|Chapter Title||CONDEMNED TO DEATH.|
|Newspaper Title||The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)|
|Trove Title||A Drama in the Dark: A Tale of Two Christmas Eves|
Chattgb IV.— Condemned to Death. No one seemed to notice on the following morning when the night shift men ascended the shaft that their number was less by one than it had been on the previous night. Stiff and dead Barry lay where he bad been killed in his sleep, and no one appeared to miss But an hour or two later the news of the dark tragedy h'l flown through the mine— through all the village even. One of the day shift firemen on his rounds had stumbled upon the dead miner, and almost the first object the awe-filled official had put bis hands upon in his terror was Lhe blood stained hammer with which the death blow had been struck. The fir*''-' recognised the hammer at
once. It belonged to Dick Johnson. The man could not stem back the conclusions that flooded in upon his brain. That very evening Dick was arrested on the suspicion of having killed Barry. At the moment of his arrest be was in the parlour of The Old Dog, and his affianced wife, Cissy Scott, was at bis side. The next day the inquest was held, and, to put the matter briefly, the finding of the jury
was a, verdict of wilful murder against the young fireman, Dick Johnson. And everybody in the village and outside it believed that the real culprit had been found, and when Christmas Day came — the day which was to have seen Dick Johnscu and Cissy Scott made man and wife — he was lying in gaol with the black charge of murder upon him, and Cissy Scott had fled no one knew whither.
At length, after wearying weeks of waiting, the young fireman was pnt upon bis trial for killing James Barry. All the evidence adduced by the prosecuting counsel against the prisoner was of a purely circumstantial nature, still it was of the strongest and most jijtiriTtirifT fcind. In the first place it -was proved that the deceased and the tn&n arraigned at tbe bar had been rivals, and that they bad fought about the woman ; that Johnston had been worsted in the encounter, and, as a result of tlfiSj bad told numerous people, some of whom were called as witnesses, that be would kOl Barry if ever he touched him again. In the second place It was pointed out as a most remarkable thing that the fireman, on the night of tbe committal of the crime, bad purposely isolated Barry from the rest of the night shift miners by ordering him to work in a deserted and remote part of tin pit. And thirdly and most damning fact of all, the weapon with which the fatal blow was
struck was the hand hammer Johnson carried about with him as a fir^'ian. There was no doubt about that, for the prisoner admitted that the bloodstained tool was the one he used. Against such powerful evidence as this Dick Johnson's counsel had little to say. The accused averred that he was innocent ; that he had visited the dead man about eleven o'clock, and he was then all right. They did not quarrel — had scarcely- spoken to one another ; and on quitting Jim Barry at the top of the south jig Johnson had forgot Such in brief was t£e prisoner's defence, and even his counsel and friends had to admit its weakness. The finding of the jury was never in donbt for a moment. They re tired after tbc Judge's summing up, and^ifter an absence of only fifteen minutes they re turned with a verdict of guilty. But they recommended the culprit to mercy on account of hid hitherto blameless life and the murdered man's cvfl reputation. Then the Judge «poke the death sentence, and Dick Johnson was hurried, white faced and speechless, away to the condemned cell But he was not executed. The energy and influence of his friends saved him from the scaffold. The capital sentence was commnted to one of penal servitude for life.