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William M. Evarts to Samuel Blatchford, 16 January 1869

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January 16, 1869. Hon. Samuel Blatchford, Judge United States Court, New York City. Sir: The case of John H. Egins is strongly pressed upon my attention as justly requiring the interposition of the Executive clemency, on the ground of doubt as to his guilt, and distrust of the truth or sufficiency of the testimony upon which he was convicted. I should not take the liberty of again referring the subject to you, after your reply to my former reference of the papers, had not an examination of the affidavits presented to me, on behalf of the prisoner made a considerable impression upon my own mind, in disturbance of entire confidence in the integrity or the accuracy of the evidence given at his trial. I am unwilling however to proceed upon my own impression in this regard, notwithstanding my respect for the character & position of those who, apparently, in a very disinterested manner, and in the interest of public justice, are urging the pardon of the prisoner, if, upon further consideration, the judge who tried the cause should preserve an undoubted satisfaction with the result of the trial. It is very obvious that there is nothing in the character of the witness Osborne that should attract confidence to his testimony, and the management of this case on the part of the prisoner seems to me an instance of the protection of the plainly guilty and inexcusable party upon whose implication of others whose conduct, but for his imputation of guilt, would be consistent with innocence. There is nothing in the papers before me which tends to explain the greater severity of the sentence upon Egins, than of that which was imposed upon Martin,—and I beg to call your attention to that point, as doubtless at the time of the conviction the grounds of this discrimination were apparent to the court. The crime in this case is of a nature that deserves punishment, and the application for pardon rests almost entirely upon the supposed doubts which the imperfect defense of the prisoner at the trial, the character of the witnesses against him, and the subsequent exhibition of proofs in the shape of affidavits, throw upon the conviction. These grounds present always a case of the utmost solicitude to the Executive, that, on the one hand, innocence may not suffer from misfortune, and, on the other, that the judicial authority may not be impaired by unwarrantable encroachments upon its responsibilities. These public reasons must excuse me for again troubling you in this case. Very respectfully Your obedient serv't, Wm. M. Evarts, Attorney General.
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