Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Lawyers and history

My friends at Law Times have a good story up about how the lawyers of Barrie, Ontario, got together to preserve their local courthouse's 147 year old portrait of James Gowan, pioneer judge of Simcoe County and a happening guy in 19th century political and legal history.

Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy had a pretty good story to tell at the unveiling of the expensively restored painting. He's Gowan's great-great-great nephew, as it happens.
Strathy delivered the keynote address to the Simcoe County Law Association earlier this month during the unveiling of the Gowan portrait. There, he explained his other connection to local justice: the killing of his great-grandfather and the resulting trials, a process the current chief justice has closely examined.
Jack Strathy, a Barrie banker, was shot in the heart on his doorstep 120 years ago. Less than two months later, the shooter was on trial for murder. On appeal of his conviction and sentence to hang, the court ordered a new trial. The court found him guilty once again and handed him the mandatory death sentence. His lawyer then launched a petition for clemency by the federal cabinet, which commuted the sentence from death to life imprisonment. “And while the trials were brief, it was not at all uncommon at the time,” observed Strathy during the painting’s unveiling.
“The lawyers got to the point; the judge got to the point. There was no way a jury of farmers and merchants was going to be kept away from their farms or their jobs for any longer than necessary.”
DBC has the full James Gowan biography
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