Failures of justice

As we have noted, the early laws in the mining country had many loopholes that an accused man with a good attorney could slide through easily. Justice was often hard to come by in the legal courts of the mining districts and that seems to be what happened in the case of the murder of Tyndal Newby by A. J. Fuller, who was his partner in a mining operation at Smith’s Flat. It appears that not long after the incident at Holden’s Gardens a disagreement erupted between the two men because Fuller had gambled away money that rightly belonged to the partnership. A fight ensued and Fuller was thrown to the ground, but managed to hold on to Newby as he fell. They must have been close by a fire because Newby managed to throw hot coals into the face of Fuller and so was able to get loose and attempt to flee. But Fuller quickly leaped to his feet, grabbed a nearby rifle and fatally shot Newby. Fuller was arrested and brought to trial in the district court where he showed up armed with a good attorney. For killing his partner after gambling away their common funds, Fuller was found guilty of only manslaughter and given a sentence of nine months in jail and a fine of one hundred dollars.

Paterson Colt

Paterson Colt

At about the same time in Tuolumne County a miner named George Palmer was having his supper in the dining room of the Arkansas Hotel in Sonora when John Thornley, known to be a rough character who had already killed one man, came into the hotel with a revolver in his hand and ordered Palmer outside. Palmer, who was apparently unprepared for this unexpected encounter, did as he was told but only got about a dozen paces before Thornley shot him twice, the second shot a fatal one. Thornley fled town but was subsequently arrested and returned to Sonora. A mass meeting of angry miners was held and attempts made to pry Thornley from the authorities and apply the summary justice of the people to him and his crime but without success. In the meantime Thornley escaped his jail cell and for three months ran free. After his recapture Thornley was put on trial by the district court, but was acquitted of all charges and released, no doubt with the help of an extremely good lawyer.

 

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