6 Year Old Tried for Murder

mahanIn Paintsville, a small eastern coal-mining town in Kentucky, Carl Newton Mahan became the youngest person ever tried for murder.

On May 18, 1929 Carl, age 6 and his friend Cecil Van Hoose, age 8, found a scrap of iron that they planned to sell to a junk dealer for a little extra money.  Cecil took the scrap from Carl and hit him in the face with it.  Carl got his revenge by running home and grabbing his father’s 12 gauge shotgun.  He ran back to Cecil, pointed the gun at him and yelled “I’m going to shoot you!”  And he did, killing the boy.

He was tried for murder, and got up on the stand to tell the court what happened.  For the rest of the day long trial he sometimes laid and slept on the defense table.  After 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury decided that manslaughter was more fitting in this case.  Carl was sentenced to 15 years at a reform school and released to his parents on $500 bail.

A circuit judge issued a “writ of prohibition” that kept the boy from being sent to reform school because it was against procedure to try a person of that age in front of a jury so the jury had no authority to convict.  Ultimately Carl was just sent home.carl mahan

This is all I’ve been able to find on this case, but I’m very curious as what kind of life Carl Mahan lived after the trial.

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15 Responses to 6 Year Old Tried for Murder

  1. Jennifer Goertler says:

    After stumbling upon an article about this case, I started searching for info on what became of Carl. Every article said the same thing, no further information. When typing in Carl N Mahan I came across this:
    Message Boards > Localities > North America > United States > States > Kentucky > Counties > Green > Carl N. Mahan Obit
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    Advanced Search All BoardsGreen – Family History & Genealogy Message Board
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    Carl N. Mahan Obit
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    Carl N. Mahan Obit
    KarenJorgensen97 (View posts)
    Posted: 2 Apr 2003 8:21PM
    Classification: Obituary
    Edited: 5 Apr 2004 9:03PM
    Surnames: Mahan Shirrell
    Carl N. Mahan, 35, was found dead Mon. morning [28 Apr 1958] at his home, 1812 Norris Place, Louisville. Deputy Coroner Harry Elstone reported Mahan shot himself with a .32 caliber revolver. Mahan was reported to have been in ill health. Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Roxie Mahan, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Mahan. His wife is a native of Green Co., and a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Shirrell of Pierce. Funeral and burial services were held in Louisville.
    Posted with permission of the Greensburg Record Herald

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    I did read in another article that he died at age 35 so I’m assuming it’s the same person. ?

  2. stef says:

    yes, its him

  3. Reblogged this on S. K. Epperson and commented:
    Today not so different from yesterday after all…

  4. Benjamin L Clark says:

    Father Flanagan of Boys Town took interest in Carl Newton Mahan and worked to have him come to Boys Town. He wrote to Governor Sampson at the time, seeking placement of young Carl at Boys Town. In his newsletter, Flanagan quotes Clarence Darrow saying that “Kentucky would be trying cats, dogs, and pigs next.”

  5. Oscar says:

    What purpose did this soul have on this earth other than to kill someone and his own living life?

    • Why don’t you stop and think about the circumstances when the boy killed the other boy? They were in Kentucky and it was the middle of the depression. The photos in the news articles show the boy was poor. It wasn’t a case of just wanting a little extra money – this kid was probably hungry and trying to survive and help his family survive. In that circumstance, a lot of people would kill. Since you know nothing about this boy other than the article you just read, who are you to pass judgment on his life?

      • queenbeetv88 says:

        Maybe Oscar is not passing judgement. Maybe he is wondering why the boy would have come to this planet to suffer. Maybe he thinks just like you and he knows that the boy had a hard life. It does give us pause to wonder why people have to come to the planet just to endure hardship and suffer.

        In this day and age and with the world’s knowledge, and technology, this should not be so for anyone.

      • Coach Red says:

        I admit that I am one who judged without thinking about his circumstances. We tend to judge based upon our own I think. I can understand the hitting part, but killing? I don’t know if you are quite correct that a LOT of people would kill. I without a doubt feel differently after reading your post, thank you, but I can still not get behind him KILLING the other child.

      • J.R. Mellon says:

        Incorrect. The crash of 1929, the definitive beginning of the great depression, occurred on October 24th. This event took place on May 18th. So it wasn’t “the middle of the depression” the depression hadn’t even begun.

  6. Jim Walker says:

    queenbeety88: he was from another time. there were still blood feuds in Kentucky, and children went armed. living in the depression meant many were hungry; any bit of money might feed the boy and his family for a night. while I do believe killing is wrong, this was always a possible outcome.

  7. Daniel Corral jr says:

    It the same person. He died in 1958 by his own hand

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