The repetition of the trial of the men accused of the murder of the Donnellys, commenced in London on last Monday. We saw and pointed out to the Attorney General several months ago that those people had been called to answer before a judgment of popular prejudice. The naked fact of the attempt to change the venue savored of a taint of justice even if it had not been declared so in effect by the Judge who denied the application to the counsel for the Crown. The request that the prisoners be released on bail after they had been acquitted by the majority of one jury, was made on the ground that their enlargement for a time was necessary to enable them to gather means for a new defence. The Attorney General's refusal of that request was so unnecessary that he has incurred a very grave responsibility in having brought the men to trial now under circumstances which make their means of defence more or less seriously crippled. He owes it, therefore, to his own peace of mind where the lives of so many may have been exposed already unfairly, and perhaps wrongfully, to see to it that the popular prejudice which has convicted those men in advance shall not be permitted in any wise the course of the prosecution.

The Attorney General owes a duty special to Purtell. That one of the prisoners stood upon an alibi which was proved by Dr. McGrath. The death of the Doctor has broken down that reliance of the defence; for though his evidencr is on record, it is inadmissible because given previous to the sate at which such testimony has been made admissible. Purtell's life depends therefore on an arbitrary restriction of a statute. Other witnesses in his favor have been killed in a railway accident since they gave their testimony at the last trial; and this fact goes still further in danger to his life outside the operations of justice. While calling on Mr. Mowat to urge upon his prosecuting counsel the duty of extreme care in disregarding the foregone ennclusions of popular prejudice in reference to the prisoners generally, we urge upon him still more earnestly to introduce and pass at once through the House of Assembly, a brief bill giving Purtell the benefit of the testimony of Dr. McGrath and others of those who, having testified at the former trial in his favor, are now dead.

Source: Unknown, "The Biddulph Prisoners," Irish Canadian, January 27, 1881.

Return to parent page