Auditions for "The Donnelly Trial"
Devised by Christopher Doty
Based on transcripts of the original court case
Directed by Jeff Culbert
Sunday, January 22nd, 1 pm to 5pm
Sunday, January 29th, 1 pm to 5 pm
Wolf Performance Hall
Central Library, 251 Dundas Street
Please prepare a monologue and a reading from
part of the script (see below)
No appointment is necessary
We are looking for experienced actors - ages
12 to 60 - male and female - who will be paid an honourarium for their work.
The Donnelly Trial will be previewed in Lucan, Ontario on June 3rd and 4th. Performances at the former London and Middlesex Courthouse (the scene of the original trial) will run June 5th to June 8th, June 12th to June 15th and June 19th to June 22nd and June 26th to June 29th. Rehearsals for these performances will be held twice weekly, Tuesdays and Saturdays starting on April 4th.
For more information, please contact producer
Click here for auditon information for a new play, The Donnellys: Before the Murders
SAMPLE SCRIPT PAGES
CAST OF CHARACTERS (click on the name to view script)
Mr. Justice John Douglas Armour - age 50, trial judge
-a strong-willed judge who would "brook no interference in the running of his court"
William Ralph Meredith - age 40, defence lawyer
London MPP and leader of the provincial Tories and leader of the opposition
"For Meredith and the Tories, the case was a political godsend. Meredith, whose father was an Irish Protestant, was a member of London business elite and had been provincial Tory leader for a little more than a year. The trial gave him the chance to position himself as the defender of the right and reputations of Ontario's Irish Catholic population. Any attack on his clients would be treated like an attack on all Irish Catholics." - Peter Edwards, Night Justice
Aemilius Irving - age 57, Queen's Council
"Irving appeared to be a colorless figure, but was actually capable of surprising actions - he once rode his horse up the stairs of a friend's home to pay a bedside visit. Irving was clearly a gentleman of the old school (His father) had raised Aemilius to be a scholar, which helped explain the unusual first name. Aemilius was the name of a Roman noble in Shakespeare's play Titus Andronicus and can be interpreted to mean both eager and industrious." - Peter Edwards, Night Justice
"Irving was a lawyer of the earlier school in Canada, painstaking, precise, methodical and without a trace of emotion. 'On the day of this most unfortunate occurrence' he would say to a witness instead of calling it a 'murder.'" - J. Lambert Payne, The London Free Press
a local magistrate and member of the Vigilance Society
"a tall, thin man with a red goatee and rich brogue"
Trounce Williams- age 37, Chief of Police for London
"Chief W.T.T. Williams, who had emigrated from England, had been a non-commissioned officer in the Life Guards and an Inspector of Police for the County of Hampshire and had also engaged in detective work in France. He had risen to prominence during the Pilgrimage Riots of 1876 in Toronto where, at the head of some twenty police officers, he arrested numerous rioters who had attacked Roman Catholic processions on two successive weekends. In the process he was struck in the face by a stone that left him scarred for life.
Chief Williams proved to be strong-willed and one who did not readily submit to City Council influence and pressures. One of his major accomplishments was the construction of a new Central Police Station at 140 Carling Street, thereby distancing the police from City Council who at times probably wished they had selected a more compliant individual. His forty-three year term of officer is the longest in the history of the London Police." - Charles Addington, A History of the London Police Force
O'Connor - age 14, but looks younger
"In strode Johnny, briskly and confidently, bright faced and neat-looking in an Oxford-gray suit. In the words of the Globe, little Johnny carried himself 'with the air of one of whom the box had no terrors' and looked impressive with his 'large dark eyes, a good forehead, large mouth and ears, and altogether a face indicating both intelligence and honesty.'" - Peter Edwards, Night Justice
"He also sported a watch and chain and carried, in his hand, a brown plush cap It kept his hands almost constantly employed. If, when he was telling his story, he found himself forgetting an important particular he was almost sure to twist or squeeze it out of the unoffending cap while when everything was going along smoothly he was usually spinning it in his left hand or sliding it back and forward along the front rail of the witness box. His answers were, as a rule, given very promptly and with a fearlessness that did him credit. During his examination in chief he was for most of the time looking straight into the face of the Crown counsel, seldom looking elsewhere." -The Globe
- age 36
"A slight man with a club foot, Will somehow exuded a strange power, and despite his deformity, he walked with a distinctive glide. Oddly exotic, he wore his hair long, in a cavalier fashion and his clothing had a cosmopolitan, European flair. In a country where most farmers were illiterate and scratched their names with a shaky X, Will loved to quote poets like Byron and Keats in everyday conversations. Many of the area women found him unusually charming, and his quick and often sarcastic wit had always seemed to put him in control of situations." - Peter Edwards, Night Justice
"He is of medium height His power is in his head. He is as sharp as a steel trap, and possessed of an iron will, being cool, determined and far-seeing. He thinks twice before he speaks, and always acts on his own determination." - The Globe
"William Donnelly is a lame man, and his appearance is above all things tragical. The events of the past year had added a thoughtful look to his countenance. He wears a moustache and imperial a la Cardinal Richelieu, and long hair which falls in black ringlets almost to his shoulders." - The Mail
Mrs. Jennie E.
Currie - age 22, sister to William Donnelly
"Dressed in her black mourning clothes, she looked worn and sad and young" - Peter Edwards, Night Justice
- age 29
"There was evidently a very bitter feeling existing between the Thompson family and the Donnelly family. This arose, in great measure, from the fact that William Donnelly was a suitor, on one occasion, for the hand of Thompson's sister and Thompson forbid him from the house, although it would appear the sister did not." - London Advertiser
"She is an average-looking woman, with very dark hair and eye-brows. She wore a dark dress, black coat and a black hat trimmed with figured ribbon of black and old gold, a gilt buckle and white feather. She wore a large gold broach and outside this a flashy magents and white silk handkerchief, fasted with a silver buckle. She exhibited some temper while undergoing cross-examination." - The Globe
- age 36, much-hated brother in-law to William Donnelly
James Feeheley - age 23, last man to see the Donnellys alive, a man with a guilty conscience
Constable James Carroll, age 27, the defendant
"A broad-chested, short-necked, six-footer in his late twenties, Carroll could take care of himself He was a man who didn't like to make eye contact " - Peter Edwards, Night Justice
"James Carroll stands six feet high and is stoutly built, being particularly heavy about the chest and shoulders. His head appears to be over the average size, and his neck is exceptionally short and heavy. His head is covered with a thick growth of straight black hair, and he wears a very heavy mustache and Imperial, the former growing down past the corners of his mouth to the lower edge of the under jaw. His complexion is dark and sallow, and this with the peculiar cut of his beard, his small, dark and restless eyes, and his low and somewhat receding forehead constantly covered with long, traverse wrinkles that extend almost from temple to temple, give him a somewhat sinister appearance his eyebrows are finely arched." - London Advertiser
Irving: What is your name and position?
Casey: My name is William Casey. I am a local magistrate.
Irving: Was a member of the Donnelly family brought before you by the prisoner?
Casey: Yes. Old Mrs. Donnelly on the charge of burning Ryder's barn.
Irving: What happened at the hearing?
Casey: There were no witnesses there.
Irving: Hadn't any been subpoenaed?
Casey: Those that had refused to come. We had to issue warrants for them.
Irving: Was James Carroll there?
Irving: Was he confident of a conviction?
Casey: Carroll said he would have to throw up the whole affair if he couldn't get any witnesses.
Irving: Was Carroll preparing any other cases against the Donnelly family?
Casey: Against Robert Donnelly for burning out a farmer a while back.
Irving: Was Carroll, in your opinion, being vindictive towards the Donnellys?
Casey: I didn't think Carroll was taking a more active part in the prosecution than his duty called for.
Irving: Even though his case against Johannah Donnelly lacked witnesses?
Casey: Well, I considered it was his duty to fetch the witnesses.
Irving: Had the arson case been adjourned previously?
Casey: Yes, four times.
Irving: What was the final court date?
Casey: February 4th.
Irving: The morning after the occurrence.
Irving: When did you hear of the fire on James Donnelly's farm?
Casey: I saw the light from the blaze about half-past five that morning.
Irving: How did you find out it was at Donnelly's?
Casey: I met James Carroll on my way to court in Granton. He said there was a fire and that four bodies - the Donnellys - were in the fire.
Irving: Did he say anything else about the matter?
Casey: He said it was a mysterious affair and he didn't see how it could have happened.
Irving: Did you ask the prisoner how he came to know of this?
Casey: Faith, I can't say who told him. If he told me it's escaped my memory.
Irving: Did you ask Carroll where he was the previous night?
Casey: I think I asked him where he slept. He told me he slept at Thompson's.
Irving: Did you make any further enquiries?
Irving: Your business in Granton had to do with the case in which the Donnellys were concerned?
Irving: What was done at Granton?
Casey: Well, I think Mr. Whelan asked me to have a biscuit.
Irving: That's the way court began, eh? Did you talk about the fire and the four bodies?
Casey: Only that I knew nothing about the murder.
Irving: What was done at the court?
Casey: It was adjourned for good.
Irving: And still you gave no instructions to and made no enquiries?
Irving: Don't you think, as a Magistrate, it was your duty to have made enquiries on hearing of such a terrible massacre?
Casey: I was only new in the work.
Irving: New brooms don't sweep clean then, Mr. Casey?
Casey: Well, I thought the case required a little practice anyway.
Irving: What is your name?
Feeheley: James Feeheley.
Irving: Where do you live?
Feeheley: On the Roman Line.
Irving: What do you know about the Biddulph Vigilance Society?
Feeheley: Not much. Last fall I said I would go once to see this meeting at the Cedar Swamp School.
Irving: Did you become a member?
Feeheley: I didn't join the society. I just signed the book at the church.
Irving: Was this the book you signed?
Irving: Would you read what's in the book for the court?
Feeheley: We, the undersigned agree to assist one another in putting down crime in the parish, and consent in the event of our property having been lost, or supposed to have been stolen, to permit our premises to be searched; and we further agree to assist the clergyman in every way to put a stop to the depredations which are becoming a scandal to the parish.
Irving: How many signed this book?
Feeheley: After two Sundays about eighty.
Irving: Getting back to the meeting at the schoolhouse, how long were you there?
Feeheley: I couldn't say how long I was there.
Irving: What happened there?
Feeheley: Just a lot of men and boys talking and laughing.
Irving: Well, did you ask anybody what they were doing?
Irving: Were you asked to sign anything?
Irving: Was anything read over to you?
Feeheley: Not a ha'porth.
Irving: Did no person ask you to join?
Irving: Are you sure about this?
Feeheley: Well, if somebody asked me, mebbe I might join.
Irving: What was the object of the Society?
Feeheley: For putting down what was bad.
Irving: Was that the reason you visited the meeting?
Feeheley: Anything that would keep down the bad was good.
Irving: And you mean to say you are not a member?
Feeheley: I don't know if that made me a member.
Irving: Well, was that joining, you signing this book?
Feeheley: Well, if you call that joining, I suppose it was.
Irving: Do you know what business was done the second night?
Feeheley: Not a ha'porth.
Irving: And you saw no business done there at all?
Feeheley: I seen nothing in the world but what I'm telling you.
Irving: What was the badness going on in the township?
Feeheley: Sure you know as well as me there was badness going on. I told you before.
Irving: But you must tell me again, as these ladies and gentlemen were not here before. Now, what was the badness going on?
Feeheley: Oh, horse stealing and barn burnings.
Irving: Who was to be the judge of the badness?
Feeheley: (with his hand across his mouth) The whole society.
Irving: Oh, take your hand out of your mouth. We want to get all the evidence we can and you are thrusting your hand into your mouth to prevent the little you know from coming out. Now, who was to be the judge of the badness?
Feeheley: The whole Society.
Irving: I see, whatever they thought bad was to be put down. As I understand you, there was no use in going there. You did nothing. You said nothing. What then was the use of you going?
Feeheley: Deed thin, I can't say.
Irving: Was there any leader or head to the affair?
Feeheley: Deed thin, I can't say.
Irving: Then it was like a flock of sheep without a leader?
Feeheley: Deed thin, I can't say.
Armour: Do you think you could find your memory if I sent you to prison for twenty four hours and brought you up again?
Feeheley: Well, I had a conversation with James Carroll about the Vigilance Committee and he said the bad doing would have to be stopped.
Irving: What is your name and residence?
Donnelly: My name is William Donnelly. I live in the town of Lucan in the township of Biddulph. I am the eldest son living of the late James Donnelly.
Irving: Tell me about your visit to your family on February 2nd?
Donnelly: I drove to my father's
residence the morning before the murders. Upon entering the house I found my
mother besides the stove. She always wore under-flannels, and upon this occasion
she had on a red flannel skirt, her chemise and petticoat, and a small breakfast
shawl over her head.
She looked rather fantastic, and I said to her, "Mother, go and dress yourself, for if Barnum came here and saw you now he would have you at any price."
Whereupon she burst into tears, and said, "It is easy for you to talk. My poor old heart is broken. If you were pulled around the country in the way Ryder and Carroll is pulling me and your father, you would not feel like laughing. Good and honest neighbours are being kept from visiting our house. They are no longer friendly with us, though I know they still wish us well."
I told my mother to stop crying. She replied, "When you and the rest of the boys were children I often took the light at midnight to look at you taking a happy sleep, full of the hope that I might live to see you all men and be happy. But hope has left me, and my mind often tells me that Carroll will get his ends of us."
I said, "But Mother, if you are being ill-used, you had better go up to Father Connolly and ask him to use his influence. Ask him to have the Ryders stop the prosecution."
But she began crying. She said, "He knows the way they are using us. If Father Connolly had only acted like Father Girard before and refused to hear stories it would have saved us a great deal of strife with the neighbors. The people are afraid of the priest and for that reason stay away from us."
I felt as though she had a foreboding of something wrong about to happen and I went to leave. But upon going into the yard my father said, "Put out the mare and wait and have some dinner with us." I said I was in a hurry, and he said, with one of his good-natured smiles, "Wait, it may be the last time we will ever have dinner together, as the Ryders and Carrolls might have me in London jail tomorrow."
Something seemed to detain me. I felt very down-hearted as if something was hanging over me which I could not account for. I did not feel like leaving the house, but started, and Tom called after me to say he would drive around by my place on Wednesday. I then drove on - and this was the final interview I had with those members of my family.
Irving: Do you remember the night your brother John was killed?
Donnelly: Yes. I was at my home that night. Martin Hogan, my brother John and my wife remained all night. John came about dark. He brought a pony and harness for the purpose of getting a cutter to take our lawyer to Granton the next day. My wife went to bed about nine o'clock. I went to bed at half-past twelve. Hogan and John went to bed together and I then went to bed.
Irving: Were you disturbed during the night?
Donnelly: Yes. About twenty-seven minutes after two.
Irving: How were you disturbed?
Donnelly: There were parties outside the house and I heard them say, "Fire! Fire! Open the door, Will!" I recognized the voices of Martin McLaughlin and young Patrick Ryder.
Irving: What did your brother do?
Donnelly: John came out of his room and went through mine as he went into the kitchen.
Irving: Did you speak to John as he went out?
Irving: Did he speak to you?
Donnelly: He said, "I want to see who is rapping at the door and calling fire." He did not wait for me, but opened the kitchen door.
Irving: What occurred at the kitchen door?
Donnelly: I heard two shots fired in rapid succession, almost together. John fell back against the door of my bedroom. Immediately after he fell there were seven shots fired.
Irving: What did he say?
Donnelly: He said, "Will, Will, I'm shot. May the Lord have mercy on my soul!"
Irving: What were the shots like that were fired at John?
Donnelly: Very loud report. They were almost fired together and could hardly be distinguished. The gun was almost in the house, because the smell of powder rushed into my bedroom.
Irving: Did you attend to your brother?
Donnelly: No. I went to leave my bed but Hogan said to me "Lay quiet. We will all be killed. It is you they want." The missus got up instead. By then John was choking on his own blood. Nora went into the kitchen where John was and began pulling him in towards my room. She said, "Oh Lord, he's dying!" The missus got a piece of blessed candle, and Hogan held it in John's hand until he died.
Meredith: You claim that you saw the murders from under old man Donnelly's bed. Correct?
O'Connor: Yes, sir.
Meredith: Wasn't there a clothes basket under the bed as well?
O'Connor: Yes. A long willow clothes basket.
Meredith: Wouldn't that have blocked your view?
O'Connor: There was about a half a foot space between the basket and the railing of the bed. I could only see their feet when I looked over the top.
Meredith: Only their feet?
O'Connor: Yes, sir.
Meredith: Well, how could you be sure it was Tom Donnelly that was being beaten if you only saw his feet?
O'Connor: I saw stocking feet. What would the other men want to be out in their stocking feet for?
Meredith: Why did you mention James Carroll's name to Mrs. Whalen?
O'Connor: I just thought I should.
Meredith: Why? Did you believe Carroll was guilty?
O'Connor: Yes, and I wanted Carroll punished for it.
Meredith: Were you aware the prisoner had given your sister a subpoena for the burning of Ryder's barn?
O'Connor: Yes, sir.
Meredith: Do you know why she received a subpoena?
O'Connor: Well, the Donnellys were charged with the fire and my sister had been at Donnelly's a couple of nights before Ryan's barn was burned.
Meredith: Well, wouldn't you be angry at the prisoner for drawing your sister into court?
O'Connor: I have no feeling against Carroll.
Meredith: But you were friends with the Donnellys. Didn't they tell you?
O'Connor: I never heard the Donnellys say anything good or bad about him. I don't know whether Carroll was a good man or not.
Meredith: When you got to Whalen's did you say that a lot of men had come and chased the Donnellys to the woods?
O'Connor: Yes sir. I did.
Meredith: Why did you say that?
O'Connor: I - I -
Meredith: Of course, you are very cute to fix up your story. Now why did you say that?
O'Connor: I don't know.
Meredith: Can you give me a description of any of the men you saw with the sticks?
O'Connor: No, I cannot.
Meredith: And yet you claim to recognize three of the men who were at the Donnelly house that night. Three out of twenty men. Why only three?
O'Connor: I don't know all the people along the line.
Meredith: You go to church on Sunday?
O'Connor: Yes, sir.
Meredith: So you would have seen them there?
O'Connor: I know most the people by sight but I don't think I ever saw any of the people who were not disguised that night in church.
Meredith: St. Patrick's has a big congregation. Why do you suppose you don't recognize more of those men?
O'Connor: Well, I might have recognized them if they had been in the habit of going to church.
Meredith: Who was the man you say went into the bedroom of James Donnelly?
O'Connor: James Carroll.
Meredith: You could be mistaken, couldn't you?
O'Connor: I'm not mistaken. My eyes are good. Carroll was standing there holding the candle as Old Man Donnelly pulled on his clothes.
Meredith: You did not tell this part of the story to Mr. Irving.
O'Connor: Yes, I did.
Meredith: I'm sure you did not.
O'Connor: I think I did.
Meredith: How do you know it was Bridget ran across the floor?
O'Connor: I saw her back.
Meredith: Had she on a dress?
Meredith: Had she on an apron?
Meredith: How could you tell she had on an apron when you only saw her back?
O'Connor: What would she have an apron on for?
Meredith: Did you think Bridget was killed?
O'Connor: I don't know.
Meredith: When the men came down stairs and said, That was all right," what did they meant by that?
O'Connor: I didn't know what they meant.
Meredith: Don't you know what they meant by that?
O'Connor: I suppose they meant she was killed.
Meredith: How do you know they carried Tom Donnelly into the house?
O'Connor: Because I heard them throw him down and -
Meredith: Couldn't they have dragged him in and then thrown him down?
O'Connor: I suppose.
Meredith: Your said your heard the men hammering. What were they hammering?
O'Connor: They were hammering Tom and the rest of the Donnellys. I saw two or three sticks.
Meredith: You said three sticks. Which is it, two or three?
O'Connor: Three, I think.
Meredith: Why then, do you say two or three?
O'Connor: It's all the same.
Meredith: No, it is not all the same.
William Thomas Trounce Williams
Irving: What is your name and position?
Williams: William Thomas Williams. I am the Chief of Police for the City of London.
Irving: (picking up a club) What can you tell us about this club?
Williams: I found it close to the Donnelly's house, lying on the south side of the house, between the house and the barn. Some two weeks or more afterward when I went to Maher's, Detective Murphy picked up this billet of wood, which I recognized as the one I had thrown away.
Irving: (to Meredith) Your witness.
Meredith: You said you threw this piece of wood away the first time you found it?
Williams: I did.
Williams: Because there was no hair or blood on it.
Meredith: Is it not the kind of stick the boys at the school-house near by would be likely to play ball with?
Meredith: Had you noticed anything particular about the club then?
Williams: I thought it would a good thing to strike a man on the head with.
Meredith: But it would not hurt an Irishman, though?
Williams: I don't know that. I think I could crack your head with it.
Irving: What is your name and residence?
Currie: My name is Jenny Currie. I live in St. Thomas.
Irving: What is your relation to the Donnelly family of Biddulph Township?
Currie: I was - I am the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Donnelly.
Irving: When was the last time you visited your parent's house?
Currie: It was just before Christmas of last year.
Irving: Why were you there?
Currie: I was attending the funeral of my brother Michael. He had been stabbed to death in a fight in Waterford.
Irving: Did you go through the house?
Currie: Yes, I went into my father and mother's bedroom.
Irving: This was the same room where Johnny O'Connor was hiding on the night of the occurrence?
Irving: Was there any valence or curtain around the bed?
Currie: There was no valence to the bed.
Irving: Nothing that could have blocked the view of anyone hiding under that bed?
Meredith: Objection, your honour.
Armour: Sustained. Don't put words in the witnesses' mouth, Mr. Irving.
Irving: When was the last time you saw your mother?
Currie: When she visited us back in January.
Irving: This is in St. Thomas.
Irving: What happened to your mother at that time?
Currie: James Carroll came to the house to arrest her for burning Mr. Ryder's barn. He wanted to take her back to Lucan in a wagon.
Irving: Did you go with your mother and Carroll?
Irving: Why did you do that?
Currie: I was afraid to leave her alone with Carroll.
Irving: You thought Carroll might try to harm her?
Meredith: Objection. What the witness merely thought is of no relevance.
Armour: Objection sustained.
Irving: (producing spectacles) A newspaper reporter discovered these in the ruins of your parent's house. Could you identify them?
Currie: I don't know if I can. My father and mother both used spectacles. (Currie bursts into tears)
Irving: Did you tell the Chief of Police you had changed the blind in the window of your upstairs bedroom?
Thompson: I did not and I defy him or any other man to say I said so.
Irving: The Chief is clear to the contrary.
Thompson: No man can mistake me on that. The blinds were the same first and last.
Irving: (producing window blinds) Do you mean to say that the Chief, when he came first, did not find the blinds this way (folds one of the blinds in half)
Thompson: No, sir. They were not. They were down.
Irving: The Chief gives a different account.
Thompson: I don't care what account he gives. I know myself better than him.
Irving: Were they down the second time the Chief came?
Thompson: Yes, and the first time too, if they did not turn them up.
Irving: (producing pillow slips with stains) Here are the pillow-slips. Do you recognize them?
Thompson: (examining slips carefully) Yes, they are mine.
Irving: You swear these are the two slips that were on the bed the night of February 3rd?
Thompson: Yes, sir, I do.
Irving: When was the last time you changed the sheets and pillow cases on Carroll's bed?
Thompson: The Saturday before.
Irving: Do you remember the Chief saying that only one of the pillow cases had been used?
Thompson: Yes, and I told him he knew nothing about it.
Irving: What else did the Chief look at when he visited?
Thompson: He took an old cloak of my grandmother's and wanted to know which of the men had it on. The Chief was trying to make me tell lies.
Irving: You only think so?
Thompson: The Chief belied me. When he and his people came to my house, I treated them decently and that's all the thanks I get for it.
Meredith: What do you know of Will Donnelly's reputation for truth?
Irving: That is not the way to put the question.
Meredith: Well, you put the question.
Irving: Oh no. I am not going to put questions for my learned friend but I must insist on him putting them in a proper way.
Armour: (to Kennedy) What is William Donnelly's reputation for truth and veracity in the neighbourhood in which he resides?
Kennedy: Well, it's bad.
Meredith: From that reputation, would you believe him on oath?
Kennedy: No, sir. I would not.
Meredith: (to Irving) Your witness.
Irving: Well, now, sir, what circumstances do you speak of my which you make that general assertion?
Kennedy: Well, I have a great many reasons.
Irving: Tell us one of them first.
Kennedy: I know of people who have had dealings with him.
Irving: What sort of dealings?
Kennedy: Business transactions. I never knew of him to pay any of his debts.
Irving: Well, do you think that all people swear lies who don't pay their debts? (Kennedy seethes) What reasons have you for not believing him?
Kennedy: His general reputation.
Irving: You have said that from what you know of him you would not believe him on oath. Now, I want you to tell me what you know so that the jury can judge.
Meredith: Objection your honour. The witness is not on the stand to make a case for or against the prisoner.
Armour: He can be asked the question.
Irving: Be good enough to tell us of an instance.
Kennedy: Well, by the general talk of the public. I have nothing particularly or individually against William Donnelly but I found him frequently to break his word.
Irving: Give - us - an - instance.
Kennedy: I have known him to tell things and then go back on them and break his word.
Irving: Well, that is your word against his.
Kennedy: I have known Will Donnelly to take things from Barney Stanley's store without paying for them. (to the jury) Yes, and he might steal my horses and claim them also, I suppose.
Irving: Stop. You have no right to say that.
Kennedy: William Donnelly and his family have been a disgrace to our country.
Irving: You are going too far.
Kennedy: I am not in the habit of swearing away people's characters.
Armour: Order! The witness will answer the questions and stop voicing his own opinions.
Kennedy: Those that killed the Donnellys should all be given solid gold medals and special seats in heaven.
Armour: Mr. Kennedy - one more outburst from you and I will hold you in contempt of this court. Continue your questioning, Mr. Irving.
William Ralph Meredith
Meredith: The line the Crown has taken is that the Vigilance Committee was an unlawful society and that every one of its members is in a manner responsible for this tragedy. I rise to meet that position. There is not a single shred of evidence to show that it was other than a lawful organization.
It would be singular if honest men could not combine to put down crime in the township. How does this better the condition of affairs in that township where there were barn burnings going on? The first thing done was the providing of the book in St. Patrick's church for all honest men to sign, banding themselves together. Do you find the names of the Donnellys there? No, and if they had been other than what their neighbours believed they were they would have signed that book.
In regard to James Carroll having a spite against the Donnellys, I ask you whether, from the evidence, has anything been shown that Carroll did any more than discharge his duties as an officer of the law? Constable Moore claims that Carroll said he would hunt the Donnellys out of the country. What does that indicate but that as a peace officer he would have these people sent to the Penitentiary where they belonged?
The presence of Carroll at Thompson's house is proved by the Crown. I ask you, would a shrewd man like Carroll, intending to commit such an affair, have left his home and gone to the house beside that where he intends to commit the crime? I think you will say that any man who would do that is a born fool.
Coming to the testimony of the boy O'Connor, he says there were persons in disguise - but not Carroll. I think you will agree that no man would have gone undisguised if he were to play such a prominent part in such a foul act. The boy also says Carroll saw him in the room. Do you believe that if this story the boy tells is true, Carroll would have left him alive? It is utterly impossible that this could have been true. You must be very careful before taking this boy's story and disbelieving the mass of testimony contradicting it.
Then as to another view of the case, is the statement of William Donnelly to be believed? No, he had evidently concocted this story for the purpose of bolstering up the testimony of the boy O'Connor. For is it possible that there is a man as base a coward as to look out of the window and see his own brother killed and not do anything? Why, the man allowed his wife to go out and assist his dying brother, while he himself cowered in bed!
Irving: There is not a shadow of doubt but the body of men who committed this murder belonged to the Vigilance Committee and there is no other theory that any other persons were interested in the death of the Donnellys. See how shortly after any depredations the Committee went and arrested the Donnellys. They were "vigilant" indeed. The Committee was rightly named. But in many cases the charges fell to the ground and showed that the Committee was bound rather to convict the Donnellys than to secure justice.
It is said that the prisoner Carroll was at Thompson's that night. Mary Thompson says these men went to bed before she did and got up after she got up. I think Mary Thompson had varied in her evidence very materially. There was a discrepancy about the condition of the pillow slips. She says one man slept several nights and another two nights and yet those slips were in the condition you saw - clean. Police Chief Williams says the window blind was changed. The lady asserts positively that there never was but the one blind.
As to the evidence of the boy, Jimmy O'Connor, I agree with my learned friend that on his evidence depends the whole of the case. If Jimmy O'Connor is untruthful and not to be believed, then the prosecution must fall to the ground. But just look at the circumstances of the case. Here was a lad of thirteen years of age, the sole witness of a great drama. Then, after the terrible scene he goes over to the Whalens. Then and there he mentioned Carroll's name.
There can be no question that the boy was present and witnessed the scene of butchery on that terrible night I agree with my learned friend that if the boy had been seen that night his little life would have been sacrificed in a manner similar to the way the poor girl, Bridget, was butchered. Why was the boy left unslain? I will explain. The prisoner Carroll simply had a great matter on his mind, the guidance of an expedition to destroy a number of human beings.
On that evidence hangs the guilt or innocence of the prisoner in that dock. There is no contradicting or gain-saying the evidence of this little soul, thus snatched as it were by divine power from the hands of the murderers on that night of terror. If this story had been imagined or invented for the boy, or by the boy, how would such a picture be so frequently repeated and so faithfully and vividly drawn by a boy of his years? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it would be simply impossible.
I call on you in the name of your country to discharge that duty which now devolves upon you, to discharge the duty you owe to this Court, and to discharge that duty without fear or favor. If lawless people take the law into their own hands, justice must be dealt out for sooner of later the avenging spirit must come and the majesty of the law be vindicated.
Judge John Douglas Armour
Armour: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prisoner at the bar stands charged with the murder of Judith Donnelly on the night of the fourth of February 1880, having been tried on an indictment which is found not only against him but against John Kennedy, Martin McLaughlin, Patrick Ryder Junior, John Purtell and James Ryder.
On the night in question the people
in the Donnelly house were murdered and came to their death by violence. It
was an outrage committed under circumstances of the most savage atrocity and
brutal ferocity of any outrage that has ever been committed in this country.
It stands without a parallel, and I hope it will always so stand. Few persons
could listen to the recital of what took place on that night without feeling
their very blood freeze in their veins to think that in this civilized community,
this country of ours, men should band themselves together to commit an offence
so horrible in its nature.
While we should not allow ourselves to be carried away by this aspect of the case, yet if we found evidence beyond reasonable doubt as to who committed the offence, we should have no hesitation in finding the parties guilty.
In reviewing the evidence, if doubts arise in your minds, the law throws around the accused a shield of protection in that the prisoner is at your hands entitled to the benefit of such doubt.
The Crown, by their witnesses, show that there was a certain organization of a society in Biddulph, known as the Vigilance Committee and their object was to punish crime. Although it may be argued that there was nothing illegal in such an organization, there appears to have existed another offshoot from it, which appears to have evinced a most malevolent and vicious spirit against one family - I allude to the Donnelly family. If you are prepared to believe the mass of evidence furnished by the Crown, then it will become apparent that this secret Committee was capable of concocting and putting in force some of the most atrocious and abominable crimes we have on record. The Crown also goes on to prove that the prisoner Carroll took a prominent and active part in that association.
Now, it is not in the evidence that the prisoner Carroll struck a blow, but it is held in the eye of the law that all present that night were equally guilty as if they had struck the fatal blow. The are alike guilty of the crime of murder and arson.
If this crime was the fruit of the seed sown by this Vigilance Committee and it goes unpunished, what next offence will be committed? Who next, that is obnoxious to the persons forming this conspiracy against law and order must suffer now that the Donnellys are exterminated? Who can guarantee what other combinations of the same kind may not be entered into in other parts of the country when evil disposed men - men not law abiding - feel that they ought to take some action, rightly or wrongly, against others.
Donnelly Trial" is Copyright 2004 by Doty Docs. All rights reserved. No
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