Furguson to be Hung


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The Ithaca Journal

January 24, 1871



Furguson to be Hung-from the letter of Governor Hoffman, published below, addressed to Marcus Lyon, Esq. of this village, it will be seen that he refuses to commute the sentence of Mike Ferguson, and gives at length his reasons therefore.

            The decision of the Governor settles the fate of the prisoner and he should prepare for the end which now seems inevitable.

            The following is the Governorís letter:


            My Dear Sir: I have had a long consultation with Dr. Gray upon the case of Ferguson and I have given all the facts of the case full consideration. I can find no good reason for interference with the sentence of the court. It is not claimed that the prisoner is either a lunatic or an imbecile. He is not insane, nor is he an idiot. All that can be said of him favorable to the application for Executive clemency is that he is of a very low order of intellect. And has very little moral sense.  He is not much shocked, it appears, at having killed Mr. and Mrs. Lunger, yet at the time he did it the knew, and he knows now, that he was violating law committing crime, and that it was as he has since expressed it, ďa hanging matter, or imprisonment for life.Ē He killed these two persons. He set fire to the house in which their bodies lay, for the evident purpose of helping to conceal his crime, and he threw into the lake the axe with which he committed it. He threatened to kill the girl Anna, but did not. Whether he thought she would not tell what she knew, or whether he had a opinion on the subject, no one can decide. The usual defense upon the trial of men who commit such crimes with apparently insufficient motive and upon every provocation, is that they are insane, intellectually unable to distinguish between right and wrong as to the particular act. No such defense was sent up in this case; and Dr. Gray, although he favors the application for commutation, declares it to be his decided opinion that, if it has been, it would have failed, Indeed at the trial, as I understand, all intention of offering insanity as a defense was disclaimed. Lately, in several cases, I have been asked to interfere with the due course of law, with the verdict of a jury, and the judgment of a court, in favor of criminals admitted to be legally accountable for their acts, and to have been properly convicted, on the ground that the order of intellect of the criminals is exceedingly low and their moral sense very feeble. I cannot assent to the position that such men are to be shielded from the full penalties of the law. A weak moral and not very strong mental characteristics. Such men are restrained from the commission of crime, if at all, not by conscience, but by he terror of the law, and to establish a precedent that this class, the most dangerous of all in any community, are to be exempt from the highest penalty of the law, would be to defeat the very object of law and of punishment. I appreciate the deep anxiety which you, as counsel, feel in relation to this case, and I respect the disinterested, though none the less earnest efforts, which, without hope of reward, you have made in the prisonerís behalf. I regret deeply, as I always do when a life depends on my decision, that I find no reason for a commutation of the sentence of Ferguson.

            Very truly yours, John T. Hoffman

To Marcus Lyon, Esq.


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