James Halligan (1778–1806)

James Halligan (1778 – 5 June 1806) was an Irishman who emigrated to America and lived and worked in Boston. He and Dominic Daley were arrested on November 12, 1805, and convicted for the murder of Marcus Lyon. Lyon's body had been found on November 10 nearby Springfield, Massachusetts. Locals had seen strangers Halligan and Daley in the same area as Lyon's body the day before, and thirteen-year-old Laertes Fuller testified as such before a jury of inquest.[1] Police were sent after the pair on November 11 and arrested them the following day.[2]

The trial was held in Northampton, Massachusetts. Halligan and Daley's lawyers were only given two days to set up a defense for their clients.[2] The prosecution's main point was Fuller's testimony, despite the fact that this held no solid proof of the crime and that even Fuller was not certain Halligan was there. The defense's lawyers had no witnesses, and the laws at the time in Massachusetts prevented the defendants from arguing for themselves. The only argument in defense of Daley and Halligan was the closing statement made by one of their lawyers, Francis Blake. Blake pointed out that the men were being charged solely because of their Irish nationality, yet the jury returned with a guilty verdict in under one hour.[1][2]

Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, a priest from Boston, came to assist them in their last moments, even through great personal risk. The two were hanged[2] on June 5, 1806. An estimated 15,000 people came to Northampton to view the execution.[3]

The trial is now seen as a symbol of the prevalent bias against the Irish in New England at the time. On St. Patrick's Day 1984, Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation exonerating Daley and Halligan.[4]

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  1. ^ a b Sullivan, Robert (1964). "Sullivan, Robert. "The Murder Trial of Halligan and Daley—Northampton, Massachusetts, 1806" (PDF). Massachusetts Law Quarterly. 3 (49): 211–224.
  2. ^ a b c d "Dominic Daley and James Halligan Trial: 1806 - The Crime, The Trial, An Execution And An Exoneration, The Issue Of Bias, Suggestions For Further Reading". law.jrank.org. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  3. ^ "Daley & Halligan - Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center". www.historic-northampton.org. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  4. ^ Historic Northampton