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Colonial Cases

United States v. Locke, 1878


United States v. Locke

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Staehl, 11 June 1878
Source: The North China Herald, 15 June 1878



Shanghai, 11th June.

Before JULIUS STAHEL, Esq., Vice Consul-General and judge of the court, and H. B. ENDICOTT and H. L. GORDON, Associates.


Charge of Stabbing.

   Prisoner belongs to the crew of the American ship Ringleader, of Boston, and he was indicted for that he did, on the 11th February last, wilfully, feloniously, and with malice aforethought, and with a knife, stab and cut Charles Thompson, one of the crew of the said vessel, in his back, inflicting a wound, against the peace and dignity of the people of the United States.

   Prisoner, when asked to pleads, said he was guilty of stabbing the man, but he did not do it wilfully.

   CHARLES THOMPSON deposed - On the morning of the 11th Feb. last, between two and three o'clock, the flying jib was ordered to be loosed by the chief officer.  I was standing near the gallant forecastle, and the prisoner and others of the watch were on the top of the forecastle.  There was some disturbance between the prisoner and another member of the crew named Edward.  I saw prisoner was down and Edward on the top of him.  I took hold of prisoner by the collar and raised him to a kneeling position.  A few minutes after prisoner rose to his feet, drew his knife and struck it into my back.  I s aid "Jim, what have you stuck that knife into me for?"  He denied having done so at first, and then said "Is that you Thompson, I thought it was Ned."  He appeared to be greatly surprised when he found that he had stabbed the wrong person.

   By the prisoner - I did not see you draw the knife.

   By the COURT - I am not aware that there was any animosity between the prisoner and Edward before this time.

   The man Edward was next called, and deposed that he was assisting to pull in the jib sheet along with the prisoner and the other members of the watch.  Prisoner fell down, and he fell on top of him.  Thompson then came up on to the forecastle, and he and prisoner said something.  It was blowing rather hard, and he could not tell what was said.  Prisoner drew his knife and stabbed Thompson in the back.  He did not know why Thompson did it.

   In answer to the prisoner witness said he saw him draw the knife.   Prisoner fell down, and he fell on top of him.  He did not put his hands on prisoner's throat, and hold him down.

   By the COURT. - He had had trouble with the prisoner before, and on one occasion prisoner had threatened to kill him.

   CHARLES PETERSON, an able seaman on board, gave confirmatory evidence.  He distinctly stated that he saw prisoner draw the knife and stab Thomson.  The night was dark, and he supposed this was the reason prisoner stabbed Thomson instead of Edward.

   THOMPSON was recalled, and said he was stabbed in the middle of the back.  The wound confined him to the forecastle for two days, and for the other two days he was unable to do his usual work.

   Captain BRAG, the master of the vessel, deposed that he dressed the wound on Thompson's back.  It was an inch deep, and prevented his doing his usual work for three or four days.  Prisoner was a troublesome man on board.

   This was all the evidence on the part of the prosecution.

   Prisoner, in defence, read a written statement which he had prepared.  It was to the effect that the members of the watch were on the forecastle, hawling aft the jib sheet, when the man Edward trod on his toes.  He gave him a push, whereupon Edward got hold of him, knocked him down over the anchor, and held him down by the throat for three or four minutes.  He felt something lying near him, and picked it up and threw it at Edward.  Thompson happened to be coming up just at the time and it struck him.  Prisoner did not know it was his knife that he had thrown. Then he was taken aft and put in irons until four o'clock the following morning.

   When liberated he got ready to go to his work and was walking forward when the mate asked him where he was going to.  He told him, and the mate said "I thought I told you not to go forward without asking me; I'll make you do my bidding."  He replied, "You can't do much more than what you are doing," whereupon he was taken aft to the Captain, who told him that because he would not obey orders he would have to be punished.  The mate then tied him up with a chain and gave him bread and water.  He was kept tied up with the chain for one day.  The chain was taken off and he was tied up with a rope, and fed with bread and water for nine days.  Afterwards he got a little hash and two biscuits a day.

   In bad weather his clothing and bed got wet, and he had to throw the bed overboard because it was stinking with wet ands dirt.  Before hawling up North he was nearly dead with cold.  Some days he could not stir with the pains.  When near the line he was kept below, and the place was so unpleasant that he was nearly suffocated with the heat.  He complained to the captain, who said he could have an ice-house made for him.  But the captain gave him a little more air, by knocking out one of the ports.  On the 28th march the rope was taken off him, and he was allowed to go on deck every day until the 25h April, when the mate accused him of pointing at one of the men.  He denied having done so, and the mate then used bad language, ordered him below, and tied him up again.

   He had been treated like a dog.  He was kept under gratings, could hardly ever get any fresh air, and the irons got rusty and cut into his flesh, the matte having to oil them to get them on and off.  All the men could testify to the way in which he had been treated on board.

   Having read the foregoing statement, prisoner said he had two witnesses to call.  Neither of them saw what took place when Thompson was stabbed, but if they were not afraid of speaking they could say how he had been treated.  If they said much it would be bad for them during the passage home, and he did not wish them to suffer for him.

   In answer to the COURT, prisoner said he should like to have the two witnesses called.

   JOHN SCHOFIELD, one of the sailors on board the Ringleader, deposed that he was below when the stabbing took place, and what he knew about it had been told to him by others.  He had seen the prisoner tied up with a rope, and the place was wet.  He had seen a black mark on his wrist, but had not noticed it very much, nor had he noticed very much how he (prisoner) was treated.

   CHARLES BROWN, another seaman on board, was the other witness.  He did not see the stabbing, and said that he knew prisoner had been tied up but did not know how he had been treated.

   Prisoner had nothing more to say, but hoped the Court, in coming to a decision, would consider the way in which he had been treated.

   The COURT then adjourned, and judgment will be given in the course of a few days.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School