Several individuals closely tied to the government requested that the trial be held in Winnipeg in July 1885. There are historians who contend that the trial was moved to Regina because of concerns with the possibility of an ethnically mixed and sympathetic jury. Tom Flanagan states that an amendment of the North-West Territories Act (which dropped the provision that trials with crimes punishable by death should be tried in Manitoba) meant that the trial could be convened within the North-West Territories and did not have to be held in Winnipeg.
Louis Riel testifies at his trialPrime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald ordered the trial to be convened in Regina, where Riel was tried before a jury of six English and Scottish Protestants, all from the area surrounding the city. The trial began on 28 July 1885, and lasted only five days.
Riel delivered two long speeches during his trial, defending his own actions and affirming the rights of the Métis people. He rejected his lawyer's attempt to argue that he was not guilty by reason of insanity, asserting,
Life, without the dignity of an intelligent being, is not worth having. The jury found him guilty but recommended mercy; nonetheless, Judge Hugh Richardson sentenced him to death, with the date of his execution initially set for 18 September 1885. Fifty years later one of the jurors, Edwin Brooks, said that Riel was tried for treason but hanged for the execution of Thomas Scott.
ExecutionBoulton writes in his memoirs that, as the date of his execution approached, Riel regretted his opposition to the defence of insanity and vainly attempted to provide evidence that he was not sane. Requests for a retrial and an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain were denied. Sir John A. Macdonald, who was instrumental in upholding Riel's sentence, is famously quoted as saying:
He shall die though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour. Before his execution, Riel was...
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