Trial for Murder

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (14) | Start of Chapter

March 14th.—Criminal cases were going forward now in court, and the attorneys, Dublin-like, had come prepared with wigs and gowns, for the first time, a practice heretofore not in vogue in Connaught. The ladies in Castlebar were curious to behold this novel sight, but custom had prohibited them hitherto from appearing in these places. Two prisoners were to be tried for murder; and wishing to know how Ireland, which has been somewhat celebrated for trials of this kind, managed such cases, in company with a young lady of the family, I went; we found a favorable position in the gallery, where we could see the court and prisoners. The case was this:—A publican had become offended with a neighbor, and determined to be revenged, by giving him a good beating. Not wishing to do it himself, he called in two men, gave them an abundance of whisky, and for a few shillings they agreed to do it well. The man was waylaid at nightfall, and the beating went on; many joined in the affray, some to rescue, and some to assist. The man was killed. The evidence went to prove that one of the two gave a heavier blow, and he must have finished the work, consequently he was guilty. The attorney, Bourke, made a most able defence, and though a Roman Catholic, he dwelt most solemnly on the last grand Assize, when that court, as well as the prisoners at the bar, must be judged by an impartial Judge, and condemned or acquitted, as their real state should be found. The judge was celebrated for clemency, and gave a plain impressive charge, that if the least doubt remained on their minds, they must lean to the side of mercy.