The Special Assize
The British Columbian, July 4, 1865.
July 4, 1865
The special session appointed for the trial of Ahan and Lutas, two of the Chilicoaten Indians charged with the murder of McDonald, Higgins, and McDougal, and brought down in May last, by Mr. Moss, was opened yesterday. The Hon. Mr. Crease, appointed by special commission under the hand of His Excellency Governor Seymour, took his seat upon the Bench punctually at 11 o’clock. The Court was opened in the usual way by Mr. Pooley, Acting Clerk, who read the commission investing Mr. Crease with all the functions of Puisne Judge, for the space of one calender month, after which the following gentleman were empanelled as a Grand Jury: William Clarkson, Esq, Foreman, Hons. J. A. R. Homer, and H. Holbrook and Messrs. P. Hick, J. T. Scott, W. J. Armstrong, H. W. Smith, E. Brown, W. Armstrong, J. Murray, W. Grieve, L. Hoyt, and J. Calder.
His Honor proceeded to address the Jury, stating that they were brought together for the purpose of endeavoring to unravel the last tangled skein of that scene of bloodshed and murder which, commencing at Bute Inlet in the murder of some men employed in making a road, swept over the northern part of the colony, almost assuming the character and proportions of an insurrection, when it was happily checked by the Volunteer expeditions and the prompt action of the Government. He alluded at some length to the connection of the two prisoners about to be placed upon their trial with the massacres of last summer, and said that although no mortal eye would probably be able to pry fully into the original causes of these unhappy occurrences, yet there was one point which he would bring under the notice of the jury, and that was the feeling which appeared to be universal amongst the Indians with respect to the white man introducing the small-pox amongst them, showing how very careful we should be in our intercourse with the natives to avoid by word or act, giving colouring to the superstitious views they entertain upon the subject. He paid a high compliment to Mr. Moss for the important service he had rendered the country, under the instructions of the Chief Inspector of Police, in connection with the matter, and concluded a very sensible address by informing the jury that although their business upon this occasion was a special one, and he would not, therefore, impose upon them those duties of a more general character, yet if they should feel it their duty to present any matter other than that which had brought them together he should offer no objections. The Court then rose to allow the Grand Jury an opportunity of investigating the case placed before them.
In less than half an hour the Grand Jury returned a true bill against both the Indians, who were accordingly placed upon their trial, the Hon. Mr. Brew acting as Queen’s Prosecutor, and Mr. Wood, of Victoria, defending the prisoners. The circumstances connected with the massacre of McDonald and a number of his comrades are already so familiar to the public that it will be quite unnecessary to repeat them here. The trial only occupied about 3 hours, when the case was placed before the jury, who, after half an an hour’s deliberation, found Ahan guilty of murder in the first degree, and Lutas in the third. The prisoners were brought up for sentence and Ahan was asked whether he had any thing to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him. Ahan quite admitted the crime, but said he was pressed into it by a great chief. When His Honor was about to pass sentence Mr. Wood moved for arrest of judgment upon several technical grounds, so sentence was deferred and the issues raised are to be argued to-day at 10 o’clock. This was the only case gone into yesterday.