Wednesday 1 February 2012

February 2, 1876

The last evidence against McConnell is followed by the closing arguments for the prosecution and the defense.
Then the Judge’s charge to the jury precedes a very short deliberation to determine guilt or innocence.
Verdict delivered and sentence imposed.
The full Spectator coverage follows :
After the close of our report yesterday, Dr. Workman continued his evidence as follows:
          Insanity might be incubating for years; a great many patients in the lunatic asylum have a knowledge of right and wrong; I give no definition of insanity; no well instructed expert will give a definition of it; the fact that a butcher had an ambition to be an actor would not be evidence of insanity taken by itself.
          J.D. Hamilton recalled – I received the rent of McConnell’s house from his wife shortly after McConnell was taken from the house.
          This closed the evidence for the defence.
                   EVIDENCE IN REBUTTAL
George Morris, recalled: Have known McConnell for some years; he carried on business in the market; I never saw anything about him that I consider wrong; he acted much like other people in the same business.
          Francis Taaffe, recalled: Am a butcher in the market; have noticed nothing particularly different between him and other people in the same business.
          Jno. Henery, sworn: Have been Governor of the Jail during prisoner’s confinement; he has been quiet and well behaved; have seen nothing that looked to me like insanity.
          Cross-examined by Mr. Crerar: Do not think that he fully appreciates the solemnity of his position.
          Dr. White recalled: During the inquest, the prisoner seemed perfectly rational; insanity was then suggested in answer to the charge; of some of the witnesses he asked pertinent questions; from the evidence I have heard in this trial I do not consider the prisoner insane; I would not grant a certificate of insanity in this case.
          This closed the evidence.
                   MR. CRERAR’S SPEECH
Mr. Crerar then rose to address the jury for the defence. He said he had a very acute and depressing sense of the responsibility which rested upon him. The wounds of Mr. Mills were still fresh in their minds. The press had teemed with articles upon them, and the air had been filled with rumours concerning this deed. He might as well pretend to ignore the state of the weather as to pretend to think that these things had no effect upon their minds. It had been suggested that the plea of insanity was a kind of forlorn hope, because there was no other defence. Whatever the jury may think of that plea, he would ask them, at least, to believe that it was an honest one. For a year past, he had believed that the prisoner was not in sound mind, and it was because of that belief that he was here to press view upon them. The prisoner was accused of murder with malice aforethought, to be guilty of that crime the murder must have been the subject of contemplation in his mind, and he must have formed a deliberate purpose to perpetrate it. In early days murder had been defined to be the secret killing of one person by another, and although the definition had been changed, secrecy was still of the essence of deliberate murder. When they thought of a deliberate murder, did they also not think of some lonely spot, a midnight hour, a stealthy assassin springing suddenly upon his victim, when no witnessing eyes were present to behold the atrocious deed? Did they also not think of hurried efforts to obliterate the evidences of the crime, and then of a desperate effort to escape? These were the invariable concomitants of deliberate murder. Contrast them with the circumstances surrounding the deed which this prisoner committed. That deed was done in open daylight, upon the public street, with numerous witnesses looking on. No attempt was made to conceal the crime, and no attempt was made to escape. The very number and desperate nature of the wounds inflicted forbids the supposition of premeditation. Had the purpose to murder been in the prisoner’s mind, he would have known that one well directed blow would have answered his purpose, instead of which he inflicted seven, of which but two were in vital parts. Had he contemplated murder, why did use the knife at all? He had in his pocket at the time, and within his grasp, a seven-barrelled revolver, loaded in every barrel. Had he contemplated murder, would he not have used that weapon instead of the knife/ From the very face of the horrid act, unparalleled in its strangeness, he thought the jury must infer the absence of premeditation and the presence of insanity. He could not admit that what was heard of the prisoner’s conversation in the stall foreshadowed a murder or indicated a murderous purpose. He was heard to say, if a doubtful witness was to be believed, that he would see that they would see if they would boss him; did that mean murder, was it not more likely that it meant he would give Mr. Mills a piece of his mind? This view was strengthened by the fact that he had given his wife the money to pay off the rent. They would surely not conclude that he intended her to pay it to a dead man. Then as to his having the knife, it was sworn to by his son that he had before carried a knife in his sleeve without any murderous purpose, it was proved by the same witness that there was meat in the prisoner’s house which had to be boned for the next day’s market, and that this was the only boning knife which the prisoner possessed. On leaving the stall, he told the boy to close it at the usual hour, showing that he did not intend to return, and, as the boning of the meat had to be done before the next morning, what more natural that he should take the knife with him to do it? The only witness who had testified to the first of the affray was Mrs. Garrow, for he was not allowing the prisoner’s wife in the box. According to her, the attack had been instantaneous upon their meeting, but without insinuating that she told anything but what she believed to be true. He believed that there had been hot words which escaped her attention. Such was the prisoner’s own account of it, and that he was pushed against the wall; this was strongly supported by the fact  that his knuckles were bleeding when he was arrested, it was agreed that they were not bleeding from a cut, but from a bruise. His being pushed against the wall would account for it, and nothing else that was known to have taken place would. Now, was it not the more rational explanation of the whole affair that at that moment he struck out wildly and desperately with the weapon that chanced to be in his hand – just as a lunatic would – than that he deliberately planned the murder? The efforts of his wife to prevent the meeting was no proof of planned murder. She knew, of course, from her husband’s temper that if they met there would be a row, but if she knew that his purpose was murder, would she not have taken steps to prevent it? – as she easily could have done – when it was shown that it was her disposition was to prevent even the meeting? Coming more closely to the plea of insanity, he would them that because  this plea had been used to shelter guilt in another country, that was no reason why it should be abused in this country, and at all events, the jury had nothing to do with the prospective effects of such a plea. It was their part to find out whether or not insanity existed in this particular case. The old notion was that insanity did not exist unless the victim was raving mad. The deeper investigations of medical science, however, had shown that it might exist for years without being perceptible to ordinary observers, and that it might beak out suddenly in all its violence. It was known that it is very apt to break out when its victim was placed under circumstances which believed to be of great provocation, no matter how imaginary the provocation might be. He admitted that the prisoner had no provocation for this deed, but he imagined that he had; he is haunted with the same delusion now, and it has been the remark of everyone who has met him that he does not realise the deed he has committed, nor the terrible circumstance in which he is placed. Ever since his skull was fractured, he has been fighting imaginary foes, and has kept a loaded pistol by him for the self-defence which imagined himself to be in need of. He has been in constant terror of meeting his enemies at every street corner, and seeing them rush through every open door. In all around him, he saw combinations for his destruction, and in Mr. Mills’ perfectly justifiable act he saw but the working of these combinations ; it was a delusion that he was never absent from him. They had the testimony of Dr. Reid, who attended him, to the serious nature of the fracture upon the prisoner’s skull; they had the testimony of Dr. Workman that such fractures were a prolific cause of insanity, and that every man who received such a fracture was in imminent danger of insanity if he lived; they had also the testimony of numerous witnesses to the extremely eccentric conduct of the prisoner. The rule of law did allow him to ask these witnesses if they thought this man insane, but the jury would gather from their evidence that every one of them believed there was something wanting in him. He did not wish to be misunderstood; he was not pleading for this prisoner’s acquittal; he was not asking them to return him to society, no consideration would induce him to make such an appeal. He was but asking them to find that there was such a degree of insanity in him that would shelter him from the full responsibility of his deed, and that he thought the evidence would justify them in doing so. A verdict of manslaughter would carry with it imprisonment for life, and save this unfortunate man from the gallows, and that was all he pleaded with them for.
          The above is but a brief outline of the learned Counsel’s address, which was both earnest in tone and ingenious in argument.

                   MR. SINCLAIR’S SPEECH
Mr. Sinclair, counsel for the prosecution then said:
May it please your Lordship, Gentlemen of the Jury: the prisoner at the Bar has been most ably defended, and the line of defence discloses two points to which I will entirely confine myself. The charge against the prisoner is that he was the cause of the death of Nelson Mills. The learned counsel for the defence argues that the deed was done without premeditation, and to this point, and that of insanity I will therefore confine myself, and the questions with which you have to decide are; Did the prisoner know he was doing the deed? 1. If so, did the prisoner know he was doing wrong? The whole circumstance of the case shows that the prisoner had the intention of murder from the time he left the stall. Before his wife came down, he showed no insanity, but was quietly going about his work. The learned counsel for the defence directs your attention to his conduct on the 3rd of January, but it is with his actions on the morning of the 5th, the day of the murder, with which we are to deal. The prisoner’s son, when put in the box, said that his father was perfectly quiet until his mother came down, and then we have two witnesses to prove that he became excited, took off his apron and put on his coat, and started on to hurry with a butcher’s knife up his sleeve. The defence say that he went home to bone meat; now, the prisoner’s boy, who ought to know, says that there was only a little meat in a box in the kitchen – besides it is preposterous to suppose that the prisoner left his work in the middle of the forenoon to bone meat for the next day’s market, he could have done it in the evening. From the stall, the prisoner and his wife are traced up, and are soon talking together near Mills’ house, the wife evidently remonstrating with him. It is shown that the prisoner handed over to his wife at the stall sufficient money to pay the rent; then what did he want with Mr. Mills? The bailiff was the proper man to negotiate with. When Mr. Mills appeared, the prisoner was seen to move towards him, prisoner’s wife following him and crying out “Don’t. Don’t”
Mrs. Garrow says she nothing of the scuffling in which the defence claims that the prisoner got his knuckles bruised, but says that Mr. Mills endeavoured to escape from the first; that he ran from him and fell down, and was stabbed while down by the prisoner; that he afterwards ran up George street and again fell and there received his mortal wounds at the hands of the prisoner. That the act was premeditated we have the evidence of Mr. Gage, who heard the prisoner say, “He gave it to me, and now I have given it to him!” From the scene of the murder the prisoner is traced to his own home, where lays his knife on the table with his coat over it and commences to wash his hands, all the while discoursing on the imaginary wrongs he had suffered at the hands of the Mills family. This is direct evidence of malice aforethought I have now come to the second point of defence – the plea of insanity. In law, every man is held responsible for his acts unless he is clearly proven to be insane. If people’s lives are to be ruthlessly taken away, and if the culprit can come into Court and obtain a verdict of insanity, and escape under such faulty evidence as was adduced here today then the country is not safe. (Here a low murmur of applause ran through the audience, but it was instantly quelled by the officers of the Court.) The prisoner was never discovered to be insane by his friends until some weeks after the murder. Almost every person is crazy on some subject, some people are crazy on horses, will talk nothing else, others are crazy on literature, and if their little peculiarities are to be hoarded up till a serious crime is committed and then paraded in Court for their benefit, the lives of the public will not be safe.
Dr. Reid said he was a man of excitable nature, but perfect mind phrenologically. The son says of his father that he acted differently at different times. Who does not? Does it appear that the prisoner was different from other men? A witness was called who said that his head resembled that of several prominent men, and that he was high in self-esteem. Many people are high in self-esteem and have a very exalted opinion of their own power, but this is not to be considered a sign of insanity. The most wonderful evidence adduced was that of James Smith, who swore he saw him looking through the handle of a spade while he was building a fence. Is this to be taken as a sign of insanity? The act of looking through the handle of a spade is most natural and common amongst labourers.
Then witness was brought who said that the prisoner was often in a deep study, and is this to be taken as a sign of insanity? Others said that he would go out in the rain when there was no necessity for so doing. Now if this man was as crazy as they said he was why did they not place him under surveillance? Mr. Griffiths said he would sit down between two glasses with a phrenological book in his hand and examine his head. Now is this a sign of insanity? Prof. Tindill and a great many other prominent of the day are insane. The prisoner has been guilty of one of the greatest murders that ever shocked the people of Hamilton. Who shocked the people of Hamilton? - The prisoner at the bar. I do ask for a conviction on the charge of murder, unless you think he deserves it. Dr. White and others say there is no insanity in McConnell’s case. Then let the law be carried out to the letter. As long as the death penalty exists, let the law have its way, else it falls into contempt with the people, and men take the lives of others not fearing the law.
                   THE JUDGE’S CHARGE
His Lordship said: Gentlemen of the Jury, you are now called upon to discharge one of the most painful duties that devolves upon the citizens of a free state. You have the power to bring in a verdict by which a fellow man may be sent to his doom or restored to liberty. You may bring in whatever verdict you determine on, but you must not forget that your jurors’ oath and your duty to your country demands that you bring in a verdict in accordance with the evidence. After Mr. Crerar’s speech there is no need to discuss the question as to who inflicted the wounds upon the deceased, that is admitted by the defence and I think very properly. That point is cleared and it is established beyond controversy. When the fact of murder is admitted, the proof that it is justifiable rests with the prisoner. It appears that there had been some controversy between the late Mr. Mills and the prisoner at the bar. A distress warrant had been put in at his house on the morning of the 5th Jan last, and the wife of the prisoner had come down to the market where he was and informed him of it. If you are to believe the evidence of Morris and Taafe, he became greatly excited and went deliberately on his errand. Morris says he heard him say “I will see whether he will boss me or not.” You are shown that the prisoner departed, accompanied by his wife and called at the home of the deceased who was not in, but unfortunately shortly afterwards approached. Mrs. Garrow says that prisoner went towards the gate and met Mr. Mills, who started back with affright on seeing the knife. I will not pain you by repeating the terrible circumstances which followed. There is no evidence of a conflict between deceased and the prisoner and Mrs. Garrow saw nothing of the scuffle in which the defence says the prisoner hurt his knuckles. The law of the land does not allow a man to wound another in a quarrel, and he who draws a knife is, in the eye of the law, guilty of a serious offence. Before you would be justified in saying that the prisoner was not guilty, you would have to find that he did not leave his stall with the intention of murder, and that secondly he was justified in the act which he afterwards committed. As to judging the plea of insanity, there is no more difficult and delicate a duty which a juror has to perform. The workings of the human mind are mysterious and it is difficult to tell what secret motives give direction to human conduct. The law aims to teach men to control their impulses and keep their evil passions in restraint. The man who commits a crime may act under an impulse which he has the power to resist at the time; but simply because a man commits a crime under such an impulse, he is not excused in law. From an early period, peculiarities were known to exist in those who committed crimes, but still the law never excused them on the ground of impulsive insanity. A case in point is that of Lord Ferrars who murdered his valet in his own house under peculiar circumstances, and where there was every chance of detection. The defence claimed that Lord Ferrars  was insane and that he did not know he was doing wrong, but the law did not accept this explanation, and the prisoner was hanged. Contrary to this is the celebrated Hatfield case in which the prisoner (Hatfield) was indicted on the charge of shooting at the King. It was proved on the part of the prisoner that he was insane and had strange delusions. It was proved that he imagined that he was the Saviour of the world and that he had to die for the people. He did not like to kill himself, and therefore resorted to the plan of shooting at the King, know that the offence was punishable by death. The prisoner was acquitted. Lord Durham says that a man must be presumed to be sane until it is known to the contrary; but if the prisoner commits a crime under the influence of some controlling disease, then he is not to be held accountable for the crime. In the McNaughton case, the prisoner was indicted on the charge of shooting a neighbour named Drummond. It proved that the prisoner laboured under the delusion that a party in the neighbourhood, of which Drummond was one, had formed themselves into a society to persecute him (McNaughton)  and that when he shot Drummond, he thought he was doing so in self-defence. The House of Lords summarised the insanity question thus: To entitle a prisoner to an acquittal, it must be proven that he was affected by the disease so that he did not know that he was doing wrong at the time he did the deed, but if he knew the nature of the case, then he was guilty. If there is any change to be made, it is not your place as jurymen to do it – let the Executive do it. Doctors and lawyers look at insanity from a different standpoint. Doctors look to put it as a disease, lawyers as something affecting society and the law, but it is your duty to find out if the prisoner has placed himself under the law, which shelters those who God has deprived of reason.
I will now cite to you a few cases of murder which are analogous to the one before you. A man stabbed his wife in the public highway and afterwards shot her. There were people to view and there seemed no motive for the deed. The judge instructed the jury to bring a verdict of “guilty” and told them that simply because a man deliberately stakes his life against the law, the plea of insanity cannot save him.
Another case is that of a soldier who shot a woman in the presence of her husband and several other men. The judge told the jury that he did not admit of insanity, and the soldier was executed.
Taking the rules laid down for your guidance, not by me, but by all the judges of England, who gave their opinion on the insanity question, you must endeavour to apply them to this case. 1st. Is there evidence that the prisoner did not know he was stabbing with a dangerous weapon? If you think that the prisoner thought he was doing something else, then he is entitled to an acquittal, and if he knew what he was doing but did not know he was doing wrong, he is also entitled to an acquittal. But unless you find that one of these is the case, the prisoner is not entitled to an acquittal on the plea of insanity. The evidence of Smith and Walker show that the prisoner was eccentric, but they were not asked if the prisoner could distinguish the difference between right and wrong. Dr. Workman says that had the prisoner’s friends applied to him and told him the prisoner’s symptoms, he would have advised them to watch the prisoner, but he was not asked if the prisoner could define the difference between right and wrong. These are the questions you have to deal with. I pray you to divest your minds of all prejudices. If you think that he was insane, it is your duty to acquit him on a plea of insanity. I earnestly hope you may be guided to a proper direction.
The jury then retired and were out of the court exactly fifty-five minutes.
After the retirement of the jury, the prisoner began to pace a little space at his disposal in the dock with a nervous step, and occasionally he would tap the railing nervously with his fingers. Twice, within a few minutes, he asked for a glass of water, and drank a tumbler full each time. It was not thought that the jury would be absent more than a few minutes, and the length of time they to deliberating caused general surprise. As they returned into Court, they were eagerly scanned. After one glance at those faces, the prisoner’s counsel buried his face in his hands, and rested them upon the table. He had read his client’s doom in those solemn visages, and most impressively solemn they were. The foreman wore the look of a man who was bowed down with the burden of duty which it was painful for him to perform, but which justice required, and when he wa called upon by the clerk for the verdict, the single word “guilty” did not escape his lips without a tremor. That was the only word he said.
The verdict produced no change in the demeanour of the prisoner.  Many tears were shed over it but not by him. We have been told, but cannot vouch for its accuracy that on the first decision the jury were four to eight for manslaughter on the combined grounds of weakness of intellect in the prisoner, coupled with the unprecedented nature of the tragedy itself, and a doubt as to whether the conflict did not originate when the prisoner and Mills met, without previous intent to kill on the part of the prisoner.
                   THE SENTENCE
His Lordship asked the prisoner if he would had anything to say why the sentence of the Court should not be passed upon him.
McConnell said he would like to say a few words, that they would not take long, and that he hoped he would not be limited to any time.  He wanted to give a sketch of the way he had been treated since he came to Hamilton. He said : About one year after I came to the market, I went across with some other butchers to a saloon to get a drink. On the way back, they commenced to abuse me; one knocked me this way, and another that way, and finally, they knocked me down and gave me a pair of black eyes. Then one of them said he would take me home, he took me to the police cells and had me locked in till Monday morning. This was all very well until one Saturday evening when I crossed the market with Mr. Lawry and Mr. Pierson to get a drink. Frank Taafe and a friend of his were at the bar. Taafe’s friend came up to me and said, “Are you a fighting man?” I replied that I didn’t think I was. He then said that he would like to have a set to with me, and knocked me down and kicked me, and helped by Taafe, I got a pair of black eyes. The next time was on a Saturday also when a man brought some cattle into the market to sell. I went out and the man asked me if I would buy; I said I would, and while we were talking Frank Taafe and a man named Gardner came out and told the man that I was a rogue and a rascal; and they set at me and Gardner kicked me down, but Detective Rousseaux took them off; I went to Mr. Cahill and had Gardner arrested; he came to me and apologised the next morning, but I got Taafe bound over to keep the peace for twelve months; he denied it at the inquest and in this court; one time my wife was in the old country, and I was keeping a bachelor’s hall, I was going in the door one night, when I got this rap on the skull; I tumbled back on the street and shouted, “Murder !” Mr. J.M. Williams, M.P.P., now came up and we heard a gun shot up Concession street a piece; the only thing I missed was my razor, and that makes me think it was their intention to knock me unconscious and then cut my throat and say it was suicide, because I was living alone. One time Taafe had me arrested for making faces at him, and I think that was small. My garden fence was bad and the cows of the woman who lived next door used to break into my premises. One time I was taking them to the pound when she came out and offered me $3 if I would not take them. She gave me $1.50 and I let them go. As soon as she had given me the money, she went to Mr. Cahill and laid an information of assault against me, and Mr. Cahill fined me $1 for not putting the cows in the pound, and $3.50 costs, and I was so disgusted with him, that that is the reason I told him at Mr. Mills’ house that I had nothing to say because I knew it was no use. I have always been quiet, and I owe but very little – I think I owe Mr. Dewey about $4.  I am a member of no society because I don’t believe in societies. There was a gang of twenty or thirty men who persecuted me, and the police knew all about it and never interfered. The convicted man then drew back and appeared to have finished.
His Lordship, without putting on the black cap, said: “Michael McConnell, you have been found guilty of the murder of Nelson Mills,” (there the prisoner interrupted His Worship by saying, “I never owned to the murder of Nelson Mills.) His Lordship said he was not to interrupt again, and if he had anything to say, to say it then.
The prisoner, in a firm voice, deliberately said, “I am not guilty of the murder of Nelson Mills.”
His Lordship then said: “Michael McConnell, you have been found guilty of the crime of murder by twelve of your countrymen; you were well and ably defended, and the law threw every safeguard around. The jury have listened to your evidence with the greatest patience and intelligence, and in their verdict, I heartily concur, as I think it was in the interests of Justice a man of the intelligence you have shown, to committing a murder should not be acquitted on the charge of insanity. I can hold out to you no hope of escape from the doom which awaits. I believe you have a religious belief, and I advise you to prepare yourself according to the dictates of your own conscience. The sentence of the court on you, Michael McConnell, is that you be taken to the place from whence you came, and there be detained until Tuesday the 14th of March, and on that day be taken to the place of execution, and there be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God have mercy upon your soul.
The Court then adjourned.

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