|The Kelly Trial—The Scene in Court
|In the Central Criminal Court on Friday October 29th 1880 Ned Kelly was found guilty of the murder of Constable Thomas Lonigan. Immediately after the Jury Foreman had made the announcement, the Clerk of the Court asked Ned Kelly if he had anything to say ( was there ever a moment when Ned Kelly DIDN’T have something to say?)
“Well, it is rather too late for me to speak now. I thought of speaking this morning and all day, but there was little use, and there is little use blaming any one now. Nobody knew about my case except myself, and I wish I had insisted on being allowed to examine the witnesses myself. If I had examined them, I am confident I would have thrown a different light on the case. It is not that I fear death; I fear it as little as to drink a cup of tea. On the evidence that has been given, no juryman could have given any other verdict. That is my opinion. But as I say, if I had examined the witnesses I would have shown matters in a different light, because no man understands the case as I do myself. I do not blame anybody neither Mr. Bindon nor Mr. Gaunson; but Mr. Bindon knew nothing about my case. I lay blame on myself that I did not get up yesterday and examine the witnesses, but I
thought that if I did so it would look like bravado and flashness, and people might have said that I thought myself cleverer than Counsel. So I let it go as it was”
Redmond Barry then placed the traditional square of black cloth onto his wig and addressed Ned in the dock:
Barry : “Edward Kelly the verdict pronounced by the Jury must have been one that you fully expected”
Kelly: “Yes, under the circumstances”
Barry: “No circumstances that I can conceive could have altered the result of your trial”
Kelly: “Perhaps not from what you can now conceive, but if you had heard me examine the witnesses it would have been different”.
The conversation didn’t end there, and Ned Kelly went on to declare that his mind was “as easy as the mind of any man in this world”. He also claimed to be “the last man in the world that would take a man’s life. Two years ago, even if my own life was at stake, and I am confident if I thought a man would shoot me, I would give him a chance of keeping his life, and would part rather with my own.”
Now, in the Kelly legends, these encounters are claimed to be demonstrations of Ned Kellys indomitable spirit, his refusal to be intimidated by authority, evidence of his courage and readiness to stand up for the truth right to the very end. But there is more to it than that – these encounters are little more than egotistical self promotion and bombast and they expose the deep flaws in Ned Kellys personality.
For one thing, I am unable to imagine how any normal human being in his position would be able to declare his mind to be ‘as easy as the mind of any man in the world’. To know that his criminal activity has resulted in the incarceration of his mother and the suicide of his brother, the death of his friends Sherritt, Byrne and Hart, and two innocent people at Glenrowan, to have completely failed to achieve whatever it was he was attempting to achieve at Glenrowan, to have been found guilty of the murder of Thomas Lonigan and be responsible for the deaths of Scanlan and Kennedy, and to now be weeks away from his own execution, and to have a mind that’s ‘easy’? I am afraid I don’t see it as normal, or admirable or in any way re-assuring to have him declare his mind to be as ‘easy’ as anyone’s after that horrendous catalogue of violence and disaster, not just for himself but for his family. That remark I am afraid betrays his complete failure to be able to respond as a normal human being, to have normal human feelings and emotional responses to events that to ordinary, normal people are highly emotional and stressful. Either that or else he was just lying.
As for claiming to be the last man in the world to take a mans life – who is he kidding? He killed Lonigan within a few seconds of ordering him to bail up, and without the slightest hesitation, and then lied about what happened ever after. He made a similar claim in the Jerilderie letter : “I would have scattered their blood and brains like rain, I would manure the eleven mile with their bloated carcases – and yet, remember, there is not one drop of murderous blood in my veins” What these statements tell us, I think is that Ned Kelly was so convinced of his own virtue that he was unable to imagine that anything he did , even killing a man, could be regarded as anything but meting out righteous justice. In his own eyes, he could do no wrong. This of course is indicative of a seriously disordered personality. Its more than a lack of humility, more than towering arrogance – its delusional.
It is also chilling to observe that when given an opportunity to speak at the end of this appalling saga, the only thing he wants to talk about is himself. No mention of the mother he is supposed to have been devoted to, no mention of his brother Dan, now dead, or the rest of his family, no mention of anything high minded like a Republic, or the rights of the poor , no personal regrets, no remorse, no shame, no apology, no acknowledgement of any kind of sorrow or disappointment even, not even one word – just endless completely delusional nonsense about how if the Defence had been up to him, he would have been able to do what Bindon and Gaunson couldn’t do, and persuade the Jury he was innocent. This is not the robust self-confidence of a man who knows he has truth on his side, or what Ian Jones supposed Republican visionary would have said, but an entirely self-centered and misplaced grandiosity that has him boasting to the Court, seemingly completely in denial that he has screwed everything up completely. It would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic.
Ive been wondering what would have happened if he was indeed given the opportunity to conduct his case. He seemed to have forgotten in Court that he had already made his case in the Jerilderie letter, writing a self-serving account that claimed the policemen were to blame for their own deaths because they didn’t do as he told them to. His account of Lonigans death claimed Lonigan got behind logs and raised his head above them to take aim at Kelly, who shot him in self-defence. This was a lie that would have been exposed in Court, and Ned Kelly’s self-defence argument wrecked the moment he was asked to explain how it was that Lonigan had a bullet wound in his left leg that passed from the outside to the inside. Quite apart from that leg being protected behind logs when Kelly claims he shot at Lonigan, the trajectory of the bullet was the opposite of what it would have been if somehow the bullet had got through the logs. If Kelly had presented a description in court of what happened at SBC that differed from his Jerilderie letter account – again, he would have discredited himself and lost. The forensic facts show that when Lonigan was killed he was out in the open, totally exposed, and before he had time to even turn, let alone run and get behind logs.
Ned Kellys belief that it would be easy to bail up armed police at SBC and rob them was delusional. His belief that if he wore armour he could take on and defeat an entire trainload of police was delusional. His belief that he could have changed the Jurys decision was delusional. His speeches in Court disprove the claims that are made for him, that his campaign at Glenrowan was about a noble political cause, a Republic of North East Victoria, because the only thing he wanted to talk and brag about was himself.
Redmond Barry was spot on when he went on to say:
“The facts are so numerous, and so convincing, not only as regards the original offence with which you are charged, but with respect to a long series of transactions covering a period of 18 months, that no rational person would hesitate to arrive at any other conclusion but that the verdict of the jury is irresistible, and that it is right.”
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