MURDER TRIAL SENTENCE
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22d, 1862
Supreme Judicial Court February Term---Judge Merrick presiding
The February Term of the Supreme Judicial Court for this County commenced its session in this town, on Tuesday morning, the 18th inst., Judge Merrick presiding, the Chief Justice being temporarily present for the purpose of imposing the sentence of death upon George C. Hersey. -- There was quite a large attendance of spectators, including several ladies.
Hersey was brought into Court at 9¼ o'clock, after which an impressive prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Bacock of this town. Attorney General Foster then made the following motion: "May it please your Honor: George C. Hersey, tile prisoner at the bar, at a former term of this Court, was arraigned upon an indictment found against him by the Grand Jury of this County for the willful murder of Betsey Frances Tirrell, to which he pleaded not guilty. Counsel of his own selection was assigned to him by the Court. After a thorough and patient trial, in which his defense was conducted with fidelity and zeal, an impartial jury returned a verdict of guilty in the first degree. His exceptions and a motion filed in arrest of judgment have been overruled, after solemn argument, before the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth.
It remains my painful duty to move the Court to impose upon him the sentence of the law for the crime of which he stands convicted. This motion I now make."
The clerk then called on the prisoner, and asked him if he had anything to say why the sentence of the law should not be passed upon him. To this Hersey replied in a clear, calm voice: "I have nothing to say, sir."
Judge Bigelow rose, and all in Court following his example, the judge thus addressed the prisoner:
JUDGE BIGELOW'S ADDRESS
George C. Hersey--It now becomes the painful duty of the Court to award against you the judgment, which the law affixes to the crime of which you stand convicted. --Under the humane provisions of our law, there is but one offence the commission of which subjects tile guilty party to a forfeiture of life. In the brief and simple, but expressive and solemn language of the statute, it is enacted that "whoever is guilty of murder in the first degree shall suffer the punishment of death." Of tills high and heinous offence--the taking of human life "with deliberately premeditated malice aforethought,” a jury carefully selected by yourself, and after has found you guilty patient and impartial trial, in which the counsel assigned by the Court to conduct your defense, have with great zeal and earnestness exerted their professional skill and ability in your behalf. To this verdict and to the sufficiency of the indictment, we have been able to find no valid objection by reason of any error in law; nor upon a deliberate and careful review of the evidence adduced at the time, can we see any aspect of the case by which a fair, conscientious and honest jury could have arrived at a different result. In the justice of your conviction, the Court are constrained to express their full and entire concurrence. The verdict was the necessary and inevitable conclusion resulting from the evidence of your guilt, as disclosed at the time. There are no circumstances to mitigate the atrocity of your crime. It stands without palliation. A man of mature years--after an experience in life which ought to have had the effect of moderating your passions and chastening your spirit--you permitted yourself to entertain an illicit passion for a young and inexperienced female, upon whom you practiced the vile arts of tile seducer. Having accomplished the gratification of your lust, you next sought to remove all evidence of your guilt, and at the same time, to avoid making that reparation to the injured woman, which you had promised, and which could alone atone for the great wrong you had done her. In the execution of this purpose you resolve to take her life. With a resolute and premeditated atrocity, you resorted to means which left to your victim no power of self-defense, and which insured the speedy and certain accomplishment of your wicked design.-- Under such circumstances, you cannot expect or ask for sympathy or clemency.-- The stern demands of the law can alone be regarded. What a lesson is taught by your example! How clearly does the history of your offence show that lust and evil passion, when once indulged, lead their victim by straight and certain paths, to swift destruction, and that artifice and cunning and deceit are of no avail to screen the guilty, or to enable them to elude the keen eye of justice. To others the lesson thus taught may be profitable. To you the contemplation of the enormity of your guilt, although it cannot save you from the penalty of your crime, may nevertheless serve as a means to arouse your conscience, and to enable you to seek for repentance and forgiveness in that divine source which is now your only refuge. We earnestly exhort you to lose no time in humbling yourself before God, and by sincere contrition and heartfelt prayer for pardon, to prepare yourself to meet the great and final change, which awaits you in the execution of the solemn sentence, which, as ministers of the law, it is now our duty to pronounce upon you.
-- That sentence is--
That you be taken from this place to the common jail of the County of Norfolk, there to remain, until, on such day as shall be fixed by the executive government of the
Commonwealth, you be thence removed to the place of execution, there to be hung by the neck until you are dead. And may God have mercy on your soul.
During the remarks of the Chief Justice, the prisoner stood with his eyes fixed upon the Judge's desk, manifesting throughout the whole trying scene the utmost self-possession. At the conclusion of the remarks of the Chief Justice, the prisoner was remanded to jail.
Since his first confinement more than a year since, Hersey has maintained a wonderful degree of equanimity, nothing in his demeanor indicating him as a man charged with the commission of a most heinous crime, and of whose guilt there can be little doubt. He has been very quiet and orderly; never committing any infraction of the rules of the Institution, and from the first has persisted in declaring his innocence of the charge of homicide.
The regular business of the term was resumed.
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