Release of Patrick
New York Times, Nov. 29, 1912.
npHE Governor is sworn to uphold the law and protect the public interests. If Governor Dix has honestly reached the conclusion, after careful consideration, that Albert T. Patrick did not murder William Marsh Rice or connive in his murder, he has done right to pardon the man. But he is setting aside the verdict of the trial jury, which was upheld by the highest court in this state, and it is clearly his duty to give to the people a clear statement of his rea sons for believing Patrick guiltless. It would have been a wiser and a safer plan, if the Gov ernor's examination of the evidence in this case has satisfied him that there is doubt of Patrick's guilt, to appoint a commission to go thoroughly into the matter and abide by its decision. The Governor's pardoning power, of course, is not to be denied. He had a right, if he chose, to release Patrick merely on humane grounds. We doubt if the pardon on that ground would have been approved by thinking men. But he has chosen to declare his belief in Patrick's innocence, and thereby to cast doubt upon the proceedings of the trial court and, at the same time, to withhold from the public the facts on which he bases his conclusions. Governor Dix has not been alone, by any means, in his conviction of Patrick's innocence, so far as the charge of murder is concerned, but the man had a fair trial and has profited greatly by his legal knowledge. That the lawyer, whose acquaintance with his aged client was slight, who had done nothing to obtain the old man's gratitude, had formed plans to gain possession of all or a large part of the Rice estate, amounting to several millions, is a proved fact. The testi mony of Jones, the valet, was contradictory and to some lawyers unconvincing. Patrick has fought for his life with remark able bravery and persistence, has practically conducted every stage of his own case, which passed from the trial court to the Court of Appeals, and thence to the United States Su preme Court, before the sentence of death, pro nounced April 17, 1902, was commuted to life
imprisonment Dec. 20, 1906. In the inter vening six years Patrick has managed to keep his name and his cause in the public mind. Pre sumably the case is now closed. But if the report is true that Patrick intends to renew his demand for the Rice millions, and to seek to secure probate of the will declared a forgery, it may last many more years. We can hardly credit this tale, however; the man who has been under sentence of death, and in durance for twelve years, is likely to value his freedom too highly to risk it again in an attempt to get money. From whatever aspect the case is viewed it is plain that there has been a serious miscarriage of justice. If we admit, now, that Patrick was indicted and convicted of murder on insufficient or incompetent testimony, that a man guiltless of murder was convicted and sentenced for that crime, and deprived of his freedom for twelve years, we must also admit that the relations of Patrick and the valet Jones and the actual cause of the death of Rice are still mysteries which the law has not penetrated in spite of the money expended and the time wasted. The mystery of the second will, also, has never been explained. Patrick has never been tried for forgery, and will not be if he is content to let well enough alone. The administration of jus tice in this state, therefore, suffers from the out come of the Patrick case, which constitutes a bad precedent in criminal law, and is likely to be used too frequently by astute lawyers in the future. As for Patrick, his courage and persistence have gained for him a large share of public sympathy of a certain sort. Too many people will be glad that he has escaped further punish ment. "He has suffered enough," they will say. In that manner the sentimental people of this city came to look upon the prosecution and imprisonment of that arch-rascal, William M. Tweed. Law exists, however, not to punish or revenge, but to protect society. In this view we must regard the influence of the Patrick case as detrimental to the public welfare.