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James Norris - Manslaughter case

Journal by jnorriss

The following is a report from The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Saturday 6 October 1900


James Norris, on bail, was called onto answer a charge of feloniously killing one James Wooden at Peak Hill on
May 20. At this stage his Honor said he had received a telegram purporting to come from a Dr. Holmes (who apparently was a material witness in the case) to the effect that he had met with an accident and could not attend. The Crown Prosecutor applied for a postponement of the case.
[His Honor: [Till when-and on what grounds?]
On the grounds that Dr. Holmes could not be present, as the Court saw; and till a later hour when he (the Crown Prosecutor) would make a further application.

His Honor said he must have a definite application before him. Ultimately his Honor, on affidavit filed by Mr. Kidston (who was instructing for the Crown), granted an adjournment of the sitting till 3pm to allow the Crown Prosecutor time to consult the Attorney-General or to take such other steps as he might think necessary reproceeding on a fresh indictment, -or applying for a postponement of the original case to a definite Court.

At 3pm James Norris was arraigned for having at Peak Hill assaulted James Wooden with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The accused was defended by Mr.Kelynack, instructed by Mr. R. J. J. Ryan. In reply to Mr. Kelynack, his Honor said he thought a nolle prosequi should be entered against the original indictment if this could legally be done then and there.

After argument, The Crown Prosecutor held that it was very doubtful whether his commission extended so far; and his Honor concurred. The Crown Prosecutor then promised to see that the nolle prosequi asked for was entered and the case proceeded. The prisoner challenged four jurors. A fifth (Mr. Giugni) did not present himself when called, but entered Court a minute later. His Honor at first said he would most certainly fine him, but afterwards discharged him with a reprimand.

George Wooden deposed that 0n May 20, he and his brothers Alfred and James were at a banquet at Peak Hill, connected with the Mafeking celebration; met the prisoner ; a discussion came up about fighting ; prisoner used some bad language which led to a scuffle ; witness and his brothers then went on to the house of their brother Emmanuel; prisoner lived just opposite ; a little later prisoner and Alfred Wooden had a round or two; then prisoner's father and" Mick" Mackenzie, who had come on the scene, interfered and struck James; a round took place between James Wooden and Mackenzie, followed by another ; prisoner came up alongside James and hit him over the head with a stick ; James fell and then raised himself 0n one elbow and fell back ; prisoner ran away, and witness followed him into the house and caught him and they got into " hoults;
prisoner's father came in with a stick and struck witness ; witness turned and threw them both on the floor ; Alfred came and brought him out; went out and a little later witness caught prisoner outside and they had another fight, in which prisoner's father joined ;about half an hour later be saw James in Emmanuel Wooden's house ; he was suffering from a large wound on the right side of the head, about two and a half inches long ; it was cut to the bone; Dr. Holmes attended him; he was under treatment at Emmanuel's house, and witness saw him daily; he (James) died on June 1; [Prisoner was here asked if he admitted this fact, and stated that he did] ; wit-ness had no stick in his hand that night: later he saw Sergeant O'Brien there ;the sergeant asked if prisoner was the man who committed the assault, and in prisoner's hearing witness said " Yes young James Norris"; prisoner said" Didn't Mick do it"; witness replied" No" Sergeant O'Brien then took witness into custody.

Cross-examined : There were at least eight toasts that night; did not have any drinks; was not excited that night; did pull off his coat and offer to fight any man on the cyanide works ; a con-stable came up and told him to go home ;prisoner offered to back witness to fight a man named Phillips; prisoner got ex-cited and Alfred told him to go home; did not hear Tuckwell's name mentioned ;Alfred eventually rushed at prisoner, who ran home; the row did not start at prisoner's gate-it started lower down the street; had been very friendly with the Norris family and Mackenzie up to that time ; didn't hear prisoner's father say "For God's sake come in, Jim, don't let's have any fighting"; did not say" if you don't let him come out we'll tear the place down "

His Honor at this stage interposed, and asked how could it matter in any case. The cross-examination seemed not to bear on the real question. The facts elicited so far were immaterial. If a blow - were struck, unless the blow
were struck in self-defence and was no more severe than was absolutely required, then the person striking the blow was guilty. Mr. Kelynack said that it went to a question of credibility. His line of de-fence was that prisoner was repelling an attack by the Wooden party. It would be for the jury to say whose story was the more to be believed. Prisoner woulddeny that he struck the blow. He would not take up more time than was really necessary.
His Honor said he would not further object.

The cross examination was then continued. Alfred Wooden gave evidence as to the quarrel with prisoner and party; heard prisoner calling out and saying he wanted to fight " that ______Alf. Wooden" said "I'm here" prisoner then came up and put himself in a fighting attitude ; be did not appear tobe drunk ; they had a scuffle and fight ;then James and Mackenzie were shaping up, when prisoner came towards James and struck him on the head with a sticklike that produced ; George then chased him into the house, and prisoner's father and brothers joined in ; [witness then described the general melee that followed].

Richard Burrows and Jas. Emmanuel Wooden also gave evidence.

By consent Dr. Tresidder was allowed to remove part of the stick produced in the case in order to microscopically ex-amine stains upon it. Later, Dr. Tresidder deposed to having made a microscopical examination of stains on the stick produced ; there was mammalian blood on it; tested it microscopically and chemically; believed it was not yet possible to distinguish one sort of mammalian blood from another, i.e. human blood from blood of the lower animals.

John Tink appeared to explain his absence as a juror from the Court earlier in the sitting. After hearing his explanation-that he had not received a summons his Honor remitted the fine.

His Honor asked the jury if they had been made comfortable We during the night. The jury, through their foreman (Mr. Mumford), replied that they had been, and desired to acknowledge the courtesy and consideration extended to them
His Honor said he was glad to hear this, and was especially glad that this was almost universally becoming the experience where jurors were locked up now-a-days. The jury, however, had in such a case to thank the-Deputy-Sheriff and the officers of the Court rather than himself (the Judge)

Dr. Richard Holmes appeared and explained that he was unable to attend on previous day owing to the fact that he was injured in Hyde Park on Sunday and was suffering from the effects. He deposed that on May 21st he examined at Emmanuel Wooden's house a young man named James Wooden who was suffering from a scalp wound (described the wound) he was suffering from concussion of the brain; finally saw him dead; found a wound in the shape of an equilateral triangle immediately above the right ear; the cause of death was
fracture of the base of the skull and (consequent inflammation of the brain and its membranes; had before seen the stick produced; the injuries could have been caused by a blow from the stick-they could have been caused by a person falling on it; be would have to fall with force equal to that used in a blow; if the ground were level a fall on the stick would not cause a wound each as appeared on James Wooden; if the person striking the blow on the deceased were sufficiently tall he could inflict such a blow.

O. J. Doyle deposed that between 12 and one on the morning of Sunday, 21st, be beard a scuffle outside Norris's house; saw James Wooden lying on the footpath ; saw blood all over his face; raised his head and otherwise attended to him ; saw the prisoner that night before the scuffle -be was wearing a white shirt.

Constable O'Brien said that on the morning of May 21st he went to Norriss house ; saw James. Wooden there suffering from a wound ; asked who did it ;George Wooden said it was the prsoner (who was present) ; prisoner said " It was not me-wasn't it Mick that did it ?" George Wooden replied "No-it was you"; had seen prisoner during Saturday night; found at Norris's house the stick produced; there were then wet bloodstains on it; found one part in one room and another part in the other ; the stick had evidently been split; the next day witness said "This is blood on this stick witness's father said "Yes, my nose was bleeding - those marks came from my fingers at the time. A spot was afterwards pointed out as that on which James Wooden was lying when he fell; there were impressions on the soil and some blood marks.

Constable Wynne deposed to being in company with Sergeant OBrien when that officer effected the arrest; Norris sen. complained that the Woodens had entered his house on the previous night and pulled the blankets off the bed ; had met tbe Wood ins on Saturday night; they were sober, but George Wooden had evidently had some liquor; had to tell him to go home; it was a moonlight night.

Oliver Doyle was recalled, and briefly examined.

This closed the Crowns case.

The accused James Norris, then gave evidence on his own behalf, and deposed he was miner, and resided
at Peak Hill; had known the Woodens for nearly two years -had been on friendly terms with them ; was at the Mafeking banquet on the night of May 19; walked along with various friends ; was with the three Woodens near Alfred Woordin's place; somei talk came up about fighting; George Wooden offered to fight a certain man (not present) for 5; had some more conversation; ultimately Alf. Wooden ran him away ; he threatened to kick him (prisoner) ; after going home he (prisoner) came out of the house calling Mackenzie to come; saw all the Woodens outside ; his (prisoners) father told him to come in and have no fighting; George Wooden said if he did not come out they would pull the house down ; went out to have a fight with Alf- Wooden ; did not say anything to him, but when he went out Alf- Wooden rushed at him ; did not go down some distance from his fathers house till he met Alf. Wooden ; did not pass the other Woodens to get at him; they |he and Alf. Wooden) had a fight. Got in hoults and fell; James interfered and threw him (prisoner) against a fence; then he and James started to fight; the next thing: he saw was James fall -did not know by what means ; had no stick in his (prisoner's) hand : went to get some water for James at his (prisoner's) father's request ; as he came back through the house George Wooden rushed him in the house; they scuffled and got in hoults; this was close to his (prisoner's) father's room; Alf Wooden came in, and witness and his father put the Woodens out; his (prisoner's) sisters were, in the bedroom screaming ; his father went to go back to where James Wooden was lying, and George Wooden rushed him and they got in hoults and fell; he, his father, and Mackenzie went inside and shut the door ; just afterwards he (prisoner) saw the stick in the house; had not used it or any 0ther that night; did not see his father beating anyone with a stick during the evening; he (prisoner) did not use anything but his fists that night.

Cross-examined:- Did not remember saying to the police officers" Wasn't it Mick that did it"; did
not use to Alfred Wooden the language deposed to; was sober that night; was wearing a white shirt that night.

James Norris, senr., father of prisoner, deposed that he was a miner and resided at Peak Hill; did not go to the Mafeking banquet there on May 19th; went to bed about 10-45 pm; later heard his son James calling out; partially dressed and went out.; saw the three Woodens and James at the gate; called out "Don't go fighting:

George Wooden called out "Let him come or we'll burst the house in then prisoner and Alfred started fighting; saw James interfere ; then saw him knocked out and he (witness)picked him up; prisoner had no stick in his hand ; Mackenzie was not then present-he was not then fighting with James Wooden; stooped down to lift his head and heard his (witness's) children screaming; then heard some smashing in his own house and ran in ; then saw George and Alfred Wooden there and the prisoner ; saw a big stick in Alfred Wooden's hand-similar to the stick produced ; took it from him and handed it to his daughter and told her to put that away; scuffled with the
Woodens, and with prisoner's help eventually put them out; was severely injured in the scuffle ; his nose was bleeding; his ribs were broken ; his nose was bleeding all over him, and he kept wiping it away with his fingets; did not remember telling the sergeant and did not see Mackenzie come out at all; was within one yard of James Wooden when he fell; did try to lift him after he fell ; satw no cut on his head then; sang out to his son "William when he (witness) first came out; took no part in the fighting.
Michael Mackenzie gave corroborative evidence.

Alfred Sharps, William Norris, Wm McCaesland, and Catherine A.J. Norris were also called.
Mr- Keilnack addressed the jury for the defence.
The Crown Prosecutor replied.

Report continued on page 4,

DUBBO CIRCUIT COURT (Continued from Page 6)
His Honor in summing up pointed out that it was open to the jury to return a verdict of maliciously wounding if they were satisfied that witness struck the blow, but were not satisfied of his intent. The jury had first to decide, whether prisoner struck the blow and whether he was justified in self defence in so doing. No question of justification, however had been set up. He laid stress on the fact that the 'witnesses for the defence could give no explanation as to what made the deceased man fall. The Crown witnesses submitted an explanation, in which they all concurred. Was this all a lie? On the other hand the prisoner was entitled to any doubt that reasonable men might entertain. Prisoner would be guilty of maliciously wounding (the minor charge) if he struck intending to injure, however slightly, or if he struck wantonly! But be would be entitled to the benefit of any reasonable doubt ?

The jury retired, and after a deliberation of three quarters of an hour, returned into Court with a verdict of not guilty, and the accused was thereupon discharged.

His Honor thanked the jury for their attendance, and discharged them.

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on 2013-06-07 22:43:39

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