Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A step in the right direction....

Berwick Homicide Case

Naugle and Bellas Found Guilty
of Voluntary Manslaughter,
and Get Two Years.

Verdict Generally Approved.

   On Friday morning the jury in the case of Naugle and Bellas, on trial for shooting the Italian, Verdi, returned a verdict of " guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and ask for the mercy of the court." In the afternoon the prisoners were brought up, and in passing sentence Judge Staples said:

   "This case has given the Court considerable trouble in arriving at just what its duty is in the premises. We are aware of the condition of affairs in West Berwick. We know some of the people who live there and what the people of that neighborhood have to contend with; but there are other questions to be considered as well as what might be classed the dangerous element that is there, and that is the fact that homicide is growing more and more prevalent each year; not only in your own community but in every part of the United States and any reasonable man who has at heart the welfare of his country must look with horror upon the present condition of affairs in that regard.

   "It seems there is a large class of people in the United States who have no regard whatever for human life. They forget that the same blood which courses through their veins courses through the veins of all others of the human race and that their lives are as dear to them and their families as the lives of the people who commit the homicide; and if we permit cases of this kind to go without any punishment whatever it is simply saying to the people that if a good excuse is offered for the commission of manslaughter or homicide they can easily get off and it adds to that alarming condition of affairs in our country.

   "There is another reason in connection with this case and that is that while officers of the law are clothed with authority yet for that very reason the Commonwealth demands of them that they shall use that authority with which they are clothed with the greatest caution. This case is an evidence of the want of that caution on the part of you two men in the use of firearms and the exercise of your authority.

   "It is not the purpose of the Court to go into details and recite the facts of this case, but there evidently was something wrong in your actions upon that day in which Verdi was killed. In addition to that there was something wrong in this Court. In our experience there never has been a case tried before the court in which there was more falsehood from start to finish on both sides of the case than there was in this. It is the opinion of the Court that there was false testimony on both sides hard to get at it is true; but from our experience in the trial of cases we feel sure that neither side were telling the exact truth in relation to this matter.

   "The jury evidently gave this case very careful consideration. The Court defined to the jury, it thinks, in specific terms and in plain terms the different degrees and the different penalties if the evidence of them was established and that they, giving the whole case careful consideration, taking hours to do it, arrived at what was probably a just conclusion in the matter.

   "Officers of the law in the case of misdemeanor have no right to use deadly weapons in attempting to make an arrest unless the resistance offered to them is of such a dangerous character as would warrant their calling into use deadly weapons in order to protect themselves from great bodily injury or impending death.

   "Upon the other hand we deem it advisable to say at this time that this case does not give individuals whom they are attempting to arrest license to resist. If an officer of the law in attempting to arrest a person charged with a misdemeanor is cautious and uses only the authority and powers given to him by the law as they arise and in such an affray the person resisting and resisting so as to warrant the belief in impending danger upon the officer death should ensue to that individual, the officer would be excused and if such a case were before this court the court would so instruct the jury.

   "We feel, however, that you two men did not use the caution you ought to have used; that when you approached these men you approached them in such a way as to alarm them and that there was some reason for resistance, if there was any upon their part, and that you acted in a reckless way, or reckless of the consequences of your act.

   "Under the recommendation of the jury we unanimously feel, however, that mercy ought to be extended to you and the Court heartily joins in that recommendation of the jury. The maximum sentence for an offense of this kind is 12 years. We could send you to the penitentiary for a long term. It is not the intention of this Court to do this but we are going to sentence you to such a term as will impress itself upon the community, impress itself upon you, and impress itself upon all the officers of the law in the county of Columbia, at the same time cautioning individuals when they resist arrest by an officer they themselves run the risk of great danger to themselves and, perhaps, some times of death for which the officers attempting to make the arrest would be excusable.

   "The sentence of the Court is that you George C. Bellas and Jacob Naugle pay the costs of prosecution in this case,. a fine each of $100 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the use of the county of Columbia and that you each undergo imprisonment in the Eastern penitentiary located in the city of Philadelphia for the term of two years to be computed upon this day and stand committed until the sentence is complied with."

[The Columbian, Bloomsburg, PA., Thursday, September 14, 1905. Vol. 40, No. 37 Pg. 1]

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