Springtime at the Gallows


hanging judge death sentence Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales
photo credit: floral arrangements by Lyotta (http://lyotta.deviantart.com/). Used by permission.
Justice in the Old West was quick, decisive, and occasionally poetic. Witness this colorful death sentence issued in United States v Gonzales (1881), U.S. District Court, New Mexico Territory.

Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, in a few short weeks, it will be spring. The snows of winter will flee away, the ice will vanish, and the annual miracle of the years will awaken and come to pass, but you won’t be there.

The rivulet will run its course to the sea, the timid desert flowers will put forth their tender shoots, the glorious valleys of this imperial domain will blossom as the rose. Still, you won’t be there to see.

From every treetop some wild woods songster will carol his mating song, butterflies will sport in the sunshine, the busy bee will hum happy as it pursues its accustomed vocation. The gentle breeze will tease the tassels of the wild grasses, and all nature, Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzales, will be glad, but you.

You won’t be there to enjoy it because I command the sheriff, or some officer of the county, to lead you out to some remote spot, swing you by the neck from a knotting bough of a sturdy oak, and let you hang until you are dead.

And then, Jose Manuel Miguel Xavier Gonzalez, I further command that such officer retire quickly from your dangling corpse, that vultures may descend from the heavens upon your filthy body until nothing shall remain but bare, bleached bones of a cold-blooded, blood-thirsty, throat-cutting, chili-eating, sheep-herding, murdering son of a bitch.

It should be noted that despite frequent references to the contrary, this sentence was not handed down by Judge Roy Bean or Judge Isaac Parker — both known as “The Hanging Judge.”

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