Criminal Annals, Part 63 – End of Page Trial

We continue with the story about the hanging of James K. Page, who was on trial for the murder of an unknown man and had previously been in San Quentin for manslaughter until pardoned by then governor of California, George Clement Perkins.

As mentioned before, this story provides a unique, interesting look at the judicial system in place in 1883 and some of the notable citizens of the county at that time.

The testimony of Dr. H. W. Smith, who performed the autopsy on the deceased, is very interesting since it shows how, with the limited science of the time, legal determinations could be accurately made.

A number of local citizens have already testified at the trial. Most of these people were residents of the area north of and westerly of today’s Cameron Park, where the crime took place.

Many of the witnesses recalled seeing both Page and the stranger along what is now Green Valley Road, but only one, Mrs. Winnifred Powell, actually saw Page shoot the stranger.

It should be noted again that the writer of this story often shortens sentences when reporting testimony.

Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.


“Charles Schonn keeps a saloon at Mormon Island. On the morning after the dead body was found at New York ravine, James Page came to his place about 8 or 9 o’clock. Took a drink and treated me and paid with a $20 piece. Afterwards bought my pocket knife, handkerchief, bottle of brandy, and two bits worth of cigars. Was taken from my place by Constable Macomber. Was sober when he came.

“Constable John Macomber related incidents connected with arrest of Page and his delivery to the Sheriff. Identifies Page’s gun and the cartridge taken from it the day of the homicide. He went to Mrs. Page’s and, she being with him, searched for the shirt worn by James on the 10th, but could not find it.

“Joseph Simmons, Deputy Sheriff, testified to the delivery to him by Macomber &c. [archaic etc.]

“Dr. H. W. Smith gave an interesting statement of his post mortem examination of the remains of the murdered man, generally agreeing with the report of his autopsy published in these columns about the time of the homicide, supplemented by a statement of subsequent investigations to which all present listened with rapt attention. In making a microscopic examination of blood-clot from the head of the murdered man he demonstrated: first, that the blows on the head were inflicted after death; 2d, tht there was a fiber of pine bark imbedded in tissues of his scalp. This induced him to visit the scene of the homicide and make search for a club. His search was successful. He found a club with many blood stains on the butt end of it. He then inspected the stock of Page’s gun and found spots of blood upon it. He also took blood from the horse and found the bushes near where his throat was evidently cut. With the aid of glycerine several of the spots were removed from the gunstock. Then by a series of microscopic comparisons, conducted with conscientious care, a conclusion was reached which was unassailable, established exact similarity between the globules in certain of the spots on the gun, the spots on the club, and those taken from the corpse; exact correspondence between the globules of the spots from the horse, those from the bushes and certain of those from the gunstock. Certain other of the spots on the gun were distinguished as the blood of a fowl or bird. His relation of the methods adopted to reach his conclusions, and the test applied to insure their accuracy, carried absolute conviction. The prosecution here rested.

“Defense called Samuel Page, brother of defendant, and examined him as to effect of intoxication on him.

“James Hart testified to the effect of intoxicating liquor upon defendant, making him boisterous and abusive, and that he was quite and peaceable when sober.

“W. D. Coffman, brother-in-law of Defendant, corroborated Hart as to disposition of Page when drunk and sober.

“Jacob Zentgraf and Jeptha Wilson were examined and answered similarly on same points.

“Mrs. Page, mother of the prisoner, testified that when sober he is as good and peaceable boy as need be, but when drunk noisy and abusive. He was very drunk when he came home May 10th, so much that he frequently asked where he was.

“Defendant was then placed on the stand. He remembered all that happened at home on the morning of the 10th, remembered going to Kyburz’, Dormody’s and Zentgraf’s, reaching the latter place tired, thirsty and hungry. Drank 6 or 7 times while there. Took a bottle of brandy away with him. Drank after on road. ‘Seems like a dream that I met somebody, don’t know who.’ ‘Seems like a dream that I passed Pat Hughes’, but don’t recollect it.’ After that don’t remember anything till next morning, when I looked around and found myself at home.
“Hugh O’Neil, a half-witted person who lives with Mrs. Powell, was called but gave no intelligible testimony. The defense then rested.
“The prosecution called County Clerk Witmer to prove previous conviction of Deft. [Defendant] for manslaughter, and the record of that conviction was introduced.

“James G. Bailey identified defendant as the same person as the one mentioned in the record.

“The case was then argued by Prentiss Carpenter and the District Attorney for the prosecution; by Clarke Howard and Mr. Blanchard for the defense. After a short recess the Judge read his charge, the jury retired at 8:30 and returned into court at 9:15 with their verdict as above [guilty of murder]. On the first ballot there were two who favored a recommendation of imprisonment, but on the second ballot all were agreed. The Judge appointed next Monday at 10 o’clock for passing sentence. Throughout the trial, and even when the verdict was read the defendant showed no signs of concern. Mr. Blanchard chiefly relied for defense on the monstrous atrocity of the crime as an evidence of irresponsibility. The address of [District Attorney] Mr. Ingham surpassed any of his previous efforts, and a part of the time many in his audience were ‘Like Niobe, all tears.’

“Prentiss Carpenter and Clarke Howard made credible arguments.”

Note: Niobe is one of its more tragic figures in Greek mythology. After the other gods killed her seven sons and seven daughters, she became the symbol of eternal mourning. She fled to Mt. Siplyon in Asia Minor. There she turned to stone and from the rock formed a stream (the Achelous) from her ceaseless tears.



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