The Lynching of Katsu Goto
GAYLORD C. KUBOTA ©
The tragic fate of a successful "first ship"
This shocking incident has remained all but unknown in the annals of Hawaii's history. And, unfortunately, the few accounts of it that have passed down are based on an oversimplified, undocumented, and distorted interpretation of the incident. That interpretation holds that: (1) the Hawaiian authorities dragged their feet about investigating the incident because Japanese were not considered important, and that the investigative efforts of a Japanese, Eijiro Tatsumi, were really responsible for the arrest and successful prosecution of the culprits, and (2) that after being in jail for only a short while all of the men convicted of the crime escaped and left Hawaii, with the inference being that they somehow were allowed to escape.A Japanese storekeeper, K. Goto, was found dead this morning at 6 o'clock, hanging to a cross arm on a telephone pole about one hundred yards from the Honokaajail. A two-inch rope, evidently purchased for the purpose, was used and from all appearances no bungling hands performed the work-the dead man's hands and legs were pinioned and a genuine hangman's knot under his left ear.
The true story, however, is full of twists and turns and replete with irony upon irony. Moreover, the names that emerge during the course of the story include prominent kamaaina families, missionary families such as Lyman, Hitchcock, Judd, and Dole.
A close look at the incident provides insights into the society and economic order of late-nineteenth-century Hawaii and, particularly, into the judicial system and justice of that day. The incident was also a potentially explosive diplomatic issue that could have had a serious impact upon Japanese immigration to Hawaii and, consequently, upon the history of these islands since that time.
Goto, the "First Ship" Immigrant
Katsu, the oldest son of Izaemon Kobayakawa, was born in Kanagawa prefecture about 1862. The Kobayakawas had three other sons and two daughters. Even as an elementary school student Katsu had the reputation of being very smart, as did Sekijiro, the Kobayakawas' third son.
Prior to leaving Japan, Katsu was employed at the Oiso county office. It is believed that he learned English at the port of Yokohama.
According to Katsu's niece, Dr. Fumiko Kobayakawa Kaya, he changed his family registration to the Goto family because at that time eldest sons could not go abroad, since they traditionally succeeded to headship of the family.
Katsu Goto was among the 944 immigrants-676 men, 158 women, and 110 children-who came to Hawaii on the first of 26 shiploads of government contract Japanese immigrants between 1885 and 1894. Goto's ship, City of Tokio, arrived on February 8, 1885.
Goto was 23 years old when he came to Hawaii. His contract, like those of most of his male shipmates, was for a period of three years at $9 per month. A $6 monthly food allowance, free lodging, medical care, and cooking fuel were also provided. Goto's contract was reassigned by the Hawaiian Board of Immigration to Soper, Wright and Co. at Ookala on the Big Island. This sugar plantation had been organized and managed by John Harris Soper prior to his appointment as marshal of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1884.
Goto's three years as a common laborer must have been long, difficult, and probably even humiliating in view of his background as a bureaucrat rather than as a farmer. However, his period of indentured service was not completely negative. He was able to send for his brother, Sekijiro, at the end of 1887 and to send him to high school in San Francisco. Apparently, even at his low monthly wage Goto was able to save money. Goto, who would prove to be a good businessman, might also have found ways to make additional money on the side.
The hardships of a plantation laborer's life were probably made more bearable by his ambition and plans to open a store upon completion of his contract. Hawaiian Kingdom Interior Department records show that he obtained a retail license to operate a store in Honokaa in 1888. He was the first of the "first ship" immigrants to open a store after the expiration of their contracts.
Goto opened for business in a four-room house in which he also resided. The store was a few yards away from one operated by Joseph R. Mills. Goto's business was doing well by the end of the first year and he hired another Japanese as a clerk. Moreover, two months before his untimely death Goto opened a new store of "quite good dimensions" in a building right next to his former store.
Goto's general store carried a considerable stock of foodstuff, clothing, household goods, hardware, and so on, most of which were obtained from Honolulu. The heaviest merchandise was brought from Honokaa landing to his store for a fee by William Blabon on the Mills store wagon.
Goto's customers were mainly Japanese, though Hawaiians and Caucasians also bought from him. Goto was a very industrious businessman who actively went out to solicit orders.
When Goto was killed, his assets already exceeded debts incurred in starting the store, even after such a short time in business. The bright future that lay ahead was to be tragically denied him.
The lynching of any member of the Honokaa Japanese community would have been cause for dismay, anger, and fear. The fact that the victim was storekeeper Katsu Goto aroused the deepest emotions of his fellow countrymen. His store, the only one in the area owned and operated by one of their countrymen, naturally had become a community focal point and an informal gathering place. And, just as naturally, the man who had successfully established that store was looked up to by the others. The death of Goto meant the loss of the leader of their fledgling Japanese community.
Hawaiian government law enforcement officials began a vigorous, careful, and extremely thorough investigation of Goto's death as soon as his body was found hanging from the telephone pole at six o'clock on the morning of October 29, 1889. Deputy Sheriff Rufus Lyman telephoned Sheriff of Hawaii Edward Hitchcock to inform him of the incident. Hitchcock ordered him to post a reward of $250, a sizable sum at that time, for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the guilty party or parties.
Hitchcock also immediately asked the government physician in Hilo, Dr. R. B. Williams, to go to Honokaa to perform the autopsy. Dr. Sakichi Noda, one of the Japanese physicians brought over and employed by the Board of Immigration to attend to the medical needs of his countrymen, also participated in the postmortem.
Meanwhile, the body had been lowered by the coroner, Hamakua Police Court Judge Edwin Thomas, who had been summoned to the scene by planter Robert M. Overend. Helping the coroner lower the body was Thomas Steele, Overend's head overseer. A crowd of Japanese gathered and watched the scene.
A jury was called and the inquest was started before noon. Judge Thomas designated storekeeper Joseph R. Mills, who was also a special policeman, as the jury's secretary. The jury, which had to wait for completion of the autopsy, officially concluded the following day that Goto "was murdered by being hung by one or more unknown persons."
Edward Griffin Hitchcock, who as sheriff of Hawaii personally led the investigation of the Goto case, was the son of missionary parents and was married to the eldest daughter of missionary and Castle and Cooke cofounder Samuel N. Castle. Prior to his appointment as sheriff in 1888, Hitchcock, as manager of Hitchcock and Co.'s Sugar Plantation, had had personal experience in dealing with a multiethnic work force. He also had studied law and was later to become marshal of the Provisional Republic of Hawaii and a Circuit Court judge.
Two days after Goto's body was found, Sheriff Hitchcock wrote to Marshal of the Hawaiian Kingdom John Harris Soper that he was going to Honokaa immediately because, after talking to Deputy Sheriff Lyman, he was "of the opinion that the Hamakua murder was not committed by either Japanese or Chinese."
From the very outset, therefore, the law enforcement officers on the scene were well aware that white men had probably done the deed. The consequent social, economic, and diplomatic implications made the case much more important and urgent for them, while at the same time it made the investigation more complicated and delicate.
In Honokaa, the whites were concerned about possible retaliation by the Japanese. The following letter appeared in the Daily Pacific Commercial Advertiser on November 4, and in the weekly Hawaiian Gazette the next day:
In Honolulu, high officials were concerned about the possible impact on Hawaiian-Japanese relations-particularly the immigration of Japanese laborers to Hawaii-as well as about possible further unrest in the Honokaa area. After years of fruitless entreaty the Hawaiian government finally persuaded the Japanese government to permit the steady emigration to Hawaii that had commenced in 1885. By the time of the Goto incident the Japanese were becoming the largest ethnic group in the plantation labor force, and this at a time when additional laborers were still badly needed by the plantations.
In view of the serious concern shown by some other officials, Attorney General Clarence Ashford's remarks to Sheriff Hitchcock in a letter right after the incident verge on being flippant:
In re Hamakua. I observe in the papers that the craze for Japanese decorative art has lately been carried to an extreme point in that District: this government can never admit the proposition that Japanese residents can be used to decorate telephone poles with impunity. I trust you may succeed in finding the "artist" responsible for that last extension of the craze, and duly impress him with the seriousness with such innovations.Sheriff Hitchcock spent nearly a month in Honokaa and did not overlook any possible avenue of investigation. For example, he asked Marshal Soper to secure memoranda from Honolulu merchandising agents regarding any rope that they shipped to certain stores in Honokaa during the last few months prior to the lynching. Soper's reply included samples of rope shipped to the Mills store on October 1. Hitchcock questioned all possible suspects and witnesses.
The investigation proceeded more slowly than the sheriff would have liked because of the caution required by the delicate situation and the status of some of the suspects. In one letter to Marshal Soper he even expressed concern that his mail might be tampered with at the Honokaa Post Office; storekeeper Joseph R. Mills, who had become one of the leading suspects, was also postmaster at Honokaa. Hitchcock also was severely hampered by ill health.
Nevertheless, through perseverance and endurance, by the last week of November the sheriff had accumulated enough solid evidence to confidently swear out warrants for the arrest of a young Hawaiian known as Lala and three white men: John Richmond, stableman at Robert M. Overend's plantation; Thomas Steele, head overseer at the same plantation; and William Blabon, teamster for Joseph R. Mills.
By December 2 Hitchcock had obtained a detailed account of the lynching from Lala. In letters to both Soper and Deputy Attorney General Arthur Peterson that day Hitchcock also stated that he personally had no doubt about the complicity of Joseph R. Mills and plantation owner Robert M. Overend in the affair. However, since both of them were men of high standing in the community the sheriff felt that he must have stronger evidence before seeking warrants for their arrest.
To Soper he wrote: "I have no doubt, so far as common sense & reason go towards removing all doubt, that both R. M. 0. & J. R. M. are as guilty as anyone else, but still the evidence is not, to my mind, sufficiently strong to enable me to take out arrests."
In his letter to Peterson the sheriff expressed confidence that Richmond was weakening and would soon tell all he knew about the incident. Evidently the potential testimony of the Hawaiian Lala alone was not considered strong enough even though he had detailed Mills' direct participation in the incident. Therefore the sheriff was anxiously hoping to obtain corroborating information from Richmond, a white man.
On December 12 Sheriff Hitchcock finally had Joseph R. Mills- store owner, restaurant owner, Honokaa postmaster, Honokaa pound-master, notary public, special policeman, and auctioneer-arrested. The same J. R. Mills also was undoubtedly the author of the letter from one "J. R. M." to the editors of the Daily Pacific Commercial Advertiser and the Hawaiian Gazette, which expressed regret over "such a cruel and barbarous transaction" and which concluded: "and we sincerely hope that the sheriff may succeed in fixing the crime where it belongs."
At the end of the month William Watson, head teamster for Overend and a former employee of Mills, was the last to be arrested. The sheriff apparently decided-no doubt regretfully-that, his personal feelings aside, he did not have sufficiently strong evidence against plantation owner Overend.
Meanwhile, on December 6 Viscount Chusuke Torii, vice consul of the Honolulu Japanese Consulate General and acting consul general of Japan, arrived in Hilo accompanied by G. O. Nakayama, the Board of Immigration's chief inspector of Japanese, and Keigoro Katsura, the first Japanese lawyer in Hawaii and inspector of Japanese for the island of Oahu. Their trip to Honokaa and their findings during more than three weeks on the Big Island were reported to the Japanese Foreign Ministry in dispatches marked himitsu (secret).
The dispatches indicated that, on the one hand, they were impressed by the great concern about the Goto incident shown by Hawaiian government officials, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and they fully appreciated Sheriff Hitchcock's exhaustive efforts to investigate the case. On the other hand, due to the difficult situation faced by foreign government officials trying to gather information from Japanese, they felt that by talking in person to their countrymen who had known Goto they could further the investigation. Furthermore, they believed the presence of the acting consul general would help to calm down the Japanese in Honokaa.
When they got to Hilo and met with Sheriff Hitchcock, he encouraged them to make direct contact with the Japanese witnesses. He also informed them that he was in the process of having J. R. Mills arrested and advised them to wait until that had been actually accomplished before going to Honokaa.
When the group arrived in Honokaa they assembled their countrymen. Acting Consul General Torii assured them that the Hawaiian government would do justice in its handling of the Goto case and asked them not to do anything rash on their own. He then urged them not to withhold anything if they had any information that could be used in the case.
Torii's party discovered that the Japanese in Honokaa had held back information because they were afraid of revenge. The arrest of Mills helped relieve some of that anxiety, as did the personal appearance and assurances of the head of their country's diplomatic mission in Hawaii. Their countrymen gave the following account of why they believed Goto was killed and who was most likely to have been behind his death.
There were about 70 Japanese working for Robert M. Overend at Overend's plantation. They would consult Goto when disputes arose between themselves and Overend and sometimes also asked Goto to interpret for their side. At times Goto had advised that they even go so far as to take a matter to court to be decided. Therefore Overend hated Goto. He had warned Goto not to go to the living quarters of his workers and that if Goto went there he would shoot him.
Another reason was that Goto's store was doing very well and his success was affecting the business of the white merchants. Among those affected was Joseph R. Mills, who everyone knew harbored strong feelings against Goto.
Overend's workers also related details of their meeting with Goto the night he was killed, and of certain comings and goings on the plantation before and after that meeting.
When Torii's party got back to Hilo and passed on its findings to Hitchcock, the sheriff was "thoroughly satisfied" because the information confirmed what he had found and provided more details.
The acting consul general also reported that evidence had been obtained to implicate Mills as one of the assailants. However, there was still no conclusive evidence against "Overend, who is widely thought to be the mastermind [shubosha]."
By January 2 of the following year a very confident Sheriff Hitchcock could write Deputy Attorney General Peterson: "Tuesday next, the 7th, is the day set for the examination before Judge Lyman for commitment of J. R. Mills, W. C. Blabon & W. D. Watson (the little red-headed luna of Overend's) and I do not have any doubts of securing commitments against each; nor do I think we shall fail of gaining conviction before Supreme Court at time of trial!" The main reason for his jubilant report was that: "Lala & John Richmond (Overend's stableman) have both turned state's evidence, and their story of the events that happened (both being present at the scene of the death of Goto) are very good & satisfactory." The sheriff also had the benefit of the information just obtained from Overend's Japanese workers by Viscount Torii's party.
January 2 was also the day that Acting Consul General Torii and Keigoro Katsura finally returned to Honolulu. Before leaving they informed the sheriff that they had hired his brother, David, the most prominent attorney in Hilo, to assist in the prosecution of the case.
The fact that the acting Japanese consul general was willing to leave Hilo at what normally would have been considered a critical point in the process of bringing the killers of a Japanese national to justice bespeaks his confidence in the manner in which the case was being handled by the Hawaiian government and, particularly, in the integrity, dedication, and ability of the man who had spearheaded the investigation, Sheriff of Hawaii Edward Hitchcock.
The examination for commitment went as well as the sheriff had expected it would. The Crown, represented by the brothers Hitchcock, had little difficulty in establishing a case against each of the three suspects in question. Judge Frederick Lyman concluded that "if the evidence produced is true, there is probable cause to believe that conviction would take place before a Jury of the Offense charged." The three defendants were committed for trial in May and sent to Oahu Prison for safekeeping; Steele, who had waived the examination proceedings, had been there since mid-December. Charges were dropped against Lala and Richmond in return for having turned state's evidence and they were bound over as witnesses on bonds of $3,000. Also bound as witnesses were three Japanese.
The long-awaited trial finally began in Hilo on May 6. Among those present to observe the proceedings were Acting Consul General Torii, Chief Inspector of Japanese G. O. Nacayama, and attorney Keigoro Katsura.
The Crown was represented by Deputy Attorney General Charles Creighton and former Deputy Attorney General Peterson, who had resumed private practice. The Japanese government had retained Hilo attorney David Hitchcock and Honolulu attorney Paul Neumann, giving the prosecution a battery of four extremely capable attorneys.
Peterson would become attorney general scarcely a month after the Goto trial ended. Paul Neumann was perhaps the best trial lawyer of his day in the Islands. A former attorney general of the kingdom, Neumann was well known to the Japanese government and also very familiar with the Japanese immigration situation because he had been the Hawaiian government's special commissioner for renegotiating the terms of the emigration agreement with Japan in 1887.
Two first-rate Honolulu attorneys represented the defendants. John M. Davidson appeared on behalf of Mills and his former employee, Blabon. Francis Hatch represented the two former Overend employees, Steele and Watson. Hatch would go on to become vice president of the provisional government, minister of foreign affairs of the subsequent Republic of Hawaii, and eventually retire as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Hawaii.
His appearance on behalf of Goto's alleged murderers was another one of the many ironies connected with the case. Attorney Hatch had represented Theo H. Davies and Co., one of Goto's principal creditor agents, in helping settle Goto's estate. For this service Hatch was later paid $25 from the estate of the man whose killers he had helped defend.
The case of Rex v. Mills et al. was widely perceived as one of the most important cases ever tried in the Islands. Supreme Court Chief Justice Albert Judd assigned himself to preside over it.
Defendant Mills-and his wife, Eugenia, who would offer controversial testimony during the trial-were no strangers to Judd. Nearly a decade earlier he had presided over a civil suit for damages brought against Mills by Robert Briggs because Mills "did carnally know Eugenia Briggs, the plaintiff's wife." That trial fully exposed the sordid character of the outwardly respectable-appearing Mills and was less than flattering to the character of Eugenia. The jury had taken only 17 minutes to find for the plaintiff and award him $2,000 damages.
Most of the opening day of the murder trial was spent arguing a change of venue motion submitted by the defense, a motion that the court denied.
The second day was taken up entirely by the arduous task of trying to select a jury. Under Hawaiian laws of the day when "foreigners" (white men) were on trial the jury had to be drawn entirely from the same. The answers of the prospective jurors under questioning are of particular interest, since racial attitudes were exposed in the process. The prosecution lawyers' main concern was possible racial prejudice against Japanese, not so much because the victim was Japanese as because many of their secondary, corroborative witnesses were Japanese. The attorneys for the Crown were also careful to ask whether a prospective juror had any reservations about the death penalty. Their basic line of questioning was, in effect: Would you believe the testimony of a Japanese even if it were against that of a white man and even if a white man could be sentenced to death on the basis of it?
Most of the prospective jurors said they had no prejudice against either the Japanese or the death penalty. Two persons stated that they did have racial prejudice. One responded: "I have prejudice against the Asiatic race, enough to sway my judgment. ... I would not take the testimony of a Japanese against that of a white man." At this point Chief Justice Judd expressed doubt as to whether the man should be disqualified. Neumann, however, pursued the questioning further, and Judd finally had to excuse the potential juror when he admitted that he was prejudiced against all Japanese because of trouble he had had with them. Another potential juror's reply to a similar question was: "If a case depended entirely on Japanese evidence, the fact would influence me; my reason is experience of Japanese on plantations." Neumann asked that the man be excused for cause. Judd, however, would not go that far, saying that "many fair-minded men would hesitate when life was at stake to act on exclusive Japanese or Chinese evidence." Although the chief justice's attitude seems startling today, it probably was an accurate reflection of racial attitude among "fair-minded" white men of that time. Needless to say, one of the Crown's peremptory challenges was subsequently used to excuse that person.
At the end of the day, both sides finally had arrived at a jury that they could agree on.
The following morning former Deputy Attorney General Peterson opened the case with a statement of what the Crown intended to prove. He told the jury that "a little over a week before the lynching, a fire occurred in the cane fields of Overend, and I hope to show you that it was set by the Japanese on the plantation." Returning to this point
later he added: "We will show that the cause of the murder was the fire in the cane field. That the members of the plantation suspected Goto as the ring leader in the matter and that they were going to extract from him the facts and who set the fire."
This statement amounted to putting forth the% theory that the suspects actually had not intended to kill Goto, but rather had only intended to extract information from him. In line with this theory, Peter-son also stated: "We will not show that he was killed by the hanging, but by the pulling from the horse; that he was hung to the post as a mere matter of bravado." From the very outset, therefore, the Crown said, in effect, that it intended to prove manslaughter, not murder. Nevertheless, Peterson impressed upon the jurors that "this is the most serious case ever tried on these islands." He finished his opening address by squarely confronting the racial overtones of the case: "if the evidence is enough for conviction then never mind how much you may think of them as white men against Japs, it is your duty to bring in a verdict against them."
The Crown's case was presented according to a carefully thought-out plan. Testimony from several witnesses established the fact that Over-end and Steele both believed that the fire had been set by some of the Japanese workers on the plantation, and that both harbored ill feeling toward Goto.
Planter Robert M. Overend, who the sheriff personally believed was connected with the incident resulting in Goto's death, ironically was a prosecution witness. Overend stated that every time he made any changes or new rules, his Japanese workers would say they were going to see Goto, that he was sick and tired of hearing that response, that he thought Goto was advising them, and that he had twice warned Goto not to come onto his plantation. Overend also said that he thought the fire was caused by his Japanese workers.
Deputy Sheriff Lyman testified that Steele had remarked that "Goto was at bottom of a great deal of trouble with Japanese" and that Steele believed the Japanese had set the fire.
The testimony that followed outlined the chronology of the fatal incident. Several Japanese workers employed on Overend's plantation testified that on the evening of the twenty-eighth they had left the plantation for Goto's store to consult him about $20 damages that Overend had demanded from each of them that afternoon for allegedly causing the fire. They happened to meet Goto while en route and he returned with them to their quarters on the plantation and spent more than an hour there. While on the way to the house with Goto they had met Steele, so Steele knew Goto was going with them. Goto left their house to return home sometime between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Other workers testified that Steele had left the plantation on horseback around 9:30 or 10 and that he and another man riding one of Overend's horses had returned around midnight. One worker also told the court that Goto said Overend had threatened to shoot him if he came to his plantation.
Knowing that his life could be in danger, and even knowing that Overend's head overseer had seen him, Goto had nevertheless continued on to the workers' quarters to hear about their latest trouble with Overend and give them advice; it was to be his last act of courage on behalf of his fellow immigrants.
Coroner Thomas then testified about the discovery and lowering of the body and the calling of a jury for the inquest. Dr. R. B. Williams followed Thomas to the stand. His opinion was that death was caused by suffocation, strangulation by hanging being one means. However, both he and the Japanese physician, Dr. Sakichi Noda, who examined the body with him, were also quite sure that the neck was broken. Dr. Williams emphasized, however, that this was not the cause of death. He explained that death would have come instantly had it been from this cause, and the various internal body signs of suffocation would not have been present in the corpse. This more or less left the conclusion, which was never explicitly stated by the doctor, that Goto had already died from some form of suffocation before suspension from the telephone pole presumably broke his neck.
The testimony of star witnesses Richmond and Lala, who had both taken part in the incident, yielded the following description of how Goto met his end.
The two of them were summoned separately on the night that Goto was killed. Richmond was summoned by Steele and sent to watch for a Jap who would be leaving the Jap living quarters on horseback and to report his departure to Steele. Lala was called out of his quarters by Blabon, who told him that Mills needed him. When they got to where Mills and the others were waiting, Mills told him to grab the bridle of the horse that a Jap would be riding toward them. After Richmond reported that the Jap was on his way they lay in ambush. Lala grabbed the bridle as he had been told to do while Steele and Blabon dragged the man off the horse. The surprised and frightened victim cried out, "Pau! Pau!"-his last words. Steele grabbed him by the mouth and the back of the head, while Blabon grabbed him around the body. Steele, Blabon, Mills, and Watson carried him to a location away from the road where he was placed face down and his hands and feet bound. Lala was sent to tie up Goto's horse and Steele's horse, after which he fled the scene. Mills sent Richmond to pick up a rope at the foot of the telephone pole, a rope that, he found, already had a hangman's knot at one end. When he returned with the rope someone in the group said, "My God! He is dead." Richmond then bent over and put his hand over the man's heart but could feel no heartbeat. Then Mills, who had earlier said something about asking Goto some questions, remarked, "Well, he won't sell any more goods." The body was then carried over to the telephone pole. Watson threw the rope over the crossbar, Mills put the noose around Goto's neck, and the body was hauled up and suspended.
Both Richmond and Lala claimed to have become involved unknowingly at the last moment, and both claimed they were never told what the others had really intended to do when they stopped Goto. Hence the difficult question of the defendants' intentions was left to the jury to decide without much clear evidence.
After the Crown rested its case, the defense made no opening statement but simply called a long string of witnesses who spent most of their time attacking the character and general credibility of Lala and Richmond, both of whom had very poor reputations for truthfulness. The lack of positive evidence to support the contention of the defendants that they were innocent was so obvious that even Chief Justice Judd, in his final instructions to the jury, remarked, "I would be glad to refer to the evidence for the defense, but it is almost all directed to discrediting testimony for the Crown." The notable exception to this was the testimony of Eugenia Mills, who attempted to establish alibis for her husband.
She gave an account of the activities at their home during the night Goto was killed, emphasizing that Mills was at home all night.
Subjected to intensive cross-examination, she denied having met with a kahuna named Poupou after the killing, denied having told Poupou that Mills was not with her between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., and denied having asked Poupou to look into the matter as a kahuna to see who was implicated in the killing and particularly if Mills were involved. She also flatly denied having spoken to Poupou since coming to Hilo, to try to get her to change her testimony regarding Mrs. Mills' saying that her husband was absent from their house the night Goto was killed.
The following day the Crown called Poupou as a witness. Poupou testified affirmatively about the conversations concerning Mr. Mills that Mrs. Mills had denied having with her, including the most recent conversation in Hilo when Mrs. Mills had tried to persuade her to change her testimony.
After Poupou had been cross-examined and the Crown had rested its case, a strange thing happened. Mrs. Mills suddenly and voluntarily admitted to the court that she had spoken to Poupou in Hilo, which she had flatly denied during her previous day's testimony. One observer reported that it "practically killed her whole evidence."
Defense attorneys Davidson and Hatch spent four hours presenting their closing arguments to the jury. Neumann, for the Crown, took just over an hour. His remarks included a statement to the effect that he could not believe that these men really intended to kill Goto and that he therefore could not sincerely ask for a verdict of murder.
Chief Justice Judd spent nearly an hour very carefully instructing the jury, prefacing his instructions by emphasizing the tremendous significance of the case: "I may say it is the most important case I have ever had to preside over since I have had the honor to occupy a position on the bench."
With obvious reference to the rather unusual way in which the prosecution had presented the Crown's case-from Peterson's opening address to Neumann's final arguments-Judd commented: "The theory suggested is possible: that it was not intended to kill Goto, that it was merely intended to pull him up and down to extort a confession. Malice aforethought need not have been formed for weeks or months beforehand. If without conspiracy defendants laid their hands violently on Goto and so used him that he died, it is murder. If you find the killing was not with malice you find in either of the three degrees of manslaughter."
Judd pointed out that the jury could acquit or bring in a conviction for either murder or one of three degrees of manslaughter for each of the defendants, and it was up to them to decide what, if anything, each defendant was guilty of.
After deliberating for more than six hours, the jury returned verdicts of manslaughter in the second degree for Steele and Mills, and manslaughter in the third degree for Blabon and Watson. Judd subsequently sentenced Mills and Steele to nine years imprisonment at hard labor, Blabon to five, and Watson to four.
A newspaper correspondent who had covered the trial reported, on the final day: "It is believed, as far as I can hear, that the prosecution was moderate in the presentation of the case, and that the verdict is a very lenient one."
Acting Consul General Torii, in his final report to the Japanese foreign minister, praised the fairness of Chief Justice Judd's handling of the trial and the sentences that he meted out. Not a word was said about the Crown's decision to prosecute for manslaughter rather than murder. The acting consul general indicated the difficult, if not delicate, situation to his government. On the one hand, if the outcome had been too severe, there would have repercussions in the white community. On the other hand, had the findings and punishments been too light, then there certainly would have been repercussions in the Japanese community. Thus, although his conclusion was that the Hawaiian government had done its best in this matter from start to finish, what Torii seemed to be saying was that the outcome was the best that could be expected under the difficult circumstances. The potentially explosive Goto case was handled diplomatically in this low-key manner with apparently no formal communications about the matter exchanged directly between the respective foreign ministers.
What the Japanese government and the Japanese community in Hawaii truly appreciated without reservation, regardless of the final outcome of the trial, was the tremendous effort Sheriff Hitchcock had made, even while in very poor health, to bring the men responsible to trial. This appreciation was expressed in a letter written by lawyer Keigoro Katsura, inspector of Japanese for Oahu, and signed also by the inspectors of Japanese for the island of Hawaii.
In it, they said: "The zeal, enthusiasm, and impartiality with which you have dealt with the case from beginning to end are most highly appreciated not only by Japanese Community in this Kingdom but also by our friends at home."
The letter is documented recognition of the sheriff's exhaustive efforts and dispels interpretations of the case that claim otherwise. Also, the total absence of the name of Eijiro Tatsumi, the man given credit by some historical accounts for solving the case, in any of the correspondence, court records, consular reports, or other official documents re-lated to the incident also makes it clear that even if Tatsumi were somehow involved in the investigation, his role could not have been anything but very minor. An interview with Tatsumi's son, 90-year-old Seijiro Tatsumi, shed little light on the matter. He recalled that his father, who had personally known Goto, told him some 80 years ago that he was the one who found the body and was the one who figured out that the crime must have been committed by white men because Japanese did not know how to tie a hangman's knot. However, the latter was widely assumed from the outset and, as we have seen, the sheriff did not need anyone to point that out to him or to urge him to press the investigation.
If there is any question as to the diligence and thoroughness of the Hawaiian government in pursuing the Goto case it lies in the prosecution of the case rather than in its investigation. The prosecution clearly prejudged the case and pursued less than the maximum charge in presenting its case in court. This was not a tactical necessity in order to assure some sort of conviction. The laws of the time made it unnecessary to pursue a lesser charge as a tactic to avoid the risk of losing a case entirely. The jury could convict for either murder or manslaughter. Even the chief justice referred to the prosecution's line of argument as a "theory." What he left unsaid was how strange it was that such a theory was being put forth by the prosecution rather than by the defense.
It is not inconceivable that the Crown was forced into the awkward position of introducing and pursuing the accidental death theory because the Hawaiian government was unwilling to risk the possible repercussions of murder convictions any more than it would have been willing to risk possible repercussions of failure to secure sufficiently severe convictions short of murder.
And what of the other main tenet of the traditionally accepted account of the Goto case, that the four convicted men escaped, perhaps with aid, and left Hawaii?
All four were transferred under guard from Hilo jail to Oahu Prison immediately after the trial. In July 1892, attempts to secure pardons for Blabon, Watson, and Mills failed. Prison records show that on September 23 Steele escaped, and a newspaper report speculated that he stowed away on a ship bound for Australia. On December 15 Blabon also escaped; it was speculated in the press that he boarded a ship that left for San Francisco that very afternoon.
Mills initially had to endure a great deal more frustration. His unsuccessful escape attempt was followed by an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Then Eugenia filed suit for divorce before he had been in prison for even six months. In this light the abrupt undermining of her own testimony at his trial-which puzzled everyone-may well have been intentional.
In the end, however, it was Mills who had the last laugh. Over the objections of Attorney General William O. Smith and President San-ford B. Dole, Mills was granted a full pardon and restoration of his civil rights by a joint session of the Executive and Advisory Councils of the provisional government, effective on July 4, 1894, the occasion of the establishment of the Republic of Hawaii. The closing words of the pardon declared Mills "eligible to offices of trust, honor and profit." Those words must have made President Dole wince when he signed the pardon; attorney Dole had represented Robert Briggs in the successful suit for damages against Mills stemming from adultery with Eugenia Briggs. Another layer of irony was added when Foreign Minister Francis Hatch signed the document. Since Oahu Prison was the responsibility of the marshal of Hawaii, the bitterest irony of all occurred when execution of the pardon fell upon the occupant of that office, Edward Hitchcock.
Ever the shrewd businessman, Mills began a grocery store in Honolulu shortly thereafter and by the time he died in 1912 he was making his living as a notary public.
Watson was the only one to serve out his full sentence. After his release he gradually worked his way back to respectability, first in Honolulu, then in Hilo, the scene of the trial. When he died in 1924 the newspaper noted the passing of a kamaaina of 47 years residence in the Islands.
And when Robert M. Overend died in 1929, his passing received front page notice in The Honolulu Advertiser in an article headlined: "R. M. Overend Dies at Home in Kaimuki-Former Sugar Planter Succumbs after 10-Day Illness."
The Goto lynching incident had truly been forgotten.