On Saturday, Nov. 11, 1905, J. G. Wyman, an elderly, penniless fisherman from Kauai, was sentenced in Honolulu to 24 hours confinement at Oahu Prison by U. S. District Court Judge Sanford Ballard Dole for contempt, because he’d failed to obey a subpoena summoning him to Honolulu for jury duty.
His failure resulted in his being arrested on Kauai under a bench warrant and brought to Honolulu by Deputy Marshal Winter, where he appeared in court in a cheap suit provided to him by the court for the occasion – a substitute for his shabby fisherman’s clothes.
“I had no money to travel with and couldn’t come,” he pled to Judge Dole, who had formerly been the president of the Provisional Government of Hawaii and the Republic of Hawaii, and the first governor of the Territory of Hawaii.
Wyman also went on to explain how that was so – that he’d not caught enough fish to pay for his steamer fare and “I didn’t try to borrow the money, because I had no means of repaying, as far as I could see.”
Judge Dole then asked District Attorney Breckons for his advice and Breckons replied that Wyman should have notified officials if he couldn’t have come. Had he sent a notice, some arrangements could have been made for Wyman to travel to Honolulu.
Dole concurred with Breckons and ordered Wyman imprisoned for 24 hours, his justification being that summonses of the court must be respected.
Breckons then proposed to Dole that Wyman should also be fined to reimburse the government expense incurred for bringing him to Honolulu, but upon being informed that Wyman was absolutely broke, he withdrew his suggestion.
When Wyman was released from prison on the following day, Sunday, he faced the prospect of not being able to return to his home on Kauai, where he’d eked out a living by catching fish, since he had no funds to pay for steamer fare and little hope of earning cash to do so in Honolulu.
What became of him afterwards is unknown.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org