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

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

6

The Scales of Justice

In a 1949 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Justice Robert H. Jackson suggested, “The most odious of all oppressions are those which mask as justice.” 1 Did José Gabriel receive a fair trial, and what criteria should we use to evaluate it? Fairness, of course, depends upon the perspective of the observer; there is no doubt that the farmers on Otay Mesa, the prosecution, the judge, the local press, and many observers assumed that justice had been done. But a reevaluation of the trial may shed more light upon the criminal justice system and how it treated Indian defendants.

There were significant weaknesses in the evidence and testimony presented by the prosecution. Although some witnesses were effective, others provided conflicting testimony that could have hurt the prosecution's case if it had been pursued and attacked by the defense. For example, when the prosecution began to establish robbery as a motive, they failed to link the defendant to the money that was in the bedroom. They also failed to ask Gabriel questions about the bag on the bed that contained the box of money. The reason might have been the absence of evidence to connect him to this money. If the killers had smeared blood on the kitchen wall, the bed sheets, and

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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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