|Newspaper Title||The North Eastern Ensign (Benalla, Vic. : 1872 - 1938)|
|Trove Title||A Witness for the Defence|
ON TOnOC O5ArrO05ts O-OO'w iO. ": Wrrr.E I got baok l'etoivn~thhe oesoins were only a week of; so the first thing did w.ie to call on theaU.llitor in charge of ny mur der asse, in order to learn front hi liow it stood, and to take it oil his han n. The magistrate, of course, had sent th prisoner I for trial. When I came to road t depori. tions, the case against him seemed perfectly simple, and as conclusive as oirou stantial evidence could make it. The orimn had not occurred so long ago but that a dilig t search had unearthed several witnesses. [The ser. vant-girl, who had now become the ito of a dairyman in the immediate neighbor ood, was found. She proved the bad conduct f young Harden, and the ill-will which gradu ly grew up between him and her former mistr s. She I also spoke to his ejcctment from t house t on the day of the murder, and to his threats at the street door. She swore to th knis, I which had been in the possession o the u police over since, as having belonge to the prisoner. There were other witness to the same facts; and the landlord, my oli at, and several others, proved the ilourishin of the identical knife and the ominous war in the l public.-house. To complete the l in, the man who had instructed me proved a fnd.I ing of the knife in the room where a mur. I der was committed; and two'or t reo wit. nesses remembered being by his do and seeing him stoop down and pick it These, s with the final facts of his sudden d sppear once and changes of name, appeare both to me and to my friend to be capabl of being spun into a rope quite strong enougl to owing c John Ilarden out of the world. "But," said my oolieitorfriend, " no queer. c est thing of all is that no one is go g to rip. pear for the prisoner." t " No one to appear for him ? " " No one. Young Elkin holds a etching c brief on behalf of prisoner's master, nd that is all. HIe said Harden had been in r. Sli. 1 cum's-that's his master-service f r over seven years, behaving extremely well 11 the I time. IHe was invaluable to his old aster, I who is something of an invalid. had I turried religious; and was disgusted at h for mer wicked life." "But I suppose he has money-or, at a rate, if Slocum is so fond of him, why do t he pay for the dofonce? " " tWhy, it seems that his notion of relig os forbidi EHarden to avail liinself:of. w rt arts.-: Slooumnis ?uly: ti?n aiiious toreta ' 'oneuann pereuodhs li.; :.Sayshe is intlfe hands of a HigherPower; and it shallb"giv' I' him what he shall peak; and:all the roat t f it. He wanted to make a speeoch to the mafs- I trato; but Slonum, by Elkin's advice, did a manage to induce him to hold his tonguifor the present, and say ho would reserve hide- r fence. Of course they hope he will con to t his senses before the trial. But I don'tinow t how that will be. I never saw such sin oh. shotinat pig. Only gave in to his maete:ahout I not speaking because the poor maun b:gan to whimper in court ", The main part of my work had bin done for me, and it only remained to bespeak copiesu of the depositions, sea the witnesses, rsid make t sure that they intended to say at;thl Old t Bailey substantially tihe same thingfs as they had said at the police court-a mest nec-. a eary precaution, the imagination being so r vivid in people of this class that they are i very likely to amplify their tale if fbssable- s and prepare the brief for the proscutng coun-. sel. This done, I had but to lot thWigs take i their course. When the day of the trial cams, I was o betimes in my place at the Central criminal Court, having various other cases in hand t there. The prisoners, as is customary, a were first put up and arraigned-thtt is, had I the substance oi their several indictmmnts read I over to thema-and were called on o plead "guilty"or" not guilty." Thesedisposedof,the I case for John lHarden was called, and I looked at him with some curiosity. No somer Ihtd I done so than I knew that his wms a face r upon which at some time or other I had looked before, and of which I halt taken note. It is a useful peculiarity of mnue that I never forgot a face to which I h've once paid any attention, and I can gonerally re collect the place and circumstancas under which I last saw it. But here tle latter part of my powers failed me. I inew tle face well, but could not imagine vhen and where I had beheld it. I even kuew that I had seen the man bare-headed, andLthat he swas not then, as now, bald on the crown. Tihe thing worried me not a little., In the meanwhile, John Harden was being put up to take his trial for the murder of Agatha Harden. "I, m' lad, appear to prosecute in this ease," said my counsel, starting up end down again like the blade of a knife. "Does nobody appear for the pr?ionor ? " asked the judge. . . .1 0"I understand, n'' lud, that the prisoner i. .ndt?copnresei'teaid'.id?seel pearingI h:ndfdisdppearlns.de'bfoogr ?,?. .,;i·" "iMy'lord, said anpiigifatod vicro th sbody of the dburtt I lhav iised all\ possibleo efforts-" .. ............. " - " Si.lenoe I"'proclaimed the usher. : "'Who is that ? " inquired the judge, look. ing over his spectacles. " " My lord, I am this foolish fellow's master; and I am perfectly convinced-" " I cannot hear you, sir. If the prisoner wishes to have counsel assigned to him for his defence, I will nome' a gentlemku, and will take care that the prisoner shall liave due opportunity for his instruction; and jif you desire to give evidence on his behalf, you can do so.--Prionor, 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 bhands resting on the rail of the dock. Ho now looked up at the judge, and replied in a grave and impas. sive voice: "IMy lord, I wish no help but the help of God. I am in His hands, and I am an innocent man. If He sees good to deliver me, He will do so. Who am I, that I should interfore with 1His work ? " "You appear to me," said thejudge gently, " to be under an unfortunate delusion. You say rightly that you are in God's hands; but that should not hinder you from using such instruments for your deliverance as Hie offers t you. Once more I will ask, do you now desire to be represented by counseol? " "I do not, my lord." "So be it.-Now, Mr. Clincher." Ia ising onoe saore, counsel for the prosecu. lion proceeded to open his case. It was clear and straightforward, put concisely and tell. ingly, and embraced the facts which the
reader already knows. He than called his witnesses; and as each after each left the 9 box, it was easy to see from the faces of the f jury that things were likely to go hard with i the prisoner. Always, in answer to the in. I quiry, "Do you wish to put any questions to e this witnoes?" Harden replied: "No, my t lord. He has said the truth, for all I know." So smoothly did the truth run its course, that only onoincident called for remark. This was when my client got into the box; and so indecently eager did he appear to' be to pro- c cure the conviction of the- prisoner, that he a twice called down upon himself a severe re. buke from the judge for persistently volun. teering irrelevant statements to Hiarden's prejudice.- And when counsel at length said, c ' That, m' lud, is my case,' and sat down, but little doubt remained as to the prisoner's fate. I still sat with my gaze fascinated by the set face in the dock, trying-trying to remember whenr and where I had last looked upon it. - '' Do you propose, prisoner. to call any wit 'n'seeee??l sked the judge.: ? i" - " Only my master, my lord-Mr. Sloaum. t He'll speak for me, and he'll say, I know, that I'r not the man to MIill any living thing." " Very well./And now, before calling him, do you desirte to address the jury ?" The interest of the ease, which, except for i that interest which is inseparable from a trial I for murder, had slightly flagged, revived now I that a human being was virtually at grips I with doath. For what had just passed moant I that there was no defence or attempt at a defence, that the jury must convict, and that the man must die, without hope of mercy for so cowardly and ungrateful a murderer. There was not a sound in the court. It was late in the afternoon, and the t winter sun was setting. Its rays lit up the E crimson hangings, the scarlet robes of the 1 judge, the intent faces, all looking one way, the drooping head and white composed I countenance of the prisoner-the man stand. ing up there in full health and strength, and I whose life was going down with the sun. "I have but a few words to say, my lord and gentlemen. I didn't do it. I was bad 1 enough, and maybe cruel enough in those days to do it; but I didn't. I was so drunk and so mad, my lord and gentlemen, that I might have done it if it had happened earlier I in the day, unknown almost to myself, and I he standing here rightly enough. But I know I couldn't have 'done it, and why? Because I I was miles away at the time. My poor aunt, as I've heard from what has been said, must have been killed between a quarter to r and a quarter past eight in the evening. Well, at eight o'clock I was at least five miles off. If I'd done it directly the girl went out of the house-as she says, at a quarter to eight-it isn't according to reason that It could have broken open the cupboard, took the money, and got five miles off in a quarter I of an hour." 1Ie stopped, and drew the cutf of his coat across his forehead. Where had I seen him before I Where and when had I seen him do that very action ? t " O, gentlemen, I couldn't have done it I I couldn't, bad as I wasl I know, now,.how c bad that must have boon-the mercy of God r has been upon me since those days-but bad as I was, I owed her too much, and knew it, I to have hurt her in any way. Won't you e believe me? I tell you I was miles awsy at the time-miles away. Who can tell us you're saying true ? -you will ask. - No ono,- I suppose., Not a soul was near me that-I knew -to. come here -and speak the truth a for m::- this I-day. Butat.I know the same : - rtddhtkOt voaved Daniel oan'S?nv me fidra d sorry, e 'd1it 5t iiiiss -illvt1 do" it not; 'His will be6done I -I'ni keeping:youetobt: long, only "eaying. thoe'same over and over again. I'll- just -tell you how it -was, and I've done, and you must do as duty bids you."- - Another pause, 'The silence of death, or rather of a deathbed. The faces in the dis- t tance of the darkened court shimmered t through the gloom, like those of spectres I waiting to welcome a coming shade. Then the gaslight burst forth, and all sprang into sudden distincstnes, and there was a general I half-stir as of relief. " Oh, isn't there one hero that can speak for ne ? Is there any one who remembers the great gas-main explosion in - Street that year ? " There was again a stir, and a more decided one. Clearly there were many in court who t remembered it. I did, for.one. And remem- t bering it, I seemed as one in a tunnel, who t sees the glimmer from the distant opening, E but can distinguish no feature of the landscape t beyond. t "I was tlera-that night. It was the night of the day I was turned out of doors-the night of the murder. How I came to be there, so far from my aunt's neighborhood, I t don't know, but-I found myself working hard, helping to lift the stones and timber of the house.fronts that were blown in, and getting the poor crushed people out. I worked a long time, till I was like to drop ; and a policeman clapped me on the back and gave me a word of praise and, a drink of beer out of a can. I wonder where that policeman is a now, and if he'd remember ? " iHe did not respond, wherever he might be. No one to help-no friendly plank to bridge over the yawning grave. What was it, this that I was trying so hard to recall ? "I wandered off after that into the by streets. I know those parts well. I had had a comrade who used to live there, and many a wicked and foolish prank we'd played thereabouts. The beer 1 had just drunk on an empty stomach had muddled me again a bite but I was quite sober enough to know every step of the way I went, and remember it now. I turned up Hoadley Street, and then to the left along Blewitt Street; and just when my aunt must have been struggling with the wrotch that took her life, whoever it was, I heard a clock strike eight. I did, gentlemen, and I suppose I never thought of it since; but now I remember it as clear as day. I was standing at the time at the corneor of Hauraki Street." : ' ~It '.aicname'back- tot e in a.moment I TI lienrd the patt-reof tlhe rainon the cab-roof- I saw bthe gleam of the infrequent lights on the" wet flags-I listened to the objurgations of the cabman at the obstructing dray-I took note of the reflection in the mirror, the queer street-name which would not rhyme so as to make sense. The strokes of the clock strik ing eight were in my oars. I saw the lamp at the corner, and the man underneath look up at it-the man with the short broad face, the sharp chin, the long thin mouth turned down at the corners, and the blank in the front teeth-the innocent man I was bound ing to his death-the prisoner at the bar I As I sprang to my feet, down with a crash went my bag full of papers, my hat and um brella, so that even the impassive judge gave a start, and the usher, waking up, once more proclahimed "Silence I" with shaocked and in jured inflection. Heaedless of the majesty of the law, I beakoned to my counsel, and he leaned over to me in surprise, I whispered earnestly in his ear. I never saw the human face express more entire astonishment. How over, seeing that I was unmistakeably in earnest, hlie merely nodded and rose to his Sfooet. " Your lordship wvill pardon me," he said, a"for interfering at this stage between the prisoner and the jury; but I am instructed to make a communication which I feel sumre will be as astounding to your lordship and the jury,as it is to myself. I think I may say that it is the most surprising and unpreoe. . dented thing which ever occurred in a court sJ justice. My lord, the solioitor who in. structs me to proseouto tenders himself as a witne?s for the defence 1"
CONCLUSION. To say that there was a "sensation" would feebly describe what followed.-livery one in court sprang to his'foot.-Tho prisoner looked as if he had sean a ghost. There was a perfect hubbub of voices, as bar and jury talked among-themselves, and my brethron at the solicitors' table poured:questions upon me, to none of which Ireplied. Silence being restored, the voice of the judge-grave and dignified, but with a perceptible tremor-des cended like vocal oil on the troubled waves of sound. " Who instructs you, Mr. Clincher?" " Mr. Bentley, my lord." The judge looked more astonished than ever. My name was familiar enough to him as a judge, and he had known it oven better when, as a leading barrister, he had held many a brief from me. • " I am persuaded," said he, " that agentle. man of Mr. Bentley's repute and experience has good reason for what he does. But so extraordinary and'unheard-of-- I'willa.s?. Mr.. Bentley himself it he really considers that duty requires him to offer himself as a witness, and when and why he came to that conclusion ? " " My lord," I replied, "I am certain that, believing what I had cause to believe within the last five minutes, I should be greatly to blame if I did not testify on oath to certain facts which are within my own knowledge. But if the prisoner chooses to call me as a wit ness, your lordship will presently understand why it is that, with all submission, I cannot at this moment, or until I am in the box, give my reasons. And I must add that tile value of my evidence to the prisoner will greatly depend on his answers to certain ques. tions which I wish, with your lordship's sanction, to put to him in writing. And if he answers me as I expect, I believe my evi dence will put an end to the case against him." " Really, gentlemen of the jury," said his lordship, "this matter is assuming a more and more remarkable aspect. I hardly know what to say. That aprisoner on trial for his life should answer questions put to him in private by the prosecuting solicitor is the most extraordinary proposal, I am bound to say, which ever came under my notice. It is the more difficult for me to decide because the prisoner has not the advantage of coun sel's aesistance.-Prisoner, is it your wish that this gentleman should be called as a wit ness on your bbhalf? You have heard what he has said about certain questions which he wishes to put to you beforehand. Of course you are not bound to answer any such ques tions, and may nevertheless call him. What do you say?" " I am in God's hands, my lord," answered the prisoner, who was quite calm again. " It may be that He was raised up a deliverer for me-I cannot tell. But I know that if He wills that I should die, no man can save me; if He wills to save me, nought can do me harm. So I am ready to answer any ques tions the gentleman wishes." " I propose," said the judge, "before do. ciding this extraordinary point, to consult with the learned Recorder in the next court." All rose as the judge retired; and during his absence I escaped the questions which assailed me from every side by burying my self in a consultation with my counsel. When he heard what the reader knows, he fully upheld m. inu what I proposed to do; and then threw himself back in his. seat with-the aire.of a man whom nothing could over ast'nishagain.; . . ;: , Si-lenee I " cried the usher Thio judgq " I have -decided," said he, "i to allow the questions to be put as Mr. Bentley proposee. Let them be written out and submitted to me for my approval." I sat down and wrote my questions, and they were passed up to the judge. As he read them, he looked more surprised than ever. But all he said, as he handed them down, was, " Put the questions." I walked up to the dock and gave them into the prisoner's hands, together with my pencil. He read them carefully through, and wrote his answers slowly and with con sideration. With the paper in my hand, I got into the witness-box and was sworn. My evidence was to the effect already stated. As I described the man I had seen under the lamp, with my face averted from the prisoner and turned to the jury, I saw that they were making a careful comparison, and that, allowing for the change wrought by twelve years, they found that the description tallied closely with the man's appearance. " I produce this paper, on which I just now wrote certain questions, to which the prisoner wrote the answers.under my oyes. These are the questions and answers : " Question : Were you smoking when you came up to the corner of Hauraki-street ? - Answer: No. " Question : Did you afterwards smolie ? Answer : I had no lights. " Question: Did you try to got a light ? Answer : Yes, by climbing a lamp at the corner; but I was not steady enough, and I remember I broke my hat against tile cross bar. "Question: Where did you carry your pipe and tobacco?-Answer: In my hat. " Those answers," I concluded, "are abso lutely correct in every particular. The man whom I saw under the lamp, at eight o'clock on the night of the murder, behaved as the answers indicate. That concludes the evi dence I have felt bound to tender." And I handed the slip of paper to the usher for in spection by the jury. "Prisoner," inquired the judge, " do you call any other witness ?" "I do not, my lord." "Then, gentlemen," said the judge, turning to the jury, " the one remark that I shall make to you is this-that if you believe the story of the prisoner's witness, there can be little doubt but that the prisoner was the man whom the witness saw at the corner of Hauraki-street at eight o'clock on the night in question; and if that was so, it..ieelear, on the ceas of the prenoeution, that hain eafft - have committed thin murder. I should notd be doing my duty if I did not point out to you that the witness in question-is likely, to say the least, to be without bias in" the prisoner's favor, and that his evidence is very strongly corroborated indeed by the prisoner's answers to the written questions put to him. Gentlemen, you will now consider your verdict." "We are agreed, my lord," said the fore man. SmaGentlemen of the jury," sung out the clerk of arraigns, " are you all agreed upon yourverdict?" S".We ,r,' - " And that-verdict is?" r "Not guilty."'. "And that is the verdict of you all ?" f There followed a burutlof cheering which the usher could not silonce, but which I silenced itself as the judge was seento be speaking. "John Harden-I am thankfill, every man in- this court is thankful that your trust in the mercy and power of the All-merciful and All-powerful has not been in vain. You stand acquitted of a foul c, rime by the unhesitating verdict of the jury, and most wonderful has been your deliverance. You go forth a free man; and I am glad to Sthink that the goodness of God has been bestowed on one who has repented of his past sins, and who is not likely, I hope and believe, to be unmindful of that goodness hereafter. t You are discharged." Had he been left to himself, I think the a prisoner's old master wouldhave climbed into the dock, with the view of personally deliver
ing his servant out of the house of bondage. 1 But he was restrained by a sympathetio con- ' B stable, while John Harden was re-conveyed. r for a short time to the gaol, to undergo cer a tain necessary formalities connected with his , release from custody. I volunteered to tako Scharge of Mr.'Slocum, and took him to the I vestibule of the prison, overwhelmed during 4 the short walk by thanks and praises. We I were soon joined by Harden, whose meeting Swith his master brought a lump into the Sthroat even of a tough criminal lawyer like myself. I saw theminto a cab, and they drove off to Mr. Slooum's hotel, after promising to Sall on me next day, and enlighten me on certain points as to which I was still in the r dar SAs strange a part of my story as any, has yolt to be told. I had hardly got back to my office and settled down to read over the various Sletters'which were awaiting my signature,: Swhen my late client (Harden's prosecutor) was , announced. I had lost sight t him'in the4 a excitement which followed ihe acquittal. He a did not wait to learn whether I was engaged ,t or not, but rushed after the clerk into my* room. He was ashen white, or rather gray, and his knees shook so that he could scarcely a stand; but his eyes positively blazed with o wrath. Leaning over my table, lhe proceeded, a in the presence of the astonished clerk, to Spour upon me a flood of abuse and invective of the foulest kind. I had sold him; I was Sin league with the priaoner. I was a swind. t ling thief of a lawyer, whom he would have Sstruck off the rollj, &c.; until Ireally thought She had gone out of his mind, I As soon as I could get in a word, I curtly . explained that it was no part of a lawyer's a duty to try and hang a man whom he knew f to be innocent. As he only replied with abusive language, I ordered him out of the t ofice. The office quieted itself once more being far too busy, and also too well accus s tomed to cocentrio people. to have time for e long wonderment at anything-and in an V hour I had finished my work, and was pro a paring to leave for home, when another visi 2 tor was announced-Inspector Forrester. " Well, Mr. Forrester, what's the matter a now? I'm just going off." t " Sorry it I put you out of the way, air; b but I thought you'd like to hear what's hap pened. The prosecutor in Hardon's case has Sgiven himself up for the murder I " "What? "Ishouted. S "He just has, sir. It's a queer day, this Sis. When I heard you get up and give evi a denco for the man you were prosecuting, I thought curiosities was over for ever; but t seems they ain't, and never will be." "How was it? " 1 "Well, he came into the station quite t quiet, and seemed a bit cast down, but rthat was all. Said fate was against him, Sand had saved the man he thought to ; hang in his stead, and he know bow it Smust end, and couldn't. wait any longer. SI cautioned him, of course-told him to sleep on it before he said anything; but make a statement be would. The short of it Sall is, that the idea of murdering the old lady for her money had come into his mind in a Sflash when he saw that poor drunken fool ex. Shibiting his knife in the tavern. He followed him, and picked his pocket of the knife, and a then hung about the house, meaning to get Sin after dark. Then he caw the girl come 1 out and go off, leaving the door closed but na ot liathed, the careless hussy I Then in . slipes the 'getleman, and, does what he'd. :mnade up'his;mind to-for you see the old I. oma i.hinellraoli-couialn'tisfford i Stoleavoe lier. live-gets th6 cash, ard sflps S6ut;. All in: gold it was, two. hundred and flfty plounds.. When he heard that Harden Scouldn't be found, he got uneasy in his mind, and has been getting worse over since, I though he did well euough in trade with the 1 money. Seems he considered ho wasn't safe until someone had been hanged. So, when She recognised Harden, he was naturally down on him at once, and was intensely eager to Sget him convicted-which I noticed myself, Ssir, as of course you did, and thought it queer too, I don't doubt. He took too much pains, you see-he must employ you to make cer tain, instead of leaving it to us; whereas if he hadn't come to you, your evidence would Snever have been given, and I think you'll say Snothing could have saved the prisoner." It was true enough. The wretched man Shad insured the failure of his own fiendish design by employing me, of all the solicitors Sto whom he might have gone I, I learned next morning, how% Harden, after trying in vain to light his pipe on that Smemorable evening, had wandered for hours r through the hard-hearted streets, until at Sdaybreak he had found himself in the docks, looking at a large ship preparing to drop down the river with the tide. How he had managed to slip abroad unseen and stow him. self away in the hold, with some idea of Sbettering his not over-bright fortunes in foreign parts. How he had supported his Slife in the hold with stray fragments of bis. Scuit, which he happened to have in his I pockets, until, after a day or two of weary Sbeating about against baffling winds, when they were out in raid-channel, the usual search for stowaways had unearthed him. How the captain, itter giving him plenty of Sstrong language and rope'send, had at length agreed to allow him to work as a sailor on board the'vessel. How on landing at Syd Sney he had gone into the interior, taken ser Svice with his present maeter-under another Iname than his own, wishing to disconnect Shimself entirely with his former life-and by honestly doing his duty had attained his Spresent position. By the light of thiSnarrative, that which had puzzled me became perfectly" clear g namely, how it was that he had contrived not I only to get so entirely lost in spite of the hue a nd cry alter him, but also to remain .in o ignorance of his aunt's fate. e My client was tried, convicted, and exe-.-_ f, outed in duo course ;-his plea o guilty.andi t voluntary surrender having no weight againstt theruiel and cowardly .attompt':to;o nt :ai , -dosimeoet mueniee'555e ,s.n~-u-- -1 ,When 'llSt waisJobis'Hrsdrn; hb 5 Smarried to a seriuds lady, who hadi bieen; hi?i o late master's housekeeper. and was possesesor Sof a prosperous general shop ina a country', y village, stocked by means of the money. a which Mr. Slocum had generously left him.:-<