Ayr Autumn Circuit;
The Autumn Circuit was opened in the Court House, County
Buildings. on Wednesday last October 4, 1848, by Lords Mackenzie
and Medwyn. .
WITH A FULL REPORT OF
THE TRIAL AND SENTENCE OF
JAMES M'WHEELAN or M'Queen was placed at the bar on a
charge of murder, as also robbery, in so far as, on the 26th or 27th of
May last, when on or near the turnpike road, commonly called Black-
hill Road, leading from Forty Acres Toll Bar, in one or more of the
parishes of Dundonald, Riccarton, and Symington, in Ayrshire, he did
wickedly and feloniously attack and assault James Young, then a farm
servant in the employment of Joseph Smith, farmer, Forty Acres, and
did, with a stone or some other instrument, strike the said James
Young severe blows on or near the head, and did. with chisel or some
other instrument, inflict a severe wound on or near his neck, to the
great effusion of his blood, in consequence of which he immediately
the reafter died, and was murdered by the said James M'Wheelan or
M'Queen. He was farther charged with having, time and place above
libelled, wickedly and feloniously, and by force and violence, taken
from his pocket a silver watch, a steel or other metal chain, a watch
key, a metal watch guard, and.fifteen shillings in silver money.
There were no fewer than 93 witnesses cited for this case, which, from the peculiar
barbarity and wantonness of the crime, excited a great interest. It commenced about
On being asked the question of guilty or not guilty the prisoner, an
Irishman, and a rather good looking stoutly built man, said, in a firm voice, " not guilty.'
A jury was then empannelled, and the case went to trial.
A number of witnesses were then examined, whose evidence went to prove the charge.
THURSDAY, 5TH OCTOBER,
The Court met at nine o'clock this morning.
Mr. MAITLAND, counsel for the Crown, addressed to the jury. He commented with
much emphasis upon the striking nature of the circumstantial evidence afforded in this
case: in particular as to the chisel found near the scene of the murder?also, as to the
possesion of the watch of the murdered man?and the napkln found on the road, all traced
directly to the possession of the prisoner at one time or other not distant from the mom-
ent of. the murder. He said that under a certain aspect circumstantial evidence was less
liable to misconstruction than even direct testimony. He then went over the evidence in
a very minute manner. He laid great stress upon the evidence of Thom, remarking that
the time at which the prisoner met him was just sufficient to have allowed of his walking
from the scene of the murder to the place wh re he overtaok Thom. He commented on
the general falsehood of the prisoners declaration. Harvey's evidence also he laid much
stress upon, by which the prisoner's direct possession of the watch was not only corro-
borated but fully borne out in everc particular by additional direct evidence. He spoke
to the general intelligence and sagacity of the witnesses Scott and Gebbie, particularly
alluding to their evidence in regard to the napkin found on the road, which, by a clear
chain of evidence was proved to have been in prisoners possession for a considerable
time and on the morning previous to the murder. He then alluded to the exculpatory
evidence, but contended that it wss not at all conclusive.
Mr. BOYLE, in behalf of the prisoner, would admit that the watch had belonged to
disceased and had been pledged at the instance of the prisoner, still it was not proved that
he might not have got it from the true robber and murderer; he maintained there were
no suspicious circumstances attending the pawning of the watch which had been pawned
in the prisoner's own name. The chisel found proved nothing more thon that it was the
instrument by which the murder was committed?nor had it been, traced to the prisoner.
The handkerchief was found at least a mile from the place of murder : it had no blood on
it, ane might not have been in any way connected with, the murder. He contended that
the exculpatory evinence of Wilson was of material importance, and commented at length
upon the probability of the prisoner having lost his handkerchief, if it was really his, in
passing the spot, before the murder was committed. Ae maintained teat it was incon-
ceivable that tne murderer, reeking from the deed, covered with blood could be seen in
Kilmarnock,?this was only spoken to by one witness, which by our law cannot prove ann
fact The attempt to corroborate it had failed. He insisted upon the value and cony
clusiveness of the evidence furnished by the exculpatory witness, in relation to the pris-
oner's having blood of calves on his clothes, and that he had endeavoured to clean that
off; the combatted the effort of the prosecutor to prove that the shaving off his whiskers
was an attempt on his part to ovade the officers of justice ; he.was never seen in company
with James Young by any one, noa within three miles of the place where the murder
occurred. Circumstantial evidence had been so usually defective that no work, of fact or
fiction had ever been written in which it was alluded to, where its inefficiency had not
Lord MACKENZIE then addressed the jury at great length, carefully going over the evid
ence on both sides.
The Jury then retired, and after an absence of about half an hour returned into Court,
and gave in a verdict unanimously finding the prisoner guilty as libelled
Lord MACKENZIE then said?James M'Wheelan or M'Queen, it is now my painful
duty to announce, that you have been convicted, by an unauimous verdict of the jury, of
the whole crimes charged against you?that crime, being no less than murder and rob-
qery. Robbery although a capital offence by the laws of Scotland, can be dealt with
mercifully: but the crime of murder can receive no mercy whatever. The punishment
is capital. " He that shedeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." The law
in this case, leaves me no dis retson, I'must do my duty. You must, therefore, consider
your life in this world at an end. A short time, and you will be conveyed to the scaffold
I can hold out no eopes of pardon Murder is always an atrocious Crime. There rem.
ains for you no hope this world. I cannot say that there will be no hope in the worl-
which is to come, You must stand before the judgment seat of Almighty God, when yod
will have to answer for this caime. His Lordship then, in the usual form sentened theu
prisoner, James M'Wheelan, or M'Queen, to be executed at Ayr. between the hoers of
eight or ten o'clock, on the forenoon of the 26th October current.
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Date of publication:
1848 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.73(123)
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