Thursday, December 1, 2011

Justice Trembling in the Balance

Part 3 of 4: The Witness is Worthy of Credit

While John Kehoe “languished in durance vile” in Pottsville Prison for two and a half years, the witness who could prove his innocence lived 90 miles away from Kehoe’s hometown. For General Charles Albright, the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company attorney who served as a special prosecutor during the “Molly Maguire” trials—dressed in full Civil War regalia—had circulated the false rumor that Patrick McHugh was dead.

“His brother died in 1874 & Gen’l Albright supposing it to be the witness conveyed a strong impression to the friends of Kehoe,” Towanda attorney William Foyle told Pennsylvania’s Governor John Hartranft ten days before Kehoe’s scheduled execution. “The General was acquainted with the witness and his impressions were incorrect in regard to his death.”

Albright’s incorrect “strong impression” allowed valuable time to slip by, while editors, attorneys and politicians wrangled over the signing of Kehoe’s death warrant.


“McHugh is shure [sic] Jack Kehoe was not present at the murder of Langdon. McHugh is a man of good character and I believe truthful in every respect,” Foyle told Hartranft urgently. “His affidavit is not trumped up to meet the emergency but in my judgment is entitled to great weight in the final disposition of the case. The witness can produce certificates of character without any trouble.”

Foyle stated Kehoe's case to Hartranft plainly: “I drew the affidavit at the request of Mrs. Kehoe who came into my office yesterday and have no further connection with the case and no interest in it except to see that justice is done. I know this new evidence will withstand the utmost scrutiny and will vindicate your action ... and must satisfy even the Philadelphia Times which is craving for Jack Kehoe’s blood innocent or guilty. It makes no difference to me pecuniarily or otherwise whether Jack Kehoe is hung or not, but it does make a difference to all of us and especially to you Governor as chief executive of the State whether an innocent man shall be hanged in the face of the discovered evidence establishing his innocence.”

“Kehoe’s wife left for Pottsville last night to place the affidavit in the hands of his counsel,” Foyle advised Hartranft, “and I suppose you will be furnished with a certified copy very soon of the affidavit. My object in addressing you is to assure you and the other members of the Court that this affidavit is reliable, and McHugh the witness is worthy of credit. As to myself I am well known to all the people of my county and would not attempt to misrepresent the case in any respect.”


Coming December 8 - Part 4 of 4: All the Machinery of the Pinkerton Agency

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