“Better that Ten Guilty Should Escape, than that One Innocent should Suffer.”
One innocent Hawaiian, named Heleiki, came very nearly being hung in San Francisco, under the authority of the Supreme Court of the United States. The report of his trial and release have already been published, but the case is one which presents many interesting and important points of consideration for judges, lawyers, witnesses, philanthropists, and all who can employ the sentiment of the old Roman poet, Terence: “Whatever concerns humanity, concerns myself.”
In referring to this case, we shall allude to events which transpired even before the murder of Capt. Hussey, of the William Penn, off Strong’s Island, on the 6th of November, 1852. In October of that year the schooner Glencoe was cut off and burnt, and every man killed, at Ebon, one of the Marshall Islands. The natives disposed of some of their plunder and money taken from the Glencoe, to Capt. Hussey. A few days subsequently, Capt. H. was killed by a native of Oahu, one of his sailors. By referring to the Friend of July, 1853, we there find published a letter written by Dr. Gulick, and dated “Ascension, Feb. 19, 1853,” and from this communication we quote as follows:
“It is reported that a California schooner has been cut off in the Radack Range, at Boston or Coville (Ebon is the native name) Island, and a whaleboat’s crew who arrived, too weak to walk, were also killed, as they crawled up the beach. * * * Several whaleships have since taken from that island considerable sums of money. Capt. Hussey, it is said, received over a thousand dollars. It was for this money that one of his crew, a Oahu native, killed him. That native has since been killed on Simpson’s Island, by one, it is said, whom he himself was about to shoot. Thus do ‘the dead bury their dead,’ and murderers execute murderers.”
Now, after nearly ten years have rolled away, certain persons belonging to the William Penn inform against the innocent Heleiki, and he is thrown into prison in San Francisco. Most providentially for the interests of justice, and the fate of Heleiki, Dr. Gulick was passing through San Francisco, soon after the man’s arrest. He visited him in prison, and became throughly convinced of his innocence. He now set to work with the spirit of a Howard. But we cannot go into a full detail of particulars, although they deserve to be collected and put into some permanent form for preservation. We hope when Dr. Gulick returns, that he will do it. Suffice it to say, that through the courtesy of United States Judges, the ability of able lawyers, the correspondence of consuls, the collecting of evidence, and, finally, the visit of a deputation of witnesses, sent to San Francisco by the Hawaiian Government, the man Heleiki is fortunate enough to escape without being hung and has returned to Honolulu.
This case is most interesting and important for several reasons:
1. The man’s life is saved, and the innocent escapes a felon’s doom, on the evidence of men belonging to a copper-colored race! Mark you, there are some parts of the professedly civilized world, where the testimony of His Honor Judge Ii would not have been admitted. It is only recently that his evidence would have been admitted in the State Courts of California; but to the honor of the U. S. Court, there was no question upon this point.
2. The Hawaiian Government has shown a magnanimity and zeal in behalf of one of its humblest subjects, when falsely accused in a foreign land, worthy the most enlightened, most civilized, and most Christian nation on earth. We feel proud to dwell under its broad Ægis. Here let us remark, that while citizens of the United States may feel proud of their Supreme Court, and Englishmen may feel proud of their high Courts, so may Hawaiians be equally proud of their Supreme Court, presided over by such judges as Chief Justice Allen, Judge Roberson, and Judge Ii—the latter having just returned from his most honorable mission to California.
3. This is a case which cheers the heart of the missionary and philanthropist.
4. This is a case which should teach witnesses that they ought to be very cautious how they swear as to the identity of a man, after ten years have elapsed.
[See earlier article: Government officials to go to California to defend a Hawaiian citizen. 1863.]
(Friend, 5/1/1863, p. 33)
Particularly interesting to note that Caesar Kapaakea — son of Kamanawa II, the first man (an ali’i no less) to be executed under the Hawaiian Kingdom’s newly enacted, missionary-influenced code of laws–was so moved to cross thousands of miles of ocean to ensure justice for a fellow Hawaiian.