Written by Chandler Vaughn
California Justice has come a long way since the harsh, drunken reality of the Gold Rush.
In 1850, as California was given it’s statehood, laws were being established, but enforcement was crude and uncivilized. As barbaric and greedy as gold miners and Mexican banditos were known to be, so too were the posses used to enforce the new laws and bring in the outlaws. Such was the case in 1853, when the State Legislature signed a bill to fund the capture of “The Five Joaquins”.
Joaquin Murrieta: California’s Injustice: 161 years ago, Mexican-American immigrant, Joaquin Murrieta and his associate, Manual Garcia, aka. “Three Finger Jack”, were killed and dismembered by the “California Rangers”, a posse of 20 men, recruited by the State. The details of Murrieta’s execution are well documented, however, by today’s standards of law, were not only unjust, but “cruel and unusual”.
The legend of Murrieta’s life and unconfirmed death remain mysterious. Historically, he has been portrayed as a ruthless, “gringo killer”. Some see a patriotic, “social fighter”, protecting land that once belonged to Mexico. Still, others see a resemblance in the fictional character Zorro and romantic stories of the Old West. After all, there’s nothing like a dark, masculine, mustang-wrangling character to sell a novel. Very glamorous.
Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta was born and baptized in Sonora, Mexico in 1829. Joaquin married very young and traveled with his teen bride, Rosita Feliz, and brother to California in 1848. Like many settlers from all over the world , the trio was seeking the “American Dream” and the gilded fortune waiting in the hills of California.
According to legend, Joaquin Murrieta was discriminated against for the next several years. He was forced off his land by greedy white miners, his brother was lynched and his young wife raped, while he was tied and horse whipped. It is also believed the “Foreign Miners Tax” played a role in the undoing of Joaquin Murrieta. The tax was too hefty and made way for bullies to intimidate anyone who wasn’t a white skinned American.
It is rumored that after abandoning his gold claim, Joaquin set up a gaming operation in “Hangtown”, known today as Placerville. Allegedly, Joaquin started killing gold miners, one by one, for pure revenge. Up and down the state, gangs of Mexican thieves would frequently steal horses and attack mining camps for gold. Again, it was assumed to be Joaquin. Always Joaquin.
California History: Wild and gruesome tales are told of this historic Californian, few of which can be verified. One thing is certain, in the spring of 1853, Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta, and anyone named Joaquin, became wanted men, “dead or alive” by the State of California.
The facts of the case were never truly uncovered. No facts come to light when a suspect is murdered on sight. And sadly, no compassion is offered when a “dead or alive” reward is at stake. With such sudden measures taken by law enforcement, it remains uncertain if the correct Joaquin was ever captured. If it was Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta, one of the actual “Five Joaquin’s”, he certainly didn’t receive his day in court to defend himself. And if it wasn’t one of the “Five Joaquins”, the California Rangers murdered an innocent man.
According to statements made by officials, Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta and Manual Garcia, were located and gunned down on July 25, 1853, in San Benito County. Joaquin was immediately decapitated, his body left behind, while his head and the hand of his three fingered partner were preserved in a jar of whiskey to be taken for proof when collecting the large bounty. It is unknown if the California Rangers kept searching for the four remaining “Joaquins” after receiving the reward. With full pockets, it is unlikely the search continued. But what did continue was both grizzly and disgraceful.
As advertised in the flyer shown above, Joaquin’s preserved head was taken on tour in California as a spectacle. The morbid greed continued as hundreds of citizens lined up to pay a dollar to view the head with gawking excitement. After that time, the jarred head was kept on display behind the bar at the Golden Nugget Saloon in San Francisco. When a severe earthquake hit the city in 1906, the head was officially lost and never seen again.
It is still unknown if the head of the deceased belonged to Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta, or any Joaquin for that matter. Remember, during the 1850’s, the name Joaquin was a common Mexican name. Even the real Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta had a cousin who was also named Joaquin Murrieta. Modern ancestry research and authentic photos of the two Murrieta cousins, both named Joaquin, confirm this.
Murrieta family photos and history can be seen at www.my-familyhistory.com/16464/index.html. On this page, Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta is referred to as “El Patrio”, while his cousin, also named Joaquin Murrieta, is called “El Guero”. Sadly, the head in the jar bears a striking resemblance to the cousin, “El Guero”, but looks nothing like the family photo of the real Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta. * (Two existing photos of the severed head in whiskey can be seen on Google images. Whether they are authentic or fabricated, is still unconfirmed. In any case, the photos are distasteful, and will not be shown on True Crime California).
It will forever remain unknown if Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta was guilty of the accused crimes. He was not afforded due process of law. If he was guilty, he should have been tried, convicted, and punished. Today, to determine a persons guilt, a fair trial must be administered. Until then, immigrant or not, we are all innocent until proven guilty.
Thankfully, our rough-edged Golden State has implemented strict codes regarding criminal procedure and law enforcement conduct. As a result, California is filled with smart, carefully trained law enforcement officers, some of which are of Mexican-American descent, and proudly so.
Currently, the death penalty in California is under moratorium.
For additional information on Joaquin Carrilo Murrieta, visit “The International Association of the Descendants of Joaquin Murrieta” on Facebook.
Be Safe California. True Love Never Dies.
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