Special Dispatch to the Tribune.
KNOX, Ind., June 1-- Cecil Burkett, an eleven-year-old boy of Ora, Ind., faced a jury here to-day on trial for his life. The boy is charged with first-degree murder for the death of his nine-year-old playmate, Benny Slavin, who died of a gunshot wound last Thanksgiving Day. The prosecutor is asking the death penalty.
After a day of testimony Cecil took the stand in his own behalf as the last witness of the session. The boy's action proved a surprise, for he was much calmer than any of the other eight witnesses who had testified during the day. He answered Prosecutor James Dilts's questions promptly and appeared accurate in his statements.
Cecil told a story of how he and Fred Scherman, another playmate, were cleaning straw out of a martin house in Burkett's back yard, making several trips to the house. On his last trip he heard a shot, dropped the straw he was carrying, picked up the gun and carried it home. The little fellow was on the stand for an hour. He apparently made a strong impression on the jurors.
W. J. Reed, of Knox, who is handling the defense, is attempting to prove that Benny Slavin shot himself.
The prosecution received a severe blow when Judge Pentecost ruled that the evidence of six-year-old Elsie Slavin, who was to have testified that she saw the Burkett boy shoot and kill her brother, was inadmissible because she was too young.
Little Miss Slavin was to have testified that she saw the Burkett boy point the rifle at her brother and shoot him, and at both the coroner's inquest and the grand jury that returned the murder indictment against the Burkett boy, her evidence was the chief factor.
Others testifying this morning were Harry and Lena Slavin, parents of the slain Slavin boy; Mrs. Dora Garst, a neighbor; Dorothy Scherman, a playmate, and Charles Good, a neighbor. The mother of the Slavin boy nearly broke down on the stand, and told the court that her son on his deathbed told her that Cecil Burkett had shot him.
Neighbors and playmates told of extinguishing the fire the shot had started in the Slavin boy's clothing and of how he was brought to the Slavin kitchen, dying. Benny said there that the Burkett boy shot him, they testified. When Elsie took the stand she was undaunted by the crowd of arguing lawyers.
"This little Miss is perhaps as competent witness as a person much older," said Judge Pentecost, after questioning her as to right and wrong, "but I will have to excuse her because the laws of Indiana forbid calling a witness of less than ten years of age."
Prosecutor Dilts says that there was bad feeling between the two boys. He tells the story like this:
"Cecil, his brother Alfred, who is nine years old, and Frederick Scherman, seven years old, were playing in the Burkett back yard. Benny Slavin and his sister, Clara, were in the adjoining yard. Cecil called Benny to come into his yard. Benny at first objected, then Cecil held out a kite and tempted Benny until he finally crossed the line. At that Cecil reopened the old squabble and in cold blood shot the younger boy, the bullet entering his right side at the back. He committed his alleged crime with a rifle which belonged to the Burkett family."
New York (New York) Tribune, June 2, 1921.