The State's Obligation

by Bob Spoo

The State of Iowa pursued its obligation all the way to the grand jury, which considered Bix's case along with about 40 others during its September 1921 session. The grand jury was the embodiment of the State here. The session began on September 7 and continued until September 26. Around 40 cases were considered. At least nineteen "true bills," or indictments, were returned; at least sixteen "no bills" were returned. At least two of the indictments--against men named Joe Herring and George Wren--were for lewdness.

The grand jury considered the charges against Bix, received Preston Ivens' testimony, and "no billed" the case, resulting in County Attorney John Weir's filing a dismissal on September 26--the last day of the grand jury's lengthy session. Ivens had made it clear that he and several prominent members of the community thought Sarah should not be put through the experience of testifying in court. There was really no way to compel a 5-year-old girl to testify. With no prospect of testimony from the only witness to the accused's actions, the grand jury likely found that the charges lacked probable cause for an indictment.

No further remedy existed, unless Preston Ivens chose to bring some kind of private lawsuit against Bix. That didn't happen--again, no doubt, because Sarah would have had to testify in court.

Posted on Dec 4, 2017, 9:46 AM

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