The trial of Sheriff Chisolm

There were two eventful court cases in the Cariboo in the summer of 1865.

John Perrin, a well-known gold miner from Richfield, was a defendant in a case regarding a disputed claim, Henness v. Perrin. Shortly after the case began, Perrin was approached by Deputy Sheriff Chisolm:

“I was standing by the Cariboo shaft when Daniel B. Chisolm, the Deputy Sheriff, came to me and said he wished to speak to me; he took me aside out of hearing of the men standing around and said if I had any doubts about the lawsuit pending he would put me on a safe track by summoning any jury I chose…in return for a quarter of an interest in the Cariboo claim. The next day I met Chisolm near Barkerville, when he asked me to go with him to the back room of the Spanish woman’s house at Barkerville, where he showed me a list of jurymen and asked me how I liked them; he said for a quarter of an interest in the Cariboo claim, he would summon those or any other that I wished; I told him I would not do it, and left the house.”

When Mr. Walker, counsel for the defence, read out Perrin’s affidavit in court, everyone was surprised including Judge Begbie and Deputy Sheriff Chisolm who was present in his official duty. The trial of Henness v. Perrin continued unimpeded, but it was followed afterward by the trial of Mr. Chisolm.

Dan B. Chisolm was arraigned and the indictment for unlawfully offering to take a bribe to pack a jury. Chisolm pleaded “not guilty.”

Mr. Perrin was cross-examined and gave the same account as in his affidavit. Jesse Pierce testified that he was in the house when he saw Mr. Perrin and Mr. Chisolm go into a back room.
Captain Henness testified:

“I have known Mr. Chisolm since the winter of 1862. The day before the trial of Henness v. Perrin, I called at Mr. Sutor’s office and found Mr. Chisolm there; I said to him have you summoned the jury for the Assizes? He said yes; I remarked that I wanted no favours but I hoped to have good, upright, honest men try the case. Mr. Chisolm said that was always his aim, and he would show me the list, which he then did.”

Messrs. Laumeister, Pearkes and Campbell all testified that they had known Chisolm for a considerable length of time and said he was of good character.

Chisolm testified that Perrin has anxious about the ‘big suit’ as the only person who could throw light on the matter [Cunningham] was dead.

“Here I asked him about the Cunningham estate, as I felt somewhat interested, holding Cunningham’s note for about $300…I told him that I thought a good deal of the claim at the time…I asked him then if he would not sell me a quarter interest, and he said no; this is all that ever passed between us…”

After deliberating for an hour, the jury returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’. Judge Begbie discharged Chisolm saying that he agreed with the verdict, but he censored Mr. Chisolm for his indiscretion in holding a private conference with a party in a lawsuit.