Page images

they rely on his veracity to prove that he is a liar. Before you can come to this conclusion, you will consider, whether all the circumstances are now known, that should have a bearing on this point. Suppose that when he was before the grand jury he was asked by the attorney this question, "was the person you saw in Brown street about the size of Selman?" and he answered, yes. This was all true. Suppose also that he expected to be inquired of further, and no further questions were put to him? Would it not be extremely hard to impute to him perjury for this? It is not uncommon for witnesses, to think that they have done all their duty, when they have answered the questions put to them? But suppose that we admit, that he did not then tell all he knew, this does not affect the fact at all; because he did tell, at the time, in the hearing of others, that the person he saw was Frank Knapp. There is not the slightest suggestion against the veracity or accuracy of Mrs. Southwick. Now, she swears positively, that her husband came into the house and told her that he had seen a person, on the rope walk steps, and believed it was Frank Knapp.

It is said, that Mr. Southwick is contradicted, also, by Mr. Shillaber. I do not so understand Mr. Shillaber's testimony. I think what they both testify is reconcilable, and consistent. My learned brother said on a similar occasion, that there is more probability in such cases, that the persons hearing should misunderstand, than that the person speaking, should contradict himself. I think the same remarks applicable here.

You have all witnessed the uncertainty of testimony, when witnesses are called to testify what other witnesses said. Several respectable counsellors have been called on, on this occasion, to give testimony of that sort. They have, every one of them, given different versions. They all took minutes at the time, and without doubt intend to state the truth. But still they differ. Mr. Shillaber's version is different from everything that Southwick has stated elsewhere. But little reliance is to be placed on slight variations in testimony, unless they are manifestly intentional. I think that Mr. Shillaber must be satisfied that he did not rightly understand Mr. Southwick. I confess I misunderstood Mr. Shillaber on the former trial, if I now rightly understand him. I therefore, did not then recall Mr. Southwick to the stand. Mr. Southwick, as I read it, understood Mr. Shillaber as asking him about a person coming out of Newbury street, and whether, for aught he knew, it might not be Richard Crowninshield, jr. He answered that he could not tell. He did not understand Mr. Shillaber, as questioning him, as to the person, whom he saw sitting on the steps of the ropewalk. Southwick, on this trial, having heard Mr. Shillaber, has been recalled to the stand, and states that Mr. Shillaber entirely misunderstood him. This is certainly most probable, because the controlling fact in the case is not controverted; that is, that Southwick did tell his wife, at the very moment he entered his house, that he had seen a person on the ropewalk steps, whom he believed to be Frank Knapp. Nothing can prove, with more certainty than this, that Southwick, at the time, thought the person whom he thus saw, to be the prisoner at the bar. Mr. Bray is an acknowledged accurate and intelligent witness.

He was highly complimented by my brother, on the former trial, although he now charges him with varying his testimony. What could be his motive? You will be slow in imputing to him any design of this kind. I deny altogether, that there is any contradiction.— There may be differences, but not contradiction. These arise from the difference in the questions put; the difference between believing and knowing. On the first trial, he said he did not know the person, and now says the same. Then we did not do all we had a right to do. We did not ask him who he thought it was. Now, when so asked, he says he believes it was the prisoner at the bar. If he had then been asked this question, he would have given the same answer. That he has expressed himself stronger, I admit; but he has not contradicted himself. He is more confident now; and that is all. A man may not assert a thing, and still not have any doubt upon it. Cannot every man see this distinction to be consistent? I leave him in that attitude; that only is the difference. On questions of identity, opinion is evidence. We may ask the witness, either if he knew who the person seen was, or who he thinks he was. And he may well answer, as Capt. Bray has answered, that he does not know who it was, but that he thinks it was the prisoner.

We have offered to produce witnesses to prove, that as soon as Bray saw the prisoner, he pronounced him the same person. We are not at liberty to call them to corroborate our own witness. How then could this fact of prisoner's being in Brown street, be better proved? If ten witnesses had testified to it, it would be no better. Two men, who knew him well, took it to be Frank Knapp, and one of them so said, when there was nothing to mislead them. Two others, that examined him closely, now swear to their opinion, that he is the man.

Miss Jaqueth, saw three persons pass by the ropewalk, several evenings before the murder. She saw one of them pointing towards Mr. White's house. She noticed that another had something which appeared to be like an instrument of music; that he put it behind him, and attempted to conceal it. Who were these persons? This was but a few steps from the place where this apparent instrument of music (of music such as Richard Crowninshield, jr. spoke of to Palmer) was afterwards found. These facts prove this a point of rendezvous for these parties. They show Brown street to have been the place for consultation, and observation; and to this purpose it was well suited.

Mr. Burns's testimony is also important. What was the defendant's object, in his private conversation with Burns? He knew that Burns was out that night; that he lived near Brown street, and that he had probably seen him; and he wished him to say nothing. He said to Burns, "if you saw any of your friends out that night, say nothing about it; my brother Jo. and I are your friends." This is plain proof, that he wished to say to him, if you saw me in Brown street that night, say nothing about it.

But it is said that Burns ought not to be believed, because he mistook the color of the dagger, and because he has varied in his description of it. These are slight circumstances, if his general character be good. To my mind they are of no importance. It is

for you to make what deduction you may think proper, on this account, from the weight of his evidence. His conversation with Burns, if Burns is believed, shows two things; first, that he desired Burns not to mention it, if he had seen him on the night of the murder; second, that he wished to fix the charge of murder on Mr. Stephen White. Both of these prove his own guilt.

I think you will be of opinion, gentlemen, that Brown street was a probable place for the conspirators to assemble, and for an aid to be. If we knew their whole plan, and if we were skilled to judge in such a case, then we could perhaps determine on this point better. But it is a retired place, and still commands a full view of the house; -a lonely place, but still a place of observation. Not so lonely that a person would excite suspicion to be seen walking there in an ordinary manner;—not so public as to be noticed by many. It is near enough to the scene of action in point of law. It was their point of centrality. The club was found near the spot-in a place provided for it-in a place that had been previously hunted out-in a concerted place of concealment. Here was their point of rendezvous-Here might the lights be seen-Here might an aid be secreted-Here was he within call-Here might he be aroused by the sound of the whistle-Here might he carry the weapon-Here might he receive the murderer, after the murder.

Then, gentlemen, the general question occurs, is it satisfactorily proved, by all these facts and circumstances, that the defendant was in and about Brown street, on the night of the murder? Considering, that the murder was effected by a conspiracy;-considering, that he was one of the four conspirators;-considering, that two of the conspirators have accounted for themselves, on the night of the murder, and were not in Brown street;-considering that the prisoner does not account for himself, nor show where he was;-considering that Richard Crowninshield, the other conspirator, and the perpetrator, is not accounted for, nor shown to be elsewhere;-considering, that it is now past all doubt that two persons were seen in and about Brown street, at different times, lurking, avoiding observation, and exciting so much suspicion that the neighbours actually watched them;-consider g, that if these persons, thus lurking in Brown street, at that hour, were not the murderers, it remains, to this day, wholly unknown who they were, or what their business was; considering the testimony of Miss Jaqueth, and that the club was afterwards found near this place;-considering, finally, that Webster and Southwick saw these persons, and then took one of them for the defendant, and that Southwick then told his wife so, and that Bray and Mirick examined them closely, and now swear to their belief that the prisoner was one of them; it is for you to say, putting these considerations together, whether you believe the prisoner was actually in Brown street, at the time of the murder.

By the counsel for the defendant, much stress has been laid upon the question, whether Brown street was a place in which aid could be given a place in which actual assistance could be rendered in this transaction? This must be mainly decided, by their own opinion who selected the place; by what they thought at the time, according to their plan of operation.

If it was agreed that the prisoner should be there to assist, it is enough. If they thought the place proper for their purpose, according to their plan, it is sufficient.

Suppose we could prove expressly, that they agreed that Frank should be there, and he was there; and you should think it not a well chosen place, for aiding and abetting, must he be acquitted? No it is not what I think, or you think, of the appropriateness of the place-it is what they thought at the time.

If the prisoner was in Brown street, by appointment and agreement with the perpetrator, for the purpose of giving assistance, if assistance should be needed, it may safely be presumed that the place was suited to such assistance, as it was supposed by the parties might chance to become requisite.

If in Brown street, was he there by appointment? was he there to aid, if aid were necessary? was he there for, or against, the murderer? to concur, or to oppose? to favor or to thwart ? Did the perpetrator know he was there--there waiting? If so, then it follows, he was there by appointment. He was at the post, half an hour; he was waiting for somebody. This proves appointmentarrangement-previous agreement; then it follows, he was there to aid, to encourage,-to embolden the perpetrator, and that is enough. If he were in such a situation as to afford aid, or that he was relied upon for aid, then he was aiding and abetting. It is enough, that the conspirator desired to have him there. Besides, it may be well sa that he could afford just as much aid there, as if he had been in Essex street-as if he had been standing even at the gate, or at the window. It was not an act of power against power that was to be done, it was a secret act, to be done by stealth. The aid was to be placed in a position secure from observation :It was important to the security of both, that he should be in a lonely place. Now, it is obvious, that there are many purposes for which he might be in Brown street.


Richard Crowninshield might have been secreted in the garden, and waiting for a signal.

2. Or he might be in Brown street, to advise him as to the time of making his entry into the house.

Or to favor his escape.

Or to see if the street was clear when he came out.




Or to conceal the weapon or the clothes.

6. To be ready for any other unforeseen contingency. Richard Crowninshield lived in Danvers-he would retire the most secret way. Brown street is that way; if you find him there, can you doubt, why he was there!

If, gentlemen, the prisoner went into Brown street, by appointment with the perpetrator, to render aid or encouragement, in any of these ways, he was present, in legal contemplation, aiding and abetting, in this murder. It is not necessary that he should have done anything; it is enough, that he was ready to act, and in a place to act. If his being in Brown street, by appointment, at the time of the murder, emboldened the purpose, and encouraged the heart of the murderer, by the hope of instant aid, if aid should become neces

sary, then, without doubt, he was present, aiding and abetting, and was a principal in the murder.

I now proceed, gentlemen, to the consideration of the testimony of Mr. Colman. Although this evidence bears on every material part of the cause, I have purposely avoided every comment on it, till the present moment, when I have done with the other evidence in the case. As to the admission of this evidence, there has been a great struggle, and its importance demanded it. The general rule of law is, that confessions are to be received as evidence. They are entitled to great or to little consideration, according to the circumstances under which they are made. Voluntary, deliberate confessions are the most important and satisfactory evidence. But confessions, hastily made, or improperly obtained, are entitled to little or no consideration. It is always to be inquired, whether they were purely voluntary, or were made under any undue influence of hope or fear; for, in general, if any influence were exerted on the mind of the person confessing, such confessions are not to be submitted to a jury.

Who is Mr. Colman? He is an intelligent, accurate, and cautious witness. A gentleman of high and well known character; and of unquestionable veracity. As a clergyman, highly respectable; as a man, of fair name and fame.

Why was Mr. Colman with the prisoner? Joseph J. Knapp was his parishioner; he was the head of a family, and had been married by Mr. Colman. The interests of his family were dear to him. He felt for their afflictions, and was anxious to alleviate their sufferings. He went from the purest and best of motives to visit Joseph Knapp. He came to save, not to destroy; to rescue, not to take away life. In this family, he thought there might be a chance to save one. It is a misconstruction of Mr. Colman's motives, at once the most strange and the most uncharitable, a perversion of all just views of his conduct and intentions, the most unaccountable, to represent him as acting, on this occasion, in hostility to any one, or as desirous of injuring or endangering any one. He has stated his own motives, and his own conduct, in a manner to command universal belief, and universal respect. For intelligence, for consistency, for accuracy, for caution, for candor, never did witness acquit himself better, or stand fairer. In all that he did, as a man, and all he has said, as a witness, he has shown himself worthy of entire regard.

Now, gentlemen, very important confessions made by the prisoner, are sworn to by Mr. Colman. They were made in the prisoner's cell, where Mr. Colman had gone with the prisoner's brother, N. P. Knapp. Whatever conversation took place, was in the presence of N. P. Knapp. Now, on the part of the prisoner, two things are asserted; first, that such inducements were suggested to the prisoner, in this interview, that any confessions by him ought not to be received. Second, that, in point of fact, he made no such confessions, as Mr. Colman testifies to, nor, indeed, any confessions at all. These two propositions are attempted to be supported by the testimony of N. P. Knapp. These two witnesses, Mr. Colman and N. P. Knapp, differ entirely. There is no possibility of reconciling them. No charity can cover both. One or the other has sworn falsely. If N.

« PreviousContinue »