Michael Byron's Family Tree.

Joe Coburn "The Boxer".




Songs about Coburn



New York Times dated 7th March 1877.

(There must be plenty of reports of this trial in the newspapers of the time. Bareknuckle boxers were the sporting heroes of the era. Probably also a sizeable case file.)




The announcement that Joseph Coburn would be brought up for sentence attracted the usual crowd of thieves, "sports" and loafers to the vicinity of the Court of General; Sessions yesterday morning. As early as 10 o'clock several hundred persons had congregated in Centre and Chambers streets, and on the arrival of the prison van, a headlong rush was made for lampposts, ash-boxes, or any other elevated point from which a glimpse of the inmates could be obtained. A force of Police, however, drove the crowd away, and kept the entrance clear. The spectators were grievously disappointed on finding that Coburn was not in the prison van, but had their curiosity subsequently gratified on seeing the prisoner alight from a Fourth-avenue car, in custody of Court Officers Thomas Riley and Patrick Rail. Coburn walked through the park with his accustomed swagger, and seemed to have suddenly recovered from the "bruised, mangled, and bloody condition" so thrillingly alluded to by one of the junior counsel during the trial, and the only visible evidences of the brutal clubbing which he swore he had received were two strips of plaster on the head. Neither of his brothers was present, nor were any of his admirers who had formed his immediate bodyguard during the trial in attendance. Col. Charles S. Spencer and Edgar M. Chipman, of counsel for the defence, were present, but Mr. Charles W. Brooke, senior counsel, was absent.

Assistant District Attorney Rollins called Coburn to the bar, and said that the evidence on the trial showed that the prisoner had fired shots both at Officer Tobias and Officer Jerfies, and for the latter offence an indictment had been found. The evidence also showed, however, that the shots had been fired in rapid succession, and that during the firing the officers had dodged about considerably to avoid the bullets. Under these circumstances, the jury might well hesitate before finding that Coburn formed a separate and distinct determination to shoot at both officers. They might find that the bullet received by Jerfies was intended for Tobias, and the offence, therefore, was one felonious assault not two. In view of the fact that the prisoner could receive adequate punishment for the crime under the verdict on the first indictment, and in order to show the community that the prosecution had not used any undue haste, or vindictiveness in the case, he announced that he would not proceed the second indictment against Coburn. Mr. Rollins then moved for sentence on the prisoner.

Col. Spencer asked for a postponement until Mr. Brooke, who had charge of the case, could be present and make whatever motions were necessary for a stay of proceedings.

Mr. Rollins thought that all the necessary motions had already been made by Mr. Brooke, and considered that in moving for judgement he was not pursuing an unusual course.

Judge Sutherland said that he did not see sufficient reason for postponing sentence as Mr. Brooke had already made the usual motions, and had benefits of his exceptions. He quite concurred in the statement of Mr. Rollins as to the difficulty of convicting Coburn on the second indictment, as he felt certain it would be impossible to find a jury which would not have grave doubts on the question of Coburn's intent to injure both officers.

Coburn was then directed to stand up, and in answer to the usual questions asked before sentence, said that he was 42 years of age, a bricklayer by trade, and lived at 100 West 22nd. Street. (Census returns?) In answer to the question whether he had anything to say why the judgement of the law should not be passed upon him, Coburn said, "All I have got to say, your Honor, is that I am not guilty."

Judge Sutherland, addressing Coburn, said that he did not want him to think that, because he had not averted to certain features in his own evidence or that of some of his witnesses, he had then or now any doubt of his guilt. The verdict of the jury was just and legal, and fully justified by the evidence. He had tried all he could to prevent the defence from being prejudiced by the comments of the newspapers or the previous record of the prisoner, and did not believe that a more impartial charge under the circumstances had ever been delivered by a judge. He had determined in his charge, and all through the case, that the prisoner should have a fair trial, feeling as he did, a horror of punishment resulting from convictions obtained on evidence outside the case. If the prisoner was guilty, he should be punished to the full extent of the law, and he did not feel justified in reducing the penalty. The sentence of the court, therefore, was that the prisoner be confined in State Prison, at hard labour, for the period of ten years.

Coburn heard his sentence without moving a muscle and swaggered back to the prisoners box with an air of apparent indifference. He was subsequently taken back to the Tombs, his passage through Centre Street attracting the usual crowds. The convicted pugilist fully expected the sentence imposed upon him, and was even prepared to be tried on the second indictment. He expects no relief from the lower courts, but is hopeful that an appeal to the higher courts will be successful. it is understood that Mr. Brooke will appeal the case immediately.

(Coburn was released from prison Dec. 7th. 1882. Perhaps this was reported.)

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