Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hangtown

The gold rush had barely begun when claim jumpers and other no goods started turning up on the mother load.  We don't really know how many citizens juries didn't wait for the law and strung someone up on a tree, as records weren't always kept.  Hangtown became Placerville when it incorporated in 1854.  Until then it was famous for stringing up no goods. But, as more refined folk started turning up in what was then the third biggest town in California, they settled on Placerville.

So, what's the difference if you get a noose around your neck by a "citizen's jury" or the real thing? Well, the obvious answer is rule of law.  But there are also matters like a chance to present a defence and select an impartial jury.  But the most striking difference is the technique.  Citizens  juries, which were really just vigilante groups rarely ever bothered to build a gallows.  A rope was strung around a sturdy tree,the noose placed around the accused neck and then the chair he was standing on or the horse he was sitting on is suddenly and abruptly vacated.

Not so with those convicted by a real jury before a real judge. Those folks got the benefit of hanging at a gallows, where ropes were measured and trap doors inspected before the proceedings.  Might even get a chance to pray with a priest beforehand.  

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