Tom Roland Hutchings, Unmoved, Hears Death Penalty Pronounced For Murder Of Bernice Connors At Black's Harbour Last June
St. Andrews, Oct. 7
- A verdict of "guilty, with a recommendation that mercy be shown the
accused," was returned by the jury in the murder trial of Sgt. Tom Roland
Hutchings late last night and the R.A.F. armourer shortly afterward was
sentenced to die on the gallows, Wednesday, Dec. 16, by Mr. Justice Charles D.
The prisoner, who followed proceedings throughout the trial with the detached interest of a spectator, rose to his feet when commanded by the court and stood at attention, without a trace of emotion, while the death sentenced was pronounced.
Asked by the court if he
anything to say before sentence was pronounced, he replied,
"My lord, I have been asked by counsel not to make any remarks at all."
Only once before had he spoken in the course of the trial. That was at the beginning, when he answered "Not guilty" when asked to plead to the charge of murdering Bernice Connors, near the Deadman's Harbor road in Black's Harbor the night of June 5 last.
The hearing of evidence was completed on Monday, and yesterday was occupied with the addresses of counsel. J.P. Hughes, K.C., chief Crown counsel, and B.R. Guss of Saint John, who defended Hutchings. There followed the judge's address to the jury, which deliberated for nearly three hours before bringing in a verdict of guilty. The decision was announced by the foreman, W.W. Quartermain. Mr. Justice Richards pronounced sentence a few minutes before midnight.
Mr. Hughes' Address
Mr. Hughes began his
address soon after court reconvened on Tuesday morning, and spoke for two and
one half-hours, when recess was taken for lunch. He opened by declaring that
culpable homicide is murder whether or not death was meant to ensue, and
reviewed the evidence of the Crown witnesses, step by step tracing the
prosecution case to its climax.
He pointed out that witnesses had placed the accused as the person who was with Bernice Connors on the Deadman's Harbor road on June 5 when she was last seen alive, reviewed the finding of the body and described in detail its mutilated condition. Holding aloft blood-stained articles of clothing allegedly taken from the body, he said it was practically nude when found, and asked,
"Would any logical person come to any conclusion other than that the girl had been taken and raped and murdered?"
Dealing with rape and
the question of consent, Mr. Hughes said that, "if consent is not given a
determined man will beat her., In the case of rape, culpable homicide is murder.
Common sense means that he is responsible for what he did - it is murder."
Referring to the blood-stained uniform of the accused, prosecutor asked, "Where did this blood come from? From the body of the victim. And the blood on the face of the murdered girl ? The fist of accused when he struck her with his left hand, and he is left handed."
"The were six Air Force sergeants at the dance that night, five British and one Canadian. They are all accounted for with the exception of the accused."
Of the accused he said: "He's not accounted for because he wasn't there. He not accounted for because he was up the road.
In conclusion Mr. Hughes said: "The British Air Force men are the same as our and must be judged by the same standards as by which we judge our own."
"On this matter there can be but once conclusion", the Crown prosecutor added: "that conclusion is that the accused has committed this murder and that you find him guilty of the charge which has been laid against him.
Question Of Drunkenness
Prior to the beginning
of Mr. Hughes address, the jury retired from the court room while Mr. Justice
Richards dealt with the question of drunkenness in relation to manslaughter,
stating that there had been evidence of considerable drinking. Mr. Guss asked
for time to consider the matter prior to the trial judge's address to the jury.
On Mr. Hughes' suggestion the court agreed that the defense counsel's answer should be given before Crown counsel began his address to the jury.
A short recess was declared to allow Mr. Guss time for consideration.
Returning, Mr. Guss told the court that the position of the defense was that the accused was not guilty and the the Crown had not produced sufficient evidence to prove guilt. However, he added, should the jury come to a verdict of guilty, he felt that they should consider the question of drunkenness and should they find it warranted, bring in a verdict of man slaughter.
Beginning his address to the jury with the opening of the afternoon session of the court, B.R. Guss, defense counsel, delivered a spirited attack on the case of circumstantial evidence compiled by the Crown.
He strongly questioned
the time element of the case as established by the prosecutor and continually
repeated that the Crown had failed to produce any one who would testify that
they had seen the accused kill or have improper relations with Bernice Connors.
He went back into history to the signing of the Magna Carta and said: "The Magna Carta was produced by the people of the birthplace of this man, the Crown must produce evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty."
Delving into medical evidence, he said testimony of Dr. Arnold Branch showed that the girl might have been alive Sunday afternoon.
"Some one may gave seen her alive and had good reason not to come forward," he said.
"Reasonable doubt, the doctor's evidence was full of it."
Referring to the fact that the spot where the body was put was only open spot on the road, Mr. Guss asked: "Would a man unfamiliar with the country choose that spot?"
'More Than Meets The Eye'
"I suggest there is
more in this than meets the eyes - a knife planted - seaweed - wet hair,"
"It is not strong suspicion that justifies a jury in finding a man guilty. No man saw him do it. The issue of life or death is in your hands. Would you send him to a shameful death, when the truth and nothing but the truth is known to God alone? You date not do it!"
Mr. Justice Richards
In a lengthy, three and
one half hour address, interrupted by recess late in the afternoon, Mr. Justice
C.D. Richards charged the jury by reviewing the case in detail.
His Lordship stated that there were three conditions possible under which a verdict of "not guilt of murder" could not be returned.
The first was that grievous injuries had not been inflicted on the body of Bernice Connors. The second, that the jury should find that such injuries had been inflicted, but not by the accused. The third, the finding that such injuries has been inflicted by the accused but did not cause the girl's death.
Assuming that the above mentioned three findings have been made, said his lordship, in effect, the verdict of "guilty of murder" comes in for consideration.
Of manslaughter, the
trial judge said that the questions of intent and knowledge were paramount. If
it were found that the accused had inflicted the injuries, but was so affected
by drink as to exclude the intent of doing grievious bodily harm and not for the
purpose of rape, the deed would be manslaughter.
Summarized, other remarks on this subject were to the effect that if manslaughter were found the idea of rape must be excluded. Inclusion of rape with the finding that the accused had inflicted the bodily harm would mean murder.
"The crown alleges that the accused criminally attacked this girl and that her death, followed as a result," said Mr. Justice Richards.
Saying that the establishment of the Magna Carta resulted in the outgrowth of the petit jury system. Mr. Justice Richards expressed his faith that the jury would perform its duty well.
Speaking of the possibility of prejudice or hostility against the accused the trial judge warned, "you must not be influenced by prejudice on one hand or sympathy on the other. Your decision must be determined by what you have heard in this court. The facts themselves; the proper inferences to be drawn therefrom are for you. The accused is innocent until proven guilty and the burden is on the Crown to prove guilt."
Must Prove Case
"The Crown must
prove the case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt," explained
Mr. Justice Richards, going on to say that "the doubt must be real, not
something fanciful so as to prevent you doing your duty."
"Is there any reasonable doubt that someone inflicted these injuries on Bernice Connors? - that is for you to say."
The acceptance or rejection of the testimony was for the jury to decide, said the judge.
Considering medical testimony, the trial judge spoke of the cause of death. He spoke of the possibility of alcohol hastening death and reviewed the pathologist's evidence to the effect that the alcohol hastening death and reviewed the pathologist's evidence to the effect that the alcohol content found in the body of the girl was sufficient only to cause light intoxication.
"It was not," he concluded on this point, quoting Dr. Branch, "an alcoholic death."
On the assumption that the jury took an affirmative attitude on the questions dealt with thus far, the trial judge came to the next point, the identity of the person concerned. "Was it the accused?"
Not Always The Same
Speaking of the time and
distance, Mr. Justice Richards said that witness to the same event will not
always give the same answer.
"It is a difficult matter to fix time exactly, the same for distance."
Dealing with Mr. Guss claim that no one had seen the accused commit any crime, the judge contrasted it to the evidence presented by the Crown. He said that it was the contention of the Crown that the evidence pointed to the accused as the murderer.
"The intermission during the dance began at 11:45 and lasted for about 25 minutes, and that the dance closed at one o'clock is in evidence," said Mr. Justice Richards reviewing Crown evidence on the time element in the case. He said, in effect, that Bernice Connors, was seen going up the road with a man in an air force uniform at 11:20 o'clock.
Dealing further with Crown evidence, he said it showed the accused to be in the hall at "about 11 o'clock."
When court resumed at 7
o'clock, Mr. Justice Richards continued with his charge to the jury.
Dealing with the evidence of Sgt. Tom Edwards and Mildred Justason, the former of whom met the accused on Deadman's Harbour Road in company of a girl on two occasions, the trail judge again went into the time element.
Testimony of Mrs. Glennie and Mrs. Mitchell was dealt with here as further evidence to the establishing of the time of the encounters on the road. The testimony of Miss Justason, Edward's companion, was also dealt with, to the point where Miss Justason identified the girl with the man, said by Edwards to be the accused, to be Bernice Connors. "Edwards identified the accused, Miss Justason identified Bernice Connors," he said.
Saying that evidence showed that Edwards and the Justason girl had left the hall at "about 11:30 o'clock," the trial judge spoke of their encounter with Mrs. Glennie and Mrs. Mitchell at approximately that time.
After the jury retired, the members returned to the courtroom once and asked to have the evidence of five Crown witnesses read, and then retired again. Nearly three hours later they came back and the foreman announced the verdict.
At the command of the court, Hutchings rose, straightened his tunic, and stood at attention. Mr. Justice Richards then asked Hutchinson if he had anything to say.
At this point, B.R. Guss, attorney for the defense, arose and referred to the recommendation for mercy and asked the court to hear Flight Lieut. Elverston who, he said, was familiar with the record of the convicted man.
The R.A.F. officer told the
court that Hutchings had enlisted in May 1939, and had a clear conduct sheet
since that time.
Asking the court to consider the youth of Hutchings and his family, among whom was a brother who was a wing commander in the R.A.F., with the D.F.C. Mr. Guss requested that the good conduct record of Hutchings be taken into consideration.
Regarding this recommendation of mercy by the jury, Mr. Justice Richards said:
"I am bound by law to pass one sentence and one sentence only. All that remains is for me to pass sentence according to law.
"The sentence of this court is that you be taken to the common jail for the County of Charlotte, the place from which you came, and on Wednesday, the 16th day of December, next be taken to a place of execution and there hanged by the neck until you are dead."
Mr. Justice then paid tribute to Mr. Hughes for his handling of the prosecution, and also commended Mr. Guss for his conduct which the judge described as "beyond reproach in carrying out duties well done."
SOURCE: The Saint Croix Courier (St. Stephen, NB) - October 8, 1942.