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1-231 (Raw)

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author,male,Sydney Gazette,un addressee
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Saturday. - Murder. - This day Mary Minton was indicted for feloniously, traitorously and wilfully aiding, abetting, assisting and maintaining the before-mentioned prisoners James Stack and John Hand, in murdering the said Michael Minton, her husband.
(For this trial a new Jury was impanelled, under the Precept of His Excellency the Governor in Chief.)
We should not feel justified, there being but trifling variation in the main points of evidence that occupied the attention of the previous trial, in which the principals were adjudged Guilty, were we to traverse the same ground, by giving repetition of the testimony that was adduced on this trial, which could not but be nearly similar with that already detailed. Two or three new witnesses were called, who only went to corroborate certain facts proved on the former trial. No new fact, of any importance, appeared to arise in this woman's trial. One witness was called, who swore to finding the murderous weapons in the drain. Thomas Jones, still persisted in his non-identity of the prisoner, as being the woman whom he had seen going towards the drain with Stack. Several others testified that the prisoner at the bar acknowledged to them, upon the night of the murder, that the deceased, her husband, had done what he never did before, in giving over to her charge the money, as it had been the practice of the deceased to keep all monies in his possession. Most of the witnesses gave the prisoner an excellent character in her relative situations of a wife and mother, and went so far as to say that a bad word had not been known to escape her lips. Mr. Magistrate Cox deposed, that the Bank-bills, &c. which were sworn to by Christopher Flood as being the identical notes in the possession of poor Minton when he left Sydney, were found under a stump or tree by the condemned man, Stack, who confessed to him that he had received the same from the prisoner.
Mr. Rowe, who conducted the defence, at the request of the prisoner, was allowed by the Court to read a written defence. This paper stated, that the house was rushed by five men; that two of them entered the room in which was the prisoner, her children, sister, and two crown servants, Stack and Hand, who guarded them, whilst the other three proceeded to perpetrate the murder; and that, as soon as she, the prisoner, could effect an escape, an alarm was the consequence. She denied all knowledge of, or participation in, the dreadful crime which bereft her of a husband, and her children of a father. She enquired where did the inducement appear that could possibly have influenced her to assist in so terrible an act? and concluded by throwing herself upon the merciful consideration of the Court.
The following, we believe, to be a correct sketch of His Honor's charge to the Jury:-
"The prisoner at the bar, Mary Minton, stands charged with the murder of her husband, Michael Minton - an offence of the deepest die; it is termed petty treason, from the sacred relations of private life which it violates, and is second in degree only to that higher crime, which goes at once to destroy all the relations of society."
"The information consists of five several counts, which variously set forth the manner, and instruments, by which the murder was accomplished, and they all charge the prisoner at the bar, as present, aiding and abetting at the fact; or, as the Law terms it, a principal in the second degree. From the nature of the charge, it is necessary that the accused should have been present; but such presence need not be actual, such as would make her an eye or an ear witness; if she were constructively present, such as by taking some part assigned her in the common act, she is as guilty in the estimate of the Law, as if she were immediately engaged."
The Learned Judge then proceeded to review the few leading particulars, which are established by direct and positive evidence; "that the deceased, Michael Minton, had been at Windsor, on Sunday, the 8th August, and returned home about seven o'clock in the evening, that he desired his wife to prepare his supper, which he ate, and retired to bed about eight o'clock; that shortly after, the prisoner gave Jones, one of her servants, some linen, desiring him to carry it to a neighbour called Mary Peckham, to make up; that about the same time, she also sent Wright, another servant, to another neighbour called Thomas Sell, with a dump to pay for some butter. That at the time these two servants were so sent away, the prisoner and her sister, a girl between ten and eleven years of age, her two infant children, and two other servants, Thomas Stack, and John Hand, were the only persons left in the house with Minton. That soon after the departure of the servants, Jones and Wright, the voice of Minton was heard, crying "murder" several times, and immediately after a gun was fired at Minton's house, but no dogs were heard to bark, and for many minutes all was still and silent. Jones, who was at Mary Peckham's, and heard the report of the gun, immediately set out on his return home, and on his approaching within a short distance of the house, he saw Thomas Stack and a woman going from Minton's house towards a drain, situated below the house. They were conversing at the time - he stopped for a moment, and then proceeded onwards, when he saw Thomas Stack returning up the hill from the direction of the drain. On seeing Jones, he called out, "Who's that?" and Jones answering, he said "my master is murdered." He further related, that five men, two of whom he described, one with a scar on his face and the other with a yellow jacket, had rushed into the house and made all the party there turn their faces to the wall, while they murdered the deceased. He also affected to be afraid to go into the house, and desired Jones to do so, which, after some hesitation, he did, and there found his master lying dead - in the manner described by the surgeon - the frontal bone of his head was indented, as if by the stroke of a hammer; the back of his head was also cut and fractured in three places, as if by an axe, his throat was cut, the jugular vein quite severed; and a shot from a gun or pistol had penetrated his arm and grazed his back. On the following day, suspicions being excited, a search was made for certain implements which were missing from Minton's house, and in the drain towards which Thomas Stack had been seen going were found a gun, a pair of pistols, an axe with some hair in it, a hammer also with grey hairs on it, and a knife which was stained. These instruments are all identified, as having belonged to Minton, and being in his house shortly before his murder."
The Chief Justice then went on to remark upon the points established in evidence, to the following purport:- "That the instruments, found in the drain, were those, by which the horrid deed was done, there can be no doubt, and that Minton was murdered by persons belonging to his house is equally clear. In the first place, no property was stolen, and it is not easy to believe that five persons should confederate together for the mere purpose of committing a profitless murder. In the next place, a gun was fired, and was heard by all the neighbours, an unlikely thing to have been done by a banditti, as it would be sure to give the alarm to the neighbourhood, - an act of all others, that persons bent upon mischief would most likely endeavour to avoid. Again, no dogs were heard to bark, although Minton had dogs that were used to bark at strangers; and they must have been heard, for the voice of Minton was heard distinctly by two persons who swear they heard no dogs bark, but that after the gun all was silent and still for some time. Besides, murderers going to attack a house which was armed, and where five men were known to reside, would have been furnished with arms of their own, and some marks of those arms would in all probability have been impressed upon the body of the deceased. But Minton was slain and mangled by implements of his own; the hair upon the axe, and upon the hammer, the indentation of his forehead, the blood upon the knife, all point to the fact in a manner too strong to be mistaken. But if no other circumstance had appeared in evidence, the false, incredible, and self-refuting tale of the five men, would be sufficient to prove that he was murdered by the persons who invented and propagated the tale. Suppose - I will only put it hypothetically for the present - that these accused persons had murdered their master, they must account for his death in some way or other - now what story more likely to be invented than the one which has been set up? a few circumstances easily invented and remembered would be agreed upon - and a close silence beyond those circumstances; - but, on the other hand, suppose that the story were true, and that five persons had actually rushed into Minton's house, and made the five persons who were in it, turn their faces to the wall, while they perpetrated the murder, a thousand circumstances would have rushed upon the recollection of the accused. The story would have been so replete with particulars, how they looked, what they said, what they did, where they went, the conduct of the parties in the house, the cries of the deceased, the struggles, the fact unaccounted for, of his being found by the kitchen fire, and not in the bed-room where he slept, these and a thousand other circumstances, would have sprung so spontaneously from the mouths of the parties, that every question which could be asked, and every doubt which could be raised, would elicit fresh evidences of truth, and establish the innocence of the accused beyond the reach of suspicion - it would have been impossible to sustain even a colourable charge against them. To me it is clear that the deceased was murdered by his own servants, and that Stack and Hand were engaged in that murder. Stack was seen going towards the fatal drain - he was not afraid to go there, although he hesitated about going to the house - the cruel and unfeeling expressions of Hand towards his master, while his body was not yet cold in death, point to him as a principal in the act. But it is not necessary to go into many details upon this point, their guilt has been established. The point for our consideration is, the situation and conduct of the prisoner at the bar, and what part she took in the cruel plot. The first circumstance, is her having sent away Wright and Jones. With respect to Wright, it appears that she had spoken to him to go to Sell's early in the afternoon; but afterwards stated that she was afraid he would not be back before her master returned, and would therefore defer it till evening. It is singular that she had also proposed sending Jones away early in the afternoon, but he did not then go as it would rather seem he was employed in the garden. Now, either these are the indications of a deep and premeditated design, or they are accidental. I should hardly venture to affirm they were premeditated. If they were accidental, they explain away something of the unfavorable circumstances of two of the servants being sent away just before the destruction of Minton. The next circumstance to which I shall call your attention, is the fact of a woman being seen with Stack descending the hill, in the direction of the drain. Was this the prisoner? The witness Jones will not positively swear it was - but he says, he thought it was. If it were the prisoner, when and where did she pick up her sister and the children, so as to be at Ablett's gate? This is difficult to explain, and the discrepancy of the evidence, as to the interval of time between the firing of the gun, and the hearing of Mrs. Minton's voice at Ablett's gate, rather goes to encrease than to solve the difficulty. Could she have sent them on, and afterwards joined them? I should be afraid to hazard a conjecture upon this very tender point. The next and worst feature of the case, against the unhappy woman at the bar, is the story of the five men. What! a wife who affected to love her husband, the mother of his two infant children, quietly turn her face to the wall, and let the business of murdering that husband go quietly on, without once attempting to assist him, one alarming shriek, or one supplicating word for his life! But this story does not deserve a moment's consideration - it is utterly false - and it is the share which the prisoner had taken in this false tale, which is the strongest circumstance against her. Could it be that Stack and Hand had alarmed her fears, and practised upon her credulity? But why then should she tell it as a thing she saw and heard herself? Can she have been a party to this tale, and be guiltless?
"Again, it is proved that the deceased had, just before his death, received a sum of money for the sale of pigs in Sydney. On one of the witnesses telling the prisoner that this money had probably been the cause of the attack on her house, she replied, "No; the money is safe - I have planted it." - Indeed! how then came Stack to know where this money was planted, and to conduct the Magistrate to the spot where it was hidden, in the hollow of a tree? And here I must notice, what is untruly said in the defence, that the money for which the pigs were sold, was not the money Mrs. Minton said she had planted. Now the witness Weyham proves that the conversation he had with the prisoner related to the money lately received in Sydney for the sale of pigs. This was the money the prisoner told Mrs. Ablett she had planted; - how came the murderer Stack in the secret of the hiding place? The inference from it is strong, and has led me reluctantly to a conclusion not reconcilable with the innocence of the prisoner.
"On the other hand, she has had the strongest testimonials of her general character of tenderness and humanity, and even of living happily with her husband. There appears to have been no motive for this dreadful act, of which she has been accused. Gentlemen, if you have doubts upon the case, from the evidence before you, you should give the prisoner at the bar the benefit of those doubts; but if, on the contrary, you should be led to the conclusion that she is guilty, however painful that conclusion may be to your feelings, or distressing the duty you will have consequently to perform, I feel a perfect assurance that you will discharge that duty with integrity and justice."
The Jury retired for about 25 minutes, and returned a Verdict of Not Guilty. The prisoner was directed to be discharged.