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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Thu., May 29, 2014

From our archives, 100 years ago

A federal jury convicted Sam Pelican of manslaughter in the killing of Ed Louie, a Colville Indian.

Pelican “was apparently unmoved by the verdict, and, if anything relieved,” The Spokesman-Review reported. He was relieved, because if he had been convicted of first-degree murder, he could have faced the death penalty – despite the fact that the state of Washington had abolished the death penalty in 1913.

However, that didn’t matter in this case, because this was a federal trial. The crime took place on the Colville Reservation and capital punishment was still in effect for federal crimes. Washington would reinstate the death penalty in 1919.

Pelican testified that he had bludgeoned Louie to death, but only after Louie had pulled a knife and threatened to kill him.

In the same trial, the jury acquitted Tony Ponterre because no evidence had been introduced to prove Ponterre had played an active part in the killing. He admitted he helped Pelican move the body. When Ponterre took the stand, he testified that Louie was drunk and quarrelsome and that he pulled a knife and challenged the two Italians to a fight. Ponterre was not off scot-free, however. He was immediately rearrested by immigration authorities who planned to deport him. They said he had “slipped in over the line from Canada.”

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