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Colonial Cases

United States v. Magher, 1879


United States v. Magher

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Bailey, 31 December 1879
Source: The North China Herald, 8 January 1880



31st December.

Before D. H. BAILEY, Esq., Consul-General, sitting as Judge.


   The prisoner in this case was a sergeant of Marines on board U.S.S. Monocacy, and was brought up in custody charged with stealing a seal skin of the value of $2.50 from the store of the prosecutor, on the evening on Sunday last.

   Lieut. CLAY of the U.S.S. Monocacy sat on the bench beside His Honour.

   Mr. STRIPLING appeared for the prosecution.

   The first witness called was the boy in the service of Chang-chow, who was in the store at the time the alleged offence took place, but owing to the absence of the interpreter, his evidence was not proceeded with at that time, but he returned to the witness stand after the arrival of that gentleman.

   FRANK SHIRTLIFFE, a seaman belonging to the Monocacy deposed that he and the prisoner went to Chang-chow's shop on Sunday evening to get some money.  They had both gone there often before for that purpose.  When they went in, Chang-chow went out the back way.  The prisoner, who was under the influence of liquor, asked the boy the price of the skin; the boy seemed unwilling that he should have it, and went to see Chang-chow about it; witness and prisoner left the shop, and subsequently prosecutor and other Chinese came up with the police and arrested the prisoner.  He was sure that the skin had been on the counter in the shop, and that a conversation had taken place with regard to the skin.

   WONG A KOW, the boy alluded to above, cautioned, said that about 8 p.m. on Sunday evening, prisoner and another sailor entered his master's shop, and enquired for the proprietor.  He told them he was out, but sent some one to call him.  The prisoner, who had evidently been drinking, took up the skin and struck his companion with it.  Witness tried to pacify him, but he continued acting in this manner, and finally ran away with the skin in his hand.  Witness knew him to be a petty officer belonging either to the Monocacy or the Ashuelot, but did not know which of them.  After the prisoner left the store with the skin, witness followed him, and told a policeman who was in front of the Hongkew Church of the occurrence.  The latter followed him, caught him, and took possession of the skin.  He identified the skin produced in Court as the one in question.

   In reply to Mr. STRIPLING, witness said that the skin was in prisoner's hand when he left the shop.  Prisoner was then dressed as he was in Court, except that he had an overcoat on; he did not know he was a non-commissioned officer, but thought he was a marine.  Prisoner had not said anything about buying the skin, nor had he asked the price of it; he was the only man who took up the skin; the other man did not behave in a disorderly way; he did not know that anything else was taken.  He shouted to the man to bring back the skin when he followed him on the street; the policeman also went after him.  The skin was in prisoner's hand when he was arrested.  He had got in to a jinrikisha at the garden bridge.  He had no doubt as to the identity of the skin; its value was $2.50.  Witness would not have given prisoner credit for the skin without the consent of his master and a word from the officers of the ship.

   In reply to the prisoner, Chang-chow averred that he had only given him credit before when payment had been vouched for by some officer.  He also denied having lent the prisoner $10 on a previous occasion.

   Chow A-kow, cautioned, gave evidence in the main the same as that of the last witness.  Prisoner came to the store with another man then in Court.  He picked up the skin produced and struck his companion with it.  Witness tried to interfere; the prisoner went out of the store with the skin in his hand; policemen subsequently pursued and arrested him.

   In reply to questions from the CONSUL-GENERAL, witness stated that the prisoner had the skin in his hand most of the time, but that it was under his arm at the time of his arrest.  There was no attempt at concealment; prisoner had been to the store three or four times previously; he knew he belonged to an American man-of-war; the proprietor of the shop made clothes for men on board it.

   P.C. JOHN THISTLE sworn, stated in answer to Mr. Stripling that he was on duty on Sunday evening last about 8 p.m. near Chang-chow's store; two men running attracted his attention; these men were now in Court, he did not know where they came from, but they went past him towards Hongkew Bridge; he did not try to stop them when they passed him; he followed them afterwards because he understood from the Chinaman that they had stolen a skin and a cap.  He and another constable stopped the prisoner as he was entering a jinrikisha at the Bridge, into which his companion seemed unwilling that he should go; he had the skin produced under his coat; witness took it to the police station.  Prisoner was pretty well in liquor, and though he could walk very well, he was not in full possession of all his faculties.  He was not violent when arrested though he said he did not want to go to the station.  He identified the skin as the one in possession of the prisoner when arrested and the witness Shirtliffe as the man who was his companion at the time.

   In reply to the CONSUL-GENERAL, witness said that the prisoner made no attempt to conceal the skin, but gave it up directly.  He made no denial of the offence.

   No further evidence being forthcoming for the prosecution, for the defence,

   FRANK SHIRTLIFFE re-called, said that about 7.30 on Sunday evening he and the prisoner went to Chang-chow's to get some money; the proprietor was there when they entered, but he left immediately after by the back way.  The prisoner asked the boy who attended them how much the skin was worth, and the boy tried to take it away from him.  The prisoner then began to slap the skin around and went out with it, followed by the witness.  He was sure that the prisoner had asked the value of it.  Prisoner had been in the habit of getting clothes and money there before; he told the boy to charge the skin to him, and ran away.
   The prisoner had no questions to put to the witness, but stated that his evidence was correct.

   The Prisoner, being  sworn, said that he went with Shirtliffe to Chang-chow's store to get some money; he asked the boy how much the skin was worth, but the boy said he could not sell it in his master's absence; he took up the skin, and told the boy to charge it to him.  He made no effort to conceal the skin; he was arrested by two policemen; he had no intention of defrauding the Chinaman; he was well known at the store.

   Lieut. CLAY, of the U.S. corvette Monocacy, sworn, said that he knew something of the prisoner's reputation on board ship, and it had impressed him very favourably.  He had not been on the ship very long, but he had heard him well spoken of.

   The CONSUL-GENERAL did not think that any evidence had been produced which shewed intent to steal; there had not been any attempt at concealment; there had been some bargaining about the skin, and the prisoner had asked to have it charged to him.  The offence was not done clandestinely, it was not denied, but the property was shown at once as soon as the arrest was made.  There was no evidence to shew that there had been intent to commit a theft, and considering all these circumstances, he should discharge the prisoner.

   The Court then rose.

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