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Dominic Daley and James Halligan Trial: 1806

The Issue Of Bias

The now-accepted version is that Daley and Halligan were totally innocent and were persecuted only because of their being Irish and Catholic. But has this been proven? There is no denying that Roman Catholics in general, and Irish immigrants in particular, had to endure great discrimination and injustices at the time of the trial. Most people would agree that the case against Daley and Halligan was weak, even unacceptable by today's standards. In those days, there were no tests for fingerprints, ballistics, "crime scene," or other investigations for evidence. But still unclear to some is whether Daley and Halligan were found guilty solely because of their ethnic and religious ties. In fact, they were the men seen traveling along that road, and the posse that set out after them had no notion that they were Irish Catholics. The only overt reference to their being Irish on the part of the prosecution was the Boston gundealer's allusion to the speech. Nothing else said by the prosecution or judges referred to their being Irish or Catholics.

The issue of their guilt by dint of being Irish, in fact, seems to have been raised—and exploited—entirely by the defense lawyer. Daley and Halligan may well have been innocent, but the claim that they were convicted solely because of their being Irish Catholics seems unproved—and probably forever unprovable.

John S. Bowman

Suggestions for Further Reading

Camposeo, James M. "Anti-Catholic Prejudice in Early new England: The Daley-Halligan Murder Trial." Historical Journal of Western Masachusetts, 6 (Spring 1978).

Garvey, Richard C. "The Hanging of Daley and Halligan." In The Northampton Book: Chapters from 300 Years in the Life of a New England Town. Northampton, Mass.: Tercentary Committee, 1954.

Member of the Bar. Report of the Trial of Dominic Daley and James Halligan for the Murder of Marcus Lyon Before the Supreme Judicial Court. Northampton, Mass.: S. & E. Butler, 1806.

Sullivan, Robert. "The Murder Trial of Halligan and Daley—Northampton, Mass., 1806." Massachusetts Law Quarterly, 49 (September 1964): 211-24.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832Dominic Daley and James Halligan Trial: 1806 - The Crime, The Trial, An Execution And An Exoneration, The Issue Of Bias, Suggestions For Further Reading