The Trial of "Indian Joe": Race and Justice in the Nineteenth-Century West

By Clare V. McKanna Jr. | Go to book overview

Preface

On Sunday evening, October 16, 1892, José Gabriel allegedly killed John and Wilhelmina Geyser on their Otay Mesa farm near the border of Mexico in San Diego County. In 1985, while conducting research in the California State Archives, I discovered the intriguing 360-page murder trial transcript. After several readings I have a reasonable doubt as to whether José Gabriel committed the crime; moreover, I was—and still am—convinced that Gabriel did not receive a fair trial.

José Gabriel was born in 1832, in El Rosario, Baja California, 225 miles south of San Diego. El Rosario was the site of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, the first Dominican mission in Mexico, established in 1774. Built on a flood plain three and a half miles from the Pacific, the mission was surrounded by two impressive eight-hundred-foot mesas. These mesas bear a resemblance to Otay Mesa, and when Gabriel first ascended Chester's Grade, it may have reminded him of El Rosario. In his youth Gabriel probably spoke Borjeño (a sub-Yuman dialect); later he spoke Spanish, and in San Diego he was forced to make a third cultural change by learning some English.

José Gabriel worked as a common laborer chopping wood, digging cisterns, and performing other odd jobs. He earned from fifty cents to a dollar per day for his work. Living in San Diego County for twenty-five years, Gabriel worked for farmers and ranchers in Poway, Ballena, San Dieguito, Jamul, San Diego, and finally Otay. He usually

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The Trial of "Indian Joe": Race and Justice in the Nineteenth-Century West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Trial of “indian Joe” - Race and Justice in the Nineteenth-Century West *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations *
  • Preface *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Prologue - Murder on Otay Mesa *
  • 1 - The Prosecution *
  • 2 - The Defense *
  • 3 - The Judge and Jury *
  • 4 - The Crime Scene *
  • 5 - The Illusion of “indian Joe” *
  • 6 - The Scales of Justice *
  • Epilogue - Gabriel'sfate *
  • Appendix - Trial Exhibits *
  • Notes *
  • Selected Bibliography *
  • Index *
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