On January 24, 1906 Cavanaugh
ruled against a defense motion that had been filed
in December, 1905 to quash the indictment against
Iroquois Theater manager
Will J. Davis. As a result, Davis would be tried
for involuntary manslaughter. If found guilty, the
penalty was a prison sentence of one year to life.
Erasmus C. Lindley of
states attorney John Healy's office, had argued
that the obligation to provide fire escapes rested
on common law as well as municipal ordinance thus
was not dependent upon enactment by the Chicago city
council but Kavanagh dismissed the two common law
assertions. In a
lengthy article three days before his ruling,
the Chicago Tribune laid out what Kavanagh
would consider, including a summary of legal
proceedings to that point.
Four days later Davis's
Levy Mayer demanded a change of venue for the
trial. (It was the second venue change
discussion in court, the first having been voided in
February, 1905 when
judge Kersten quashed the state's faultily-drafted
indictment.) Prosecutor Healy objected to
a venue change because of the cost of transporting
many dozens of witnesses. Newspapers suggested
public hostility against Davis had diminished,
citing as examples that the Iroquois building was
back in use as a theater and that demonstrations of
grief and anger at annual gatherings of the Iroquois
Theater Memorial Association were less pronounced.
Six months later judge
Ben Smith ruled that the venue could be moved.
Kavanagh an interesting
The son of Irish immigrants,
Marcus and Mary Hughes Kavanagh* of Iowa, he
received law degrees from both Niagara and Notre
Dame universities and was admitted to Iowa bar
c.1878. He served as city attorney of Des
Moines and as a circuit court judge.
Kavanagh moved to Chicago
in 1889 and went into partnership with judge John
Gibbons and J. V. O'Donnell. In 1891 took time
away from his career to command the 7th Illinois
regiment during the Spanish-American war, achieving
the rank of colonel.
In 1898 was appointed to
the bench in Cook County by Illinois governor Tanner
to succeed judge John Barton Payne. Judge in
Cook County Superior Court 1898-1935. One of
four who ran against Carter Harrison Jr. in 1901
Chicago mayoral election.
Known as a tough-on-crime
judge, at over six foot tall Kavanagh cut an
imposing figure. Three times in his career he
imposed the death penalty on men who had pled guilty
and expected lifetime imprisonment. He was
known for his opinion that attorneys should not
defend men they knew were guilty. After he was
invited in 1929 to participate in the
Wickersham Commission investigation into
criminal justice reform, he became a regular on the
lecture circuit. In 1930 he appeared before
the House of Commons in England to urge lawmakers to
retain capital punishment.
His first wife, married in
Herminie McGibney Templeton Kavanagh
(1861-1933), author of Irish folk tales, including
Darby O'Gill and the Good People in 1903
that fifty-six years later became the basis for a
Disney film by the same name (
trailer). After her death, at age
seventy-five, he married his twenty-seven-year-old
secretary of six months, former model and
stenographer Jeanne Velma Latour.
In 1910 Marcus authored an
anti-Darwin pamphlet, "Proof of Design in
Creation" and in 1928 a book about crime,
"The Criminal and His Allies."
Kavanagh retired in 1935
and moved to Hollywood, California where he died two