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Colonial Cases

United States v. Cox, 1886

[assault by sailor]

United States v. Cox

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Kennedy, 11 August 1886
Source: North China Herald, 13 August 1886

Shanghai, 11th August 1886
Before George Kennedy, U.S, Consul-General.
  John Cox, a sailor was charged with assaulting Sergt. Burke, of the Shanghai Municipal Police.
  The Complainant, who appeared with his face badly cut and bruised, and his arm in a sling, stated that about twenty minutes to nine on Tuesday evening he saw a large crowd of Chinese blocking up the road and footpath in Broadway.  He went to disperse them, and found that they had gathered round the prisoner and another man, who were having an altercation with some jinricksha coolies.  Complainant asked what was the matter, and the prisoner said nothing.  Complainant then asked the men to go away and not cause an obstruction, and they said they would; but immediately afterwards the prisoner, who was putting his coat on, said, "No, I'm d----d if I will," pulled his coat off again, and knocked complainant down.  Complainant got up, and they had a struggle, the prisoner kicking him and biting him in the forehead. He drew his staff and struck the prisoner with it, but the strap came off the staff, and it fell from his hand.  The prisoner then threw him down, and saying "I will bite your b----- nose off, seized complainant by the cheek with his teeth.  Complainant called to P. C. Johansen, who was with him, "Strike him on the head with your staff; he is pulling the jaw out of me."  Johansen struck the prisoner on the head, but he would not let go, and complainant had to get away from him the best way he could.  The prisoner acted more like a wild beast than a man.  The prisoner had been drinking, but was sober enough to know what he was doing. On the way to the station he offered to give complainant thirty dollars to let him go, and when he effused, the prisoner said, "Well, if you won't I will do three months for you.  You b-------, I will corpse you when I come out."  Complainant's arm was sprained and he had been in great pain all night, not being able to lie down.
  P. C. Johansen corroborated this evidence.  In answer to his Honour he said he had only hit the prisoner on the head for the purpose of making him stop biting Sergt. Burke; he did not think he had hit the man harder than was necessary for this purpose.
  The Prisoner said he had no questions to put to either of these witnesses.
  George Kelly, a sailor, was then called as a witness for the defence.  He said he was with the prisoner on the previous day.  A little while before the occurrence, while witness and the prisoner were getting into a jinricksha, P. C. Johansen came up and thrust his head into the prisoner's 'ricksha in a  way that made Cox, who had  been drinking., a little bit "cranky." Johansen then went away, and soon came back with Burke, both having their staves drawn.  The prisoner had his coat off, and Burke told him to put it on.  Then, while witness was talking to Johansen, he saw the prisoner and Sergt. Burke struggling together. The prisoner was on his back, and Burke was sitting on him, when Johansen ran up and struck the prisoner on the head with his staff.  Both the policemen struck the prisoner with their staves.  Witness walked with the prisoner and the police to the station. But he never heard the prisoner offer Sergt. Burke thirty dollars to let him go.
  Witness did not see who began the struggle; he did not see the prisoner knock Sergt. Burke down, or bite him; but he was fifteen yards off, talking to Johansen, and could not see all that took place.  He did not hear the prisoner curse the police when they told him to put on his coat.
  The Prisoner, in answer to his Honour, said he did not want to give evidence.  He did not remember anything about the occurrence, as he was drunk at the time.  He remembered nothing until he found himself at the Police station when he woke next morning.
  The Gaoler examined the prisoner's head, and said there was a cut on the back of it, about an inch and a half long and nearly to the bone.
  His Honour, addressing the prisoner, said - Cox, it does not appear from the evidence in this case that when the police came you were committing any breach of the pace; nor is it very clear to me why these policemen interfered with you and the other man in the 'rickshas; and it strikes me that there was a little officiousness on the part of the police in this transaction.  At the same time they had a right to go there and disperse the crowd - they are the guardians of the peace, and they are the best judges of it.  I am not disposed to find fault with them for being over-cautious.  When I used the word officiousness I meant that possibly they may have been a little over-particular with this man.  I am prepared to give the weight of the evidence to the police, and to assume from what they say that you did curse this man when he told you to put your coat on.  By using that language you began a breach of the law, and not satisfied with that you knocked him down - his arm shows that.  You bit him, and ill-treated him very badly.  Now as to how much force they exercised in quieting you is a matter which, of course, I simply have to presume; and I asked the policeman whether you used more force than was necessary to make you quit biting the sergeant, and he said no.  However, you have a very severe cut on the head, and I think they may have lost their temper in trying to quiet you.  I think they ought to be very careful not to do that; they should not use any more force than is necessary to quiet you and take you to the police station.  You were drunk; and from what I have been told of the whiskey that is sold in Shanghai I believe it is enough to make a man strike his father; and, while drunkenness is no excuse, you have like a man acknowledged that you were drunk and know nothing about it, instead of attempting to excuse  your conduct.
 The sentence of the court is that you be confined in the Consular Gaol for ten days and pay a fine of $5.  And I hope it will be a lesson to you, because if you had attempted to extenuate your conduct you would have got a more severe punishment.  You have got a good face, and I have no doubt you are a good man; and the moral is - keep away from that whiskey.

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