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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 58: LAW TAKES A HOLIDAY

Before the trial was to commence, one important matter had to be addressed; expenses. Sheriff Luther Wright, having incurred some expense for the trip, submitted his bill for five hundred and seventy-seven dollars. That money was to pay the six guards that had confined the Marauders and the expense of hauling the seven prisoners to San Francisco.

 When it came to asking money to pay bills, Ben Kelsey was no laggard. He submitted a bill for his travel and food expenses for $105. That bill was to pay for ‘victuals and lodging’ for himself and his six partners in crime. The New Court, unsure of their new responsibilities, both bills were paid.

What happened afterward was recorded in the law books, known as Case Number One, Volume Number One. Should you read that legal record today it would be clear that the seventy-five-year-old case report reflects the Supreme Court Justice’s legal uncertainties on that day.

That first decision the court made was easy. They didn’t even try to hear the case. They knew their limitations. Instead of deciding the case, they merely acknowledged that the seven men were charged with ‘perpetrating outrages.’

The Justices weren’t even sure whether they had the right to try these men. Jurisdiction was in question. They had never done this before and no one had any idea how to go ahead with the trial. The Justices were full of doubts and indecision.

 One Justice said, “Because our powers and practices were not yet sufficiently defined by law, we weren’t even part of the United States yet.”

“We had difficulty trying to figure out all the answers to the puzzling questions we all had. If we came up with some answers and had a trial, we had no jail to hold the seven men. If the District Courts were organized and in place, and the rules were known, perhaps, we should not even set bail for these prisoners.”

 They gave the prisoners bail anyway. The men were ordered to post ‘good and sufficient sureties’ they would appear in court to stand trial for murder in the Sonoma District Court. Bail was set at $3,000 each. Having done that much, the Court apologized to one and all.

Their excuse for their indecision and inaction was this; “The unfortunate circumstances facing this court included no judges, no jail and no authority to hear the case. Had not these reasons existed, the prisoners would have been remanded to the custody of the Sheriff.”

So, the prisoners were set free; probably forever. Because California had not yet been made a State, the people lived under Spanish Law, Mexican Law, and whatever Common law that existed in 1850.

The following September, California and Lake County became a part of the United States and American Judicial Law came to Lake County and California.

One of those California Supreme Court justices was Henry Lyons, father of Cora Lyons, who married Captain Floyd, the one-time Confederate Ships Captain, and later a Lake County Resident, who helped build the Mt. Hamilton telescope and a window on the stars.

One good thing came out of the circus; the Napa Raiders had been charged with murder. Although they escaped justice and went Scott-free, it cooled the passions of other such unlawful bands. They stopped killing Native Americans.

Next Episode: The Legend of Ben Moore

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

e-mail: genepaleno@gmail.com

Website: genepaleno.com

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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