Opening Day of the Great Trial.

Scenes Around the Court House.

The new trial of the Biddulph prisoners commenced in the Court House, in this city, yesterday. The whole of the forenoon witnessed the arrival by train, stage and private conveyance of scores - in fact we might say hundreds - of the witnesses and jurymen on the Biddulph tragedy, and the scene in and around the principal hotels was lively in the extreme. Although the trial was called for 11 a. m., yet it was deemed expedient to postpone the opening of the Court till 2 p. m.

At the hour appointed the Court Room was filled with spectators, all of whom were admitted by ticket. A large number of legal gentlemen were present, and collected in groups around the tables. The judges, the Hon. Matthew Crooks Cameron, and the Hon. Featherstone Osler, now took their seats. High Constable Groves, in all the dignity of his position, arose, and in his well-known sonorous tones delivered the usual "O-yez, O-yez," &c., and declared the Court duly opened,

According as the jurymen filed in they were placed by High Constable Groves, the Grand Jury occupying the front seats and the Petit Jury immediately behind. The Constable next appeared with the model of Wm. Donnelly's house at Whalen, where John Donnelly was shot. The map of Biddulph and the plan of the village of Whalen were also hung up.

[...] His lordship, Judge Cameron, now addressed the Grand Jury.

Mr. Foreman and gentlemen of the Grand Jury:
I am happy to be able to inform you that circumstances have so shaped themselves that at this particular session of Court in the city of London your duties will be found very light indeed. It appears from the record that no one is in custody who has not already been brought before the last Grand Jury or before a previous Grand Jury. And you will find therefore in consequence your duties will be comparatively light. It is to be regretted, however, that occasion has been found for a meeting of the Court at this season of the year. Persons who are now incarcerated in the common jail are accused of crimes of an exceedingly startling nature, also a crime that the statutes call for our most careful consideration. Crimes so serious in their character, and so dangerous in their results against the parties accused as to call forth our most careful attention, until it is established by evidence that they are guilty or not guilty, as there are a number of parties implicated, and as these parties have been in jail for a length of time, and have already been brought before the courts of the realm. The Government in its wisdom have thought it advisable to issue a commission in order to have this Court at this season in order that punishment should be meted out to the offenders if proven guilty, or else released from confinement if they are proven innocent. [...]


Jas. Carroll was now brought into Court, Handcuffed, and placed in the dock. On his appearance in Court there was an unusual stir, and all eyes were fixed on him in order to see how he looked. The prisoner seems, if anything, slightly improved in appearance since the last Court, although looking to a certain extent care-worn, yet the prisoner held his head up well, and on being placed in the box, before taking his seat, looked steadily around the Court room, not assuming by any means a dogged or defiant attitude, but on the contrary, more of an air of anxiety, or of a person who felt keenly the position and circumstances of the ordeal before him. In condition Carroll appears a trifle more fleshy, and by no means looked if he suffered at the hands of the jail authorities. On taking his seat he extended both arms along the sides of the dock, and with apparently an air of nonchalance, listened to the challenging of the jury - which operation proved, as might be expected, a very slow and tedious operation, fully every second juryman being challenged, and those against whom the prisoner's counsel had no objection, were asked to stand aside by Mr. Irving, the Crown Counsel.


This tedious and difficult undertaking commenced at three o'clock and continued till nearly six p. m. At half past four o'clock there were only six men selected; at five o'clock there were eight agreed on, and at half-past five the panel was at length completed.


Of jurors to try James Carroll in the charge of the murder of Judith Donnelly were: John Carrothers, Adelaide; William Hooper, Biddulph; Horace Wyatt, Caradoc; John Lamont, Caradoc; Geo. M. Francis, Strathroy; Jas. F. Elliot, Westminster; Dugald Graham, Strathroy; Jas. A. Watterworth, Mosa; Jas. Dores, Westminster; Hopper Ward, Metcalf; Ana Luce, Caradoc; Benj. Kilburn, Delaware.

[...] Mr. Dingnan replied that he had not; that he had merely said if the prisoners were guilty they should be punished. He took no paper and had never read the evidence in the former trial.

Mr. Macmahon evidently thought a man who read no newspaper was not a proper juryman, and asked him to "step aside."

[...] Thomas Irwin admitted having given an opinion after reading the evidence in the papers. He thought "that a man who read the evidence and not think of what he had read was a fool." He felt, however, in a position to give a fair trial to the prisoners. His Lordship asked him to stand aside.

[...] There were over ninety witnesses called for the Crown, and over forty for the defense, all of whom were ordered to absent themselves from the court room and hold themselves in readiness in the witnesses' and other rooms outside at 9.30 this morning, and remain in those rooms till called for. [...]

Source: Unknown, "The Donnelly Murder - Opening Day of the Great Trial," London Advertiser, January 25, 1881.

Return to parent page