Friday, August 26, 2011

Big Rapids, Michigan Scandal Redux

My last post mentioned an article I came across in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan).  It described the arrest and imprisonment of a young lady named Sarah Miller for public intoxication in the City of Big Rapids (Mecosta County, Michigan) in early December of 1877.  M. C. Byers, Thomas Ward, and Edward Hooper were found guilty of Assault and Battery (even though the original news item hinted at rape without ever mentioning it).  The Pioneer Magnet on December 27, 1877 mentions the trio were appealing the guilty verdict and the case would now go to Circuit Court.

I came across the following story published in the Pioneer Magnet dated January 31, 1878 and can be found on Page 5 column 4:
The People vs. Byers et. al. charged with assault and battery upon the person of Sarah Miller, on the 13th of December last, came on to be heard last Friday.  The case went to the jury on Saturday forenoon, who returned a verdict of "not guilty" after being out a short time.  It was evident to the minds of the jury and all who were present that the boys were not guilty of the charge brought against them, however guilty they may have been of some minor offence.
Not guilty!  I just love the last clause "however guilty they may have been of some minor offence".  Without knowing anything about the individuals, including Sarah Miller, I wonder what really happened.  The first trial was in front of a justice of the peace.  The appeal was in front of a jury.  This was a small town and Sarah Miller was not a resident of town - in fact she was probably still in prison at this time.  I just wonder if this was a case of a town 'taking care of their own' even though they knew what these men were actually guilty of doing.

Was this a miscarriage of justice or was this a case of justice being done?  I'll keep looking...

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