Criminal Annals, Part 74 -The Cosumnes Tragedy (Continued)

This is the second part of “The Cosumnes Tragedy,” which was in the July 3, 1852 edition of Sacramento’s “The Daily Union,”

On trial was a Frenchman, referred to as Monsieur Raymond alias Rogers, who was accused of killing a “Chinaman” at Big Bar, a mining camp in El Dorado County on the Cosumnes River. The “citizens and miners,” as they are called in the article, have gone through a lengthy process to make sure that the accused obtained a fair trial and have prepared a statement for the newspaper, showing that they did just that. This story is their statement.

The defendant was to be represented by two of his friends from Drytown, but they didn’t show up on the day of the trial. A Mr. Holmes is representing the Chinamen, one of whom the defendant is accused of killing.

The unnamed constable from Mud Springs (town of El Dorado) arrived the day before the trial, but it is not mentioned again.
We are now at the point where the witnesses are being examined.


“The witnesses on the part of the people were then examined:

“George W. Lawrence testified that he arrived at Big Bar, Cosumnes river, June 24th, about 4 P.M., and stopt [sic] at a Chinaman’s tent and asked for a drink of water and they gave him some tea; that he afterwards crossed the river and sat down on the bank to put on his shoes, when he hard the report of a pistol, and looking around in the direction it came from saw a man standing with a pistol in his hand, with the arm extended in the position of a man fighting a duel, but did not recognize the man.

“Tom King, Chinaman, testified that he was standing in his tent and saw the Frenchman come down where two Chinamen were walking, and without any cause struck one of them a blow on the side of the face, which knocked him down, when his partner, who has started with some dirt to the river, looked around, and the Frenchman drew his pistol and shot him through the head; that neither of the said Chinamen could understand a word of English.

“_____________, Chinaman, testified that the Frenchman came where he was at work, and without speaking a word knocked him down, and he could not tell what he done after.

“M. O’Neil testified that he heard the report of a pistol, and looking in the direction saw the prisoner leaving the Bar in a great hurry, and he went to meet him, thinking he had shot a Chinamen, as there were several running after him making a great noise; that when he got near him several Americans called out to him to arrest the Frenchman; that, not being armed himself, he asked the prisoner what was the matter; he answered he had shot the Chinaman in self-defence – that the claim was not worth fighting about – that he had offered to sell it to them for $5.00; he asked him some other questions which he did not remember, as his only object in asking them was to get near enough to take hold of him for fear he might make resistance.

“After which, there being no witnesses on the part of the prisoner, he was requested to make his statement. After which the jury went with the prisoner to the place where the deed was perpetrated. The jury then retired, and after being out one hour, returned with the following verdict:
“We, the undersigned jury, render a verdict of murder in the first degree.

“When the verdict was received the proceedings were voluntarily suspended for about half an hour, during which time the people were scattered in groups, arguing the merits of the case. At this time a party within doors (some of whom were heard to state during the day that they were determined to rescue the prisoner at all hazzards) made a motion that the prisoner be handed over to the civil authorities. Some one now stated that not one-half of the people were there, and it was requested that the question be deferred until all could be present. Another one then called out that the motion was carried to hand him over to the authorities. Here the excitement became intense, and it was impossible for an hour to obtain any thing like order. About 8 o’clock P.M. the excitement was over, and the question was called whether the prisoner be delivered into the hands of the civil authorities, or whether he suffer the punishment inflicted by law for murder. The house was then divided, and it was deemed that the prisoner suffer death. The question was then asked, When shall the prisoner be executed? and it was answered unanimously, Forthwith. The prisoner was then informed of his sentence, and if he had anything to say he would be heard. He stated that he had nothing to say, only that he wished to be granted one hour. This request was granted, and he was informed that any persons that he wished to see would be admitted into the guard room, but only two at a time. He then requested a friend to state that he wished to be shot instead of hung, in the following manner, viz: That ten men be placed ten paces in front of him with rifles, all loaded with balls, and tht he personally should give the word to fire. This request would have been granted him if possible, but not a man could be found willing to execute it. He then wished to have ten Chinamen; this was objected to. He then asked for the rope and soap to soap the rope. When he had about fifteen minutes of time left him, he asked for another half hour, stating that it would not be lost time, that he would converse with any person as familiar and pleasantly as ever he did.”

Note: When properly made a hangman’s noose might be difficult to adjust, especially if the rope was rough. Soap was often used to make sure that it would slide easily. Some say it should be 13 turns, some say only seven.


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