I see before me (said Jimmy, savagely) a court, where I, James
Moggridge, am arraigned on a charge of assaulting the editor of
the _St. John's Gazette_ so as to cause death. Little interest is
manifested in the case. On being arrested I had pleaded guilty, and up
to to-day it had been anticipated that the matter would be settled out
of court. No apology, however, being forthcoming, the law has to take
its course. The defence is that the assault was fair comment on a
matter of public interest, and was warranted in substance and in fact.
On making his appearance in the dock the prisoner is received with
Mr. John Jones is the first witness called for the prosecution. He says:
I am assistant editor of the _St. John's Gazette_. It is an evening
newspaper of pronounced Radical views. I never saw the prisoner until
to-day, but I have frequently communicated with him. It was part of my
work to send him back his articles. This often kept me late.
In cross-examination the witness denies that he has ever sent the
prisoner other people's articles by mistake. Pressed, he says, he may
have done so once. The defendant generally inclosed letters with his
articles, in which he called attention to their special features.
Sometimes these letters were of a threatening nature, but there was
nothing unusual in that.
Cross-examined: The letters were not what he would call alarming. He had
not thought of taking any special precautions himself. Of course, in his
position, he had to take his chance. So far as he could remember, it was
not for his own sake that the prisoner wanted his articles published,
but in the interests of the public. He, the prisoner, was vexed, he
said, to see the paper full of such inferior matter. Witness had
frequently seen letters to the editor from other disinterested
contributors couched in similar language. If he was not mistaken, he
saw a number of these gentlemen in court. (Applause from the persons
Mr. Snodgrass says: I am a poet. I do not compose during the day. The
strain would be too great. Every evening I go out into the streets and
buy the latest editions of the evening journals. If there is anything
in them worthy commemoration in verse, I compose. There is generally
something. I cannot say to which paper I send most of my poems, as
I send to all. One of the weaknesses of the _St. John's Gazette_ is
its poetry. It is not worthy of the name. It is doggerel. I have sought
to improve it, but the editor rejected my contributions. I continued to
send them, hoping that they would educate his taste. One night I had
sent him a very long poem which did not appear in the paper next day. I
was very indignant, and went straight to the office. That was on Jubilee
Day. I was told that the editor had left word that he had just gone into
the country for two days. (Hisses.) I forced my way up the stairs,
however, and when I reached the top I did not know which way to go.
There were a number of doors with No admittance printed on them.
(More hissing.) I heard voices in altercation in a room near me. I
thought that was likely to be the editor's. I opened the door and went
in. The prisoner was in the room. He had the editor on the floor and was
jumping on him. I said, Is that the editor? He said, Yes. I said,
Have you killed him? He said, Yes, again. I said, Oh! and went
away. That is all I remember of the affair.
Cross-examined: It did not occur to me to interfere. I thought very
little of the affair at the time. I think I mentioned it to my wife in
the evening; but I will not swear to that. I am not the Herr Bablerr who
compelled his daughter to marry a man she did not love, so that I might
write an ode in celebration of the nuptials. I have no daughter. I am a
The foreman printer deposed to having had his attention called to the
murder of the editor about three o'clock. He was very busy at the time.
About an hour afterward he saw the body and put a placard over it. He
spoke of the matter to the assistant editor, who suggested that they had
better call in the police. That was done.
A clerk in the counting-house says: I distinctly remember the afternoon
of the murder. I can recall it without difficulty, as it was on the
following evening that I went to the theatre--a rare occurrence with me.
I was running up the stairs when I met a man coming down. I recognized
the prisoner as that man. He said, I have killed your editor. I
replied, Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself. We had no further
J. O'Leary is next called. He says: I am an Irishman by birth. I had
to fly my country when an iniquitous Coercion Act was put in force.
At present I am a journalist, and I write Fenian letters for the _St.
Johns Gazette_. I remember the afternoon of the murder. It was the
sub-editor who told me of it. He asked me if I would write a par on
the subject for the fourth edition. I did so; but as I was in a hurry
to catch a train it was only a few lines. We did him fuller justice
Cross-examined: Witness denies that he felt any elation on hearing that
a new topic had been supplied for writing on. He was sorry rather.
A policeman gives evidence that about half-past four on Jubilee Day he
saw a small crowd gather round the entrance to the offices of the _St.
John's Gazette_. He thought it his duty to inquire into the matter.
He went inside and asked an office-boy what was up. The boy said he
thought the editor had been murdered, but advised him to inquire
upstairs. He did so, and the boy's assertion was confirmed. He came down
again and told the crowd that it was the editor who had been killed. The
crowd then dispersed.
A detective from Scotland Yard explains the method of the prisoner's
capture. Moggridge wrote to the superintendent saying that he would be
passing Scotland Yard on the following Wednesday on business. Three
detectives, including witness, were told off to arrest him, and they
succeeded in doing so. (Loud and prolonged applause.)
The judge interposes here. He fails, he says, to see that this evidence
is relevant. So far as he can see, the question is not whether a murder
has been committed, but whether, under the circumstances, it is a
criminal offence. The prisoner should never have been tried here at all.
It was a case for the petty sessions. If the counsel cannot give some
weighty reason for proceeding with further evidence, he will now put it
to the jury.
After a few remarks from the counsel for the prosecution and the
counsel for the defence, who calls attention to the prisoner's high and
unblemished character, the judge sums up. It is for the jury, he says,
to decide whether the prisoner has committed a criminal offence. That
was the point; and in deciding it the jury should bear in mind the
desirability of suppressing merely vexatious cases. People should not
go to law over trifles. Still, the jury must remember that, without
exception, all human life was sacred. After some further remarks from
the judge, the jury (who deliberate for rather more than three-quarters
of an hour) return a verdict of guilty. The prisoner is sentenced to a
fine of five florins, or three days' imprisonment.
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