High Treason

Matthew X profrv at nex.net.au
Tue Apr 13 02:13:31 PDT 1999

TRIAL" Hotham decided to hold separate trials for the 13 accused. John 
Joseph the Afro-American who was accused of firing the first shot that 
killed Captain Wise, was the first brought to trial. The government 
believed that a jury would have no trouble convicting a black man. A number 
of lawyers came forward to help those accused of High Treason. Butler 
Aspirall and Henry Chapman appeared for Joseph while the Attorney General 
Stawell represented the Queen. The first clash came with the selection of 
the jury. The Crown challenged potential Irish jurors and publicans. John 
Joseph sent the court into a spin when he objected to gentlemen and 
merchants being selected on the jury. No Irish jurors were picked for jury 
for Joseph¹s trial. The Crown called two government spies to give evidence, 
both claimed they saw Joseph in the stockade. Two privates from the 40th 
regiment claimed they saw Joseph fire the first shot that struck down 
Captain Wise. The charge against Joseph that had to be proven, was that 
Joseph had attempted to subvert the authority of the Crown in the colony by 
wounding and killing her soldiers ­ in other words the Crown had to prove 
?treasonable intent". The defence lawyers didn¹t call any witnesses and 
made much of the point that "a riotous nigger" or a "political Uncle Tom" 
could have "treasonable intent", leaving it up to the jury to decide if 
Joseph had any intent to commit treason. The jury returned quickly from 
their deliberations, finding John Joseph not guilty of High Treason. 
Pandemonium broke out in the court at the not guilty verdict. The cheering 
was so loud that Chief Justice Beckett (the residing judge) in a fit of 
pique, singled out two members of the public gallery and jailed them for a 
week for contempt of court. "On emerging from the Court house, he was put 
in a chair and carried round the streets of the city in triumph" ­ Ballarat 
Star. Over 10,000 people had come to hear the jury¹s verdict. When you 
consider that Melbourne¹s population wasn¹t even 100,000, the crowds that 
had gathered to listen to the jury¹s verdict were an indication of how 
important many people believed these trials were. FROM 
Shades of crispus attucks.

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