In 1895, two men were shot and murdered in the Montreal Cotton Company in Valleyfield, Quebec (Friedland, 1986). In result, Francis Valentine Cuthbert Shortis was charged with the murder of these two men. Some believe the motive for this incident was robbery and others believe it was due to insanity. Considering the evidence presented in court, and all the leading events prior to the incident, I have found that Valentine Shortis was sane and therefore guilty of the robbery and murders that took place at the Montreal Cotton Company (Quebec, 1895). There is much evidence in which have a significant impact on this case as to why I believe that Shortis was sane and competent in his decision making during that night, making him guilty of the crimes he’s accused of.
Firstly, in the era of the crime involving Shortis, it was very common that those summoned to harsh criminal punishment would plead insanity in order to lower their sentence or punishment (Insanity Defense, 2005). This was due to the current assessment for judging if someone was in fact insane during that period of time. In this case, despite how difficult the case was, Shortis’s lawyers attempted to plead insanity to the jury in order to shorten or diminish the sentence that would be given to Shortis.
Perhaps Shortis and his lawyers attempted to persuade the jury that Shortis was insane, as they knew this would be their only chance of reducing or possibly getting the charges against Shortis dropped. They knew Shortis had a history of events that may have been seen in the late 1800s as insane, unstable minded and/or delusional. Pleading insanity, having highly educated professional testifiers, such as psychiatrist, and witness they could trust, they came to believe they should take a chance and plea insanity.
There is a significant amount of evidence proven by former friends, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances of Shortis that he was sane and appeared to be a very brilliant individual. David Smith, who testified in court, is the secretary-treasurer of the Cotton Company, spoke about how he “was impressed with his behaviour, and considered him very gentlemanly in his manner (Friedland, 1986, p. 78). Many people who interacted with Shortis talk about how he spoke brilliantly, seemed very educated and Hugh Wilson even said, she “never had heard Shortis say he heard voices” (Friedland, 1986, p. 78). Additionally, many said that they never found anything strange in him, which contradicts what other testifiers had said about some of his odd behaviors. Some people spoke about in court how they always found Shortis to be a bit off and even named specific events in which he did odd and violent acts.
In the 1800-1900s it was found that many homicides resulted in people wanting to be in control and the enjoyment of violence (Domestic Violence, 2016), perhaps Shortis was one who enjoyed these kinds of scenes. Everyone does odd things and some people even enjoy violence, does this mean we all suffer from insanity or from some sort of mental illness? It was pointed out in the trial that Shortis “committed many eccentric, rash and even reckless acts in Ireland, but he never was arrested there or confined in a Lunatic Asylum” (Friedland, 1986, p.27). Like most young boys growing up, Shortis was mischievous, troublemaking and playful, this doesn’t make him insane or delusional in the mind. Shortis’s parents set him out to be independent at a young age without money or support. With his already built up anger from young, this gives Shortis more motive and further aggression for violent acts and built up anger. James V. Anglin, who was one of the psychiatrists called in as an expert witness, spoke about how Shortis was suffering from neuralgia and that he had “no proper conception of what is right or wrong” (Friedland, 1986, p.
59). This evidence is, in fact, contradicting as Shortis consulted with Millie Anderson and her brother Jack in an attempt of an alibi. It is clear that Shortis was well aware that what he had done was wrong and would result in negative consequences. To this extent, this proves that Shortis attempted to cover up what he had done and to be excluded as a suspect. Additionally, when reporters went to interview Shortis, Shortis declined to speak about anything until he spoke to his lawyer. Shortis clearly knew the circumstances and that any released information could cause the jury to believe he was sane. Shortis’s relationship with Millie Anderson and her brother also shows that Shortis was sane in the duration of the incident. The morning after the murder.
Shortis sent a letter to Millie Anderson reassuring her that he is still hers and supporting her if anyone tries to talk down to her by telling others to mind their own business (Friedland, 1986, p. 45). Furthermore, there is no evidence that shows that Shortis’s parents suspected him to be insane, or not knowing right from wrong.
His parents even sent him to another country in order to become more independent. Additionally, one of the highest dignitaries in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland gave him a letter of introduction to show that he was responsible enough to come to Canada. If Shortis were insane, the priest would not have given him a recommendation letter as this could diminish the priest’s reputation.
It had been proven to the jury that the robbery had been premeditated. There is evidence of the motive behind Shortis’s desire and plans to rob the company of their money/wealth and his revenge on Simpson. Shortis spoke about murder before, but moreover, he spoke in this way to plot revenge. Shortis was well aware of what he wanted to do.
For instance, Shortis spoke to McGuiness with an offer to shoot Simpson. Shortis had already planned his moves and alibi. He was smart enough to know the consequences and tactic of this robbery. Additionally, Ernest McVicar, an employee at the Cotton Company was called in as a witness. He spoke about how Shortis spoke to him several times about robbing the mill and the money, but he did not think anything of it and therefore did not speak about this until after the incident (Friedland, 1986, p. 45).
Let’s say Shortis was insane, the evidence and given facts don’t justify his reasoning for murder. He should still be punished for taking another life, and his insanity contradicts strongly with the premeditated facts, his intentions, his history at the Cotton Company, his relationship with Simpson and the ones who were to be his alibi, Millie Anderson and her brother Jack. Therefore Valentine Shortis was sane during the robbery and therefore guilty of murder.