the case as the result of a conference with a few of Schmidt's friends, who were convinced that if he did commit the revolting murder he was out of his mind when he did it. The lawyer declared, in response to questions, that the friends of Schmidt in question were all laymen, and he added that no church authority had spoken to him about the case in any way.
"I wired Father Schmidt on Sunday night," Koelble said yesterday, "telling him that I would be glad to assist him in any way possible, and that I would see him Monday morning at the Tombs. I had known him, in a casual way, for about two years. I think I met him at some German-American gathering.
"When I went to the Tombs this morning, however, he told me first that, while he was glad to have my assistance as a friend, he did not need any lawyer, because God and Abraham would take care of him. I told him that while that would be all right, he should have some one to appear for him in court and protect his rights.
Shows No Dread of Penalty
"Finally he admitted that might be a good idea and said he would retain me until God or Abraham directed otherwise. I showed him a newspaper, pointing out the headlines charging him with murder in the first degree, and, thinking to bring him to earth, I told him that he was facing the electric chair.
"That did not seem to affect him in the slightest degree. He simply did not take any notice of such startling words, and then I told him that his friends were convinced that if he committed this murder he must have been insane when he did it.
"He insisted there was nothing in any such theory, that there was no trace of insanity in him, and that he was just as sane as any one.
" 'If there's one thing that's sure.' he said, 'it is that I am not insane.'
"I asked him it it was not true that his uncle in Germany had committed suicide, and he said that was true, but the the uncle was not insane, and that there was no insanity in the family.
"All great men had been called insane, he said, and he referred to the Biblical story of Abraham's plans to sacrifice his son Isaac. People would not understand his case, he said, but he was satisfied in every way, and he added that he did not fear death.
"When I showed him the newspaper he brushed it aside with the remark that the newspapermen could not understand his position either, and he did not care to read what the papers said of the case. He got up though then and, taking the paper from me for a moment, he kissed the picture of the girl and murmured, 'She was a good girl, she was a dear girl.' "
Invokes "God and Abraham."
Koelble says that he advised his client of his rights and advised him not to talk to any one, police officials or any one else, except after talking to his lawyer about it, but Koelble added that Schmidt appeared to pay no little attention to his advice, and he seemed to be so docile, that if any one came to him and told him to step into the next room and go to the electric chair he would probably get right up and walk to it, if it were there.
"God and Abraham will take care of me and give me their counsel," Schmidt told Koelble again on this point, and the lawyer decided that it was useless to talk to the priest until his mental attitude became more practical.
Along at least one line, however, the priest's mind did become more practical during the day, and that was when he sent to the St. Joseph's rectory for some heavier clothing.
Koelble said that so far as he knew the priest had no relatives or intimate friends in this country, and he did not believe he had any money. The lawyer said he knew nothing of the stories that Father Schmidt led at times a life in which he presented himself as a medical man, owning stock in a concern that specialized in illegal practice among women.
Schmidt is doubled up in the Tombs with one Thomas J. Messmer, who is charged with the murder of his wife on May 14 last. Messmer, the police say, was about to begin dismembering the body of his victim, in the same manner in which the body of Anna Aumuller was dismembered, when he was arrested. A special guard was installed yesterday outside the door of the cell to guard against attempted suicide.
Sure Priest Is Insane.
Koelble says that his talk with Father Schmidt yesterday convinced him that the priest was insane. The lawyer added that he had always thought the priest was "a little off" and "queer," and that it was his intention to make the state prove that Father Schmidt was sane before the trial of the case begins.
"I will plead not guilty on the ground of insanity when the priest is arraigned," said Koelble, "and will then apply for a commission of alienists to be appointed by the court, to determine as to his sanity. I do not propose to delay the case in any way."
The lawyer went on to say that is the commission of alienists agreed unanimously that Father Schmidt was sane it would be his disposition to accept that verdict, but if there was any disagreement, or if there remained any doubt as to his sanity, he would insist that the state prove Schmidt sane.
While Koelble was not ready to go into the details of his case yet, it can be positively stated that is Schmidt is declared sane, or if there is a verdict from the commission which leaves any doubt as to his sanity, the defense will offer to plead guilty to a lesser degree rather than go to trial.
"God and Abraham on My Side," Says Slayer, The New York Tribune, 16 September 1913, page 2, column 3.