Accused of stealing four cows from Lancaster rancher J.L. Armstrong, Percy Sweet, Samuel Thomason, and Chalice Thomason first came to trial early in 1927. Due to some uncertainty about the physical appearance of the stolen cows, however, the jury was unable to reach a verdict for the suspected cattle rustlers.
Deputy District Attorney Ryan then convinced Judge Stephens that he could have moved the jurors to a conviction had they gotten to see the cows for themselves. When the defendants’ attorney, Guy Eddie, refused to accept photographs of the stolen cattle as evidence in the retrial, Ryan retorted, "Then we will produce the cow in court."
Stephens signed an order commanding one of the cows to appear as a silent witness in the grand larceny trial. Why the cow was to be listed as a witness for the state, rather than evidence, is anyone’s guess.
And so, Vivian, one of the abducted cows, appeared with her calf in the Hall of Justice on April 11. The bovine witness was unwilling to take a freight elevator to the courtroom, so the jurors came to her, and court reconvened in the Hall’s basement. While on the stand, Vivian made nice with Judge Stephens by licking his ear, prompting Guy Eddie to joke, "I protest! It is apparent that the witness is trying to reach the judge."
In the end, Ryan’s strategy seems to have been effective. The Thomason brothers were sentenced to San Quentin for 1-10 years, while Sweet received five years probation on May 23, 1927.