The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, JULY 16, 1889. THE KAIWARRA MURDER.
The feeling of surprise caused here by the verdict m the trial oi Louis Chemis, for the murder of Thomas Hawkins, at Kaiwarra, appears to have been general. .The evidence given at the trial as well as m the lower Court necessarily reached us m a very condensed form, and on comparing the telegraphed summary with the full reports which appear m the Wellington papers it is at once seen that while the chief points m the very indefinite and unsatisfactory evidence of the police were given due prominence to m the telegrams, the very definite evidence of civilian witnesses was not transmitted. "ihe police evidence showed a very strange want of intelligence on their p»rt. We should have thought for instance that the greenest of constsbles would have taken care that the scraps of paper found by them, and on which so much depended, should be afterwards identifiable beyond the reach of doubt ; instead of which these all-important pieces of evidence were passed from hand to hand, and when sroduced m Court nobody could swear whether they were the Bame pieces or not. Had it not been for the clear identification of the pieces found by others there would have been practically no evidence against Chemis. This class of evidence has led to several convictions for murder, and' a constable or detective of ordinary intelligence charged with the investigation of a murder by shooting seeks at once for the missiles and wads as carefully as for the weapon itself. We do not say that the evidence as given at the trial was insufficient to convict the accused, but we do say that the unsatisfactory account of their proceedings given by the police ha§ caused a feeling m his favor. There is a feeling m such cases — why there should be is hard to say — that the police evidence should be the backbone, so to speak, of the case, other evidence being supplementary and con firmatory # and the charge practically stands or falls by the expert evidence. In the Kaiwarra case this was reversed, indeed most of the police evidence was valueless, and the opinion that the evidence was insufficient to warrant a conviction was thus founded, strong representations will doubtless bo made m favor of r reprieve being granted to Chemis, and the evfdence will be weighed well before the sentence is carried out, of which there is little fear if there is a reasonable doubt of its being conclusive. If a respite be granted a grave responsibility rests upon the police, either through on the one hand allowing Chemis, if really guilty, to escape through their incompetency, or on the other, if Chemis be innocent, of allowing the actual perpetrator of so atrocious a murder to have time to escape while they were engaged m making their impotent.efforts to sheet the crime home to an innocent man.
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