The trials of Casey and Cora

When all the pretrial preliminaries were over the executive committee of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance swore a sacred oath to God and each other that the votes taken to arrive at their verdict in the trials of Charles Cora and James Casey would not be divulged to any living being. Charles Cora was then brought before them for the murder of Marshal Richardson. He chose Miers Truett as his attorney. Truett asked for the assistance of Thomas Smiley and this was allowed. Soon after the trial began, at half past one that day, Marshal Doane announced that James King of William had just died and because of his death there was great excitement in the city. The committee simply asked Doane to report to the people that the trials of Cora and Casey were progressing and proceeded with the trial. All witnesses requested by Cora were heard as well as all who testified against him. As soon as Cora’s trial was concluded Casey was brought in and his trial proceeded in the same manner.

Vigilance Committee warning

Vigilance Committee sign

The committee sat all night and only took a recess the next morning when the trials were concluded. Both men were unanimously declared guilty of murder. The board of delegates was called in and all eighty-one members, or three from each of the twenty-seven companies, met and swore an oath similar to the one taken by the executive committee. The testimony in both trials was read and the unanimous verdicts approved. After the delegates left the executive committee fixed the date of May twenty- third at noon for the execution. Truett, Smiley and J.W. Brittan were to tell the prisoners of their fate and notify them that any request for a spiritual or legal advisor would be met. At about this time Sheriff Scannell appeared at the door of the committee rooms with a writ of habeas corpus for James Casey issued by a district court, but he was told that the committee had performed their duty strictly according to the law and this was the only reply the committee would make to the writ.



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