Otis Newsome

Background

On March 27, 1948, U.C. Strickland, a filling station operator, shot and killed Otis Newsome, a World War II veteran, and father of three young children, in Wilson, North Carolina. Newsome and a companion, James Williams, stopped to purchase brake fluid for the car. Strickland was tried and acquitted of the homicide.

According to newspaper accounts, Williams, the state’s witness, testified that he and Newsome asked Strickland for a funnel to put brake fluid in the car, or for assistance in doing so. When Strickland refused, Newsome responded that the service of putting the fluid in the car was included in the price. Strickland again refused and demanded 85 cents for the fluid. According to Williams, before he or Newsome could respond further, or pay the 85 cents, Strickland pulled out his .38 caliber special and shot Newsome in the stomach. Williams described Strickland as appearing intoxicated at the time of the shooting.

Legal Status

On September 6, 1948 Strickland was tried for first degree murder in Wilson County Superior Court. The defense’s witness Robert Deans, a white man from Middlesex township, testified that the victim, Newsome, attacked Strickland and that he reached into his pocket for what appeared to be a gun. Strickland shot Newsome and upon falling to the floor, a knife fell out of Newsome’s pocket. Deans further testified that the State’s witness, James Williams, picked up the knife and fled the scene.

However, other witnesses testified that Deans was not actually at the scene until after the police arrived, and that he left hurriedly, stating that he “had to catch a bus.” Police never recovered the knife that Williams allegedly took from the scene. The prosecutor did not seek a conviction for first-degree murder; rather he asked for the court to instruct the jury only on second degree and manslaughter. The case did not go to the jury because the court ordered the withdrawal of a juror and declared a mistrial. However, in a second trial in May 1949, a jury found Strickland not guilty.

No further legal action has been taken in this case.