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Letter of A. Oakey Hall, the District Attorney for the city and county of New-York, and the private counsel of High Sheriff John Orser, to his “Excellency” Governor Clark !!!!!!
CITY AND COUNTY OF NEW-YORK,
August 8, 1855.
MY DEAR SIR:
Accompanying are the papers in a matter sent to me for official action, under 1 R. S., 333.
There should have been annexed to the papers, charges and specifications, drawn by me from the affidavit, which did not appear to comply with the statutory requirements, and also a written statement of motives submitted by the prosecutor. These were and are in the custody of Judge Daly, and have been mislaid. After waiting a fortnight for their discovery, I have concluded to forward the present papers to your Excellency without further delay, especially as there have been so many already-generally through postponements on the part of Judge Beebe, who was counsel for the Sheriff.
(16)-As I am counsel to the Sheriff in other matters, and as hostile relations exist from the prosecutor toward myself, personally, I requested him to employ counsel to conduct the matter for the people; which was done; R. Busteed, Esq., appearing for complainant. I have had very little to do with the examination, consequently.
()-Your Excellency having been Sheriff yourself, may judge the matter, without having the necessity to take legal advice as to whether the facts divulge cause for removal, or only matter for settlement by suit at law.
(1)-If such necessity arises, you will oblige me by consulting the Attorney-General, or Mr. Lathrop, inasmuch, as being the adviser of the Sheriff in other matters, it might be indelicate for me to express an opinion.
With great respect,
Your ob't serv't,
A. OAKEY HALL. To his Excellency, MYRON H. CLARK,
This letter was sent to the Governor, by the District Attorney, at the time that he forwarded to him the evidence in the case of John Orser, viz., on the 8th August, 1855. It is true, that on the 8th August I was not on good terms with Mr. Hall. But he led the Governor to believe, in that letter, that "hostile relations" existed from me, towards him, (Hall) at the time he received the order to take the evidence, which fact induced him to request me to ploy counsel to conduct the matter for the people.” I pronounce that insinuation to be an unqualified falsehood. The fact that I left him at that time, for the express purpose of employing “private counsel,” at my own expense, to do his duty, at his own particular request, proves that I had no hostile feelings towards him then. And I had none, until I was unwillingly forced into the conclusion, (from the course he pursued, and that he permitted to be pursued by counsel for the defence, both in the case of Orser and that of Carlin,) that he was not doing justice, as the District Attorney for the people. If he was so extremely delicate, as "private counsel for the Sheriff,” why did he not employ “private counsel himself, or get the “ Attorney-General,” or some person of “professional standing and personal character,” to “guard the interests of the people ?” What right had he to ask me to employ counsel to perform his duty to the people? And what right had he to lay his duty aside, and allow his private professional engagements to interfere with his public duties? Would he have presumed to ask such a favor of me, if he had believed that I had “ hostile feelings”
towards him? How would it be, if it was his duty to try a man for murder, who happened to be a client of Brown, Hall & Vanderpool ?” Would his “delicacy” force him to ask a principal witness for the people to employ "private counsel ” to prosecute the murderer? Upon the same principle he might be too sensitive to try a loafer for stealing old rope, if his firm had ever defended him for stealing a leg of mutton. Would it not be well, hereafter, for the people to ask a candidate for the office of District Attorney, whether he possesses a nature of such extreme delicacy, that he could not consent to try criminals who have“ offended against the laws,” provided he happens to be their “private counsel ?" Mr. Hall's simple duties were to take the evidence, to have it properly certified, and to send it to the Governor. What right had Hall to write a letter to the Governor containing “suggestions ?” “Your Excellency having been Sheriff yourself, may judge of the matter," &c. In the latter part of that letter, his great sensitiveness appears again, when he asks the Governor to oblige him (Hall) by sulting the Attorney-General, or Mr. Lathrop," (who is the Assistant Attorney-General,) as being the “ adviser of the Sheriff, &c., in other matters," it might be “indelicate” for him to “express an opinion.” Here he was very sensitive; but where was his delicacy in making “suggestions” to the Governor, in a matter that was none of Mr. Hall's business? What right had he to advise the Governor in this matter? Is A. Oakey Hall the “private counsel” to his Excellency ? I imagine not. As I understand it, the Attorney-General, and not the District Attorney for the city and county of New-York, is the Governor's legal adviser. When I made my complaint against Orser, the Governor told me he would consult the Attorney-General.” He did not mention Mr. A. Oakey Hall. Would the District Attorney have written such a letter to Governor Clark, if he had not been the private counsel” for the Sheriff? I apprehend that Mr. Hall never imagined that any one but the Governor would have the perusal of that letter. It would be well for Mr. Hall to be more careful how he “puts his head under a cabbage-leaf, and leaves the other parts of his person exposed," with the idea that he will not be observed. Mr. Hall has exercised great diligence for the “People,” in trying the indictments against Judge Stuart, Alderman Herrick, and Mr. Ebling, for corruption in their official capacity; but he has done nothing to facilitate the trial of Thomas Carlin; but has, on the contrary, in my opinion, permitted delays, by the defence, not in accordance with a proper administration of justice for the “People,” or the accused. He desired Justice Osborne to take Carlin's own recognizance, (when he was held to bail on the 12th February,) and as Mr. Willet said, “Mr. Hall has shown Judge Osborne a much stronger law than that,” (the statute on which Carlin was indicted.) Constable Farrington stated to me, at Harlem, that, “in his presence, Mr. Hall advised Carlin not to give up my horse, and that Carlin acted upon that advice.” Do not these facts show that Mr. Hall has not only permitted justice to be delayed in this case, but that he was also the adviser of Carlin, as the “private counsel ” for these Sheriffs ? Is this proper conduct for a District Attorney, whose duty it is to protect the people? While the great exertions were being made, from the 7th November to the 21st November, to get on the trial of Carlin, in the Court of Sessions, did not the District Attorney know that if the trial was got on, that Carlin could not have been convicted without the “ documentary evidence,” (the original papers in replevin,) which Mr. Hall knew he had sent to the Governor, with the testimony in the case of Orser? He ought to have known it and so had Mr. Whiting. A pretty time to tell me that that evidence was wanting!
Governor Clark had the evidence in the case of Orser, from about the 9th August, till the 2d November, which was the date of his “ decision;" a term of nearly three months. Although I had urged upon him, in my letter to him on the 24th July, what I believe that any person of common-sense would have conceived to be good reasons, why he should have pronounced his decision, one way or the other, without unnecessary delay, and as a matter of justice to both the people and the accused. On 31st October, the Governor wrote to me, “ The case alluded to is one of much importance, and I desire to give it due consideration.” If I had not en to him on the 30th October, and on the 1st November, in my opinion, there is no knowing when he would have decided the matter. The date of his decision is on the 2d November. And how did he decide this case of " much importance," which he had had in his possession, for nearly three months ?
“I do not find in this case any evidence which tends to impeach the integrity or capacity of the Sheriff. There was some slight irregularity on the part of his deputy, which the Sheriff evinced a desire to correct."
“If injury has been sustained by the complainant thereby, he has a remedy by a suit at law.”
This is the decision of this case " of much importance,” which required the Governor's “due consideration," for nearly three months !
Now, I assert that there is not a particle of evidence, throughout the whole of the testimony, going to show that John Orser ever "evinced a desire to correct” his deputy for his unlawful acts, or that he ever did a single thing towards the return of my property. There is not a particle of evidence that he even denied the charges that were made against him. What had his “Excellency" to do with the “slight irregularity” of the deputy? It seems that the jurors and the Recorder of this city disagree with the Governor as to this “slight irregularity.” In the last clause of his decision he has embodied the delicate “suggestions” of Mr. A. Oakey Hall, the " private counsel" for the Sheriff !
Perhaps I should be grateful to Governor Clark for his highly important and gratuitous counsel, as to what course I should pursue with any complaint I might have against John Orser, of a pecuniary nature. But I do not exactly see what that has to do with the criminal complaint that I made against Sheriff Orser, to his “Excellency.” I impeached John Orser for criminal and willful