Chapter 36011573

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1884-12-19
Page Number3
Word Count1452
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleBurra Record (SA : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleA Witness for the Defence
article text


When I got back to town, the sessions were only a week off ; . so the first thing I did was lo call on the solicitor in charge of iny rminfor rase, in order to learn from him how it

stood, and to take it off his hands. Ihe magistrate, of course, had sent the prisoner for trial. When I came lo read the depositions, the case against him seemed perfectly simple, and as conclusive as circumstantial evidence could make it. The crime had not occuned so long ago but that a diligent search had un earthed several witnesses. The servant-girl, who had become the wife of a dairyman in the immediate neighborhood, was found. She proved the bad conduct of young Harden, and the ill-will which gradually grew iip between him and her former mistress. She also spoke to his ejectment from the house on the day of, and to his threats at the street door. She swore to the knife, which had been in the possession of the police ever since, as having belonged to the prisoner. There were other witnesses to the same facts ; and the landlord, my client and several others, proved the flourishing of the identical knife and the ominous words in the public-house. To com plete the chain, the man who had instructed me proved the finding of the knife in the room where the murder was committed ; and two or three witnesses remembered being by his side and seeing him stoop down and pick it up. These, with the final facts of his sudden dis appearance and changes of name, appeared both to me and to my friend to be capable of being spun into a rope quite strong enough to swing John Harden out of the world. ' But,' said my solicitor-friend,' the queer est thing of all is that no one is going to appear for the prisoner.'' ' No one to appear for him ?'' li No one. Young Elkin holds a watching brief on behali of prisoner's master, and that is all. He said Harden had been in Mr. Slo cuni's — that's his master — service for over seven years, behaving extremely well all the time. He was invaluable to his old master, who is something of an invalid. He had turned reli gious, and was disgusted at his former life.' ' But I suppose he has money — or, at any rate, if Slocum is so fond of him, why doesn't he pay for the defence ?' ' Why, it seems that his notion of religion forbids Harden to avail himself of wordly parts. Slocum is only too anxious to retain some one ; but Harden won't have it, and no one can persuade him. Says he is in the hands of a Higher Power, and it shall be given nim what he shall speak, and a!l the rest of it. He wanted to make a sp.-cch to the magi-itrate ; but Slocum, by Elkia s advice, did manage to induce him to hold his tongue for the present, and say he would reserve his defence. Of course they hope he will come to his senses be fore the trial. But I don't know how that wiJl be. I never saw such an obstinate pig. Only gave in to his masicr about not speaking be cause the poor man began lo whimper in court !' The main part of my work had been done for me, and it only remained to bespeak copies of the depositions, see the witnesses, and make sure that 'they intended to say at the Old Bailey substantially the same things as they had said at the police Court — a most necessary precau tion, the imagination being so vivid in people of this class that they are very likely to amplify their tale if possible — and prepare the brief for the prosecuting counsel. This done. I had but to let things take their course. When the day of the trial came, I was be times in my place at the Central Criminal Court, having various other cases in hand there. The prisoners, as is customary, were first put up and arraigned— that is, had the substance of their several indictments read over to them — and were called on to plead 'guilty' or ' not guilty.' These disposed of the case for John Harden was called, and I looked-at him with some curiosit}'. No sooner had I done-stTthan I knew that his was a face upon which at some time or other I had looked be fore, and of which I had taken uote. It is a ureful peculiarity of mine that I never forget a face to which I have once paid any attention, and I can generally recollect the place and cir cumstances under which I last saw it. But here the latter part of my powers failed me. I knew the face well, but could not imagine when and where I had beheld it. I ever, knew that I had seen the man bare-headed, and that he was not then, as now, bald on the crown. The thing worried rue not a little. In the meanwhile, John Harden was being put up to take his trial for the murder of Agatha Har den. ' m' lud, appear to prosecute in this case, ' said my council, starting up and down again like the blade of a knife. ' Does nobody appear for the prisoner ? ' asked the judge. ' I understand, m' lud, that the prisoner is not represented,' said counsel, appearing and disappearing as before. ' My lord,' said an agitated voice from the body of the court, ' I have used all possible* effjris ? ' ' Si-lence ?' proclaimed the usher. ' Who is that ?' inquired the judge, looking over his spectacles. ' My lord, I am this foolish fellow's master ; and I am perfectly convinced ? ' ' I cannot hear yon, sir. If the prisoner wishes to have counsel assigned to him for his defence, I will name a gentleman, and will take care that the prisoner shall have due opportunity for his instruction ; and if you de sire to give evidence on his behalf, you can do so. — Prisoner, is it your wish that counsel be assigned to you for your defence ?' Harden had been standing with his head slightly bent, and his clasped hands resting on the rajl of the dock. He now looked up at the judge, and replied in a grave and impas sive voice : ' My lord, I wish no help but the help of God. I am in His hands, and I am an innocent man. If he sess good to deliver me, He will do so. Who am I, that I should interfere with His work ? ' ' You appear to me,' said the judge gently, ' to be under an unfortunate delusion. You say rightly that you are in God's hands ; bat that should not hinder you f:om using such instruments for your deliverance as He offers you. Once more I will ask, do you now desire to be represented by counsel ? ' 'I do not, my l-jrd.' ' So be it. — Now, Mr. Clincher.' Rising once more, counsel for the prosecu tion proceeded to open his case. It was clear and straightforward, pat concisely and telling, and embraced the facts which the reader already knows. He then called his witnesses ; and as each after each left ihe box, it was easy to see from the faces of 'lie jurp that thiags were likely to go hard with the prisoner. Always,'' in answer to the inquiry, '' D.i you wish to put any questions to this ?wirnes?' Harden replied : ' No, my lord. He has said the truth, for ail rknow.' , '

So smoothly did the truth run its course, that only one incident called for remark. This was when my client got into the box ; and so indecently esger did he appear to be to procure the conviction of the prisoner, that he twice called down upon himself a severe re buke from the judge for persistently volunteer ing irrelevant statements to Harden's preduce. :\nd when counsel at length said, - That, .n' lud, is my case,' and sat down, but little. ,. i;-ubt remained as to the prisoner's fate. I *'!il sat with my gaze fascinated by the set face ia the dock, trying — trying lo remember when and where I had last looked upon it. ( To be continued.)