Monday, December 28, 2015

Seeking Swift Justice

What do you do when you stumble upon the fact that someone in your family tree had a colorful—or downright infamous—past? You follow the trail, of course.

That was what we began to do in the week leading up to Christmas—until the holidays insisted we set aside the series—with the story of a man known as John Hogue. No, James Gordon. No, James Stewart. Or maybe it was James Emmerson.

Whoever he really was, he had a penchant for switching surnames to go with that "James" moniker. And no matter who he was, he was now arrested for having shot a Canadian immigration officer who was in the process of escorting him back to the United States, where he was to stand trial for safe cracking in Michigan.

That was on January 27, 1917. It was no time at all when he appeared before the local magistrate in Windsor, then at a preliminary hearing on February 2. His case was to be tried before the Ontario Supreme Court, beginning on March 5, with Justice R. Sutherland presiding.

After the formalities of jury selection, the proceedings began in earnest at 9:30 on the morning of March 7.

I don't know whether the term "swift justice" was meant to be this literal, but by 5:00 that same evening, the jury retired to begin their deliberations. That, too, took surprisingly little time, and the jury returned later that same evening to announce their verdict.

Within minutes, the suspect was under sentence: he would die on the gallows on May 17.

Above: "A Backstreet in the Snow," 1895 watercolor by Irish impressionist landscape painter Walter Frederick Osborne; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Justice has certainly become very slow and not at all speedy in the USA these days. One has to wonder about the 10-15-20 years on death row cases.

    On the other hand - one sure has to hope they got the right guy!

    1. Seems like every time I found another newspaper article, the reporter had come up with yet another name for this guy! Yeah, makes you wonder how they managed to figure out who the culprit was.

  2. That seems to be a long time between sentencing and a hanging...not so swift if you ask me. :)

    1. Well...due process, you know. Mustn't be too hasty.


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