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Mojave Desert History - Pioneer of the Mojave
Outlaws on the Mojave

The Welch and Harris Trial

In the trial for Welch's July offense, with codefendant Jacob Harris, one of the witnesses for the defense was Dorcas Cole, who had married Welch the previous November. She had been married twice before, her second husband having been Mat Welch's prior codefendant, Henry Roof.

Interestingly, she testified under the name of Cole, and there is no evidence that she acknowledged any legal binds to Welch in court. Her testimony seems to have been suspect anyway, as one of the instructions to the jury specified, "...if they believe that the testimony of Dorcas Cole has been successfully impeached, they will wholly discard it from their minds in making up a verdict."

The defense called several other witnesses, the reliability of whose testimony must have been questionable, because at least three of them, Peter Sprague, Thomas Emerson and Jacob's brother, Daniel Harris, would themselves be found guilty of grand larceny within months. Others, including Clark Fabun, Riley Morse, Willard Nichols and James Puffer, were close associates of the prisoners.

Since the defendants were found in possession of a stolen horse belonging to George Yager, the case hinged on the testimony of the defense witnesses, many of whom sought to provide alibis for the two men for the time when the crime was supposed to have occurred. The jury -- whose foreman, E. H. Thomas, was a neighbor of many of these people -- apparently struggled over the trustworthiness of the testimony, because the panelists were unable to reach a verdict.

The judge told them to try again, and upon reconsideration they found Welch guilty of petit larceny, for which he received a fine of $250. Harris, who was tried separately, was found not guilty.

As can be seen by these trials, the citizens of San Bernardino were not exempt from prosecution, contrary to the opinion of Major James Carleton that the town's justice system was a travesty owing to what he described as "undue Mormon influence."

He believed it was impossible for justice to be served in predominantly Mormon San Bernardino, complaining that "the county judge is a Mormon, the sheriff is a Mormon, the justice of the peace is a Mormon. In all ordinary trials the most of the jurymen would be Mormons. You can foresee that the administration of civil law by these officers would continue to be, as it doubtless is now, a farce." It is evident, judging from the previous cases and the number of criminals found guilty in the following months, that Carleton's criticism is unjustified.

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
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