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Mono Indian continued his fight, part 2

For The Madera Tribune

On Oct. 1, 1951, Rayna Tom Carmen’s retrial for murder began in the Madera County Court of Judge Stanley Murray.


In June 1950, Sheriff W.O Justice transported Rayna Tom Carmen to San Quentin Prison where he was lodged on Death Row. The 39-year-old Mono Indian from North Fork had been found guilty of shooting 16-year-old Wilbur McSwain to death and attempting to kill his brother, Alvin McSwain. The McSwain brothers were also Mono Indians. The shooting took place at the McSwain’s home near North Fork.

As is the law in every capital case, the death sentence required an automatic appeal, and by February 1951, that process was underway. The appeal judges examined the trial record and ruled that everything was okay. They upheld the murder conviction and the assault to commit murder conviction. Mason Bailey, however, would not sit still for this.

The defense attorney who, without equivocation, was absolutely determined to save Carmen’s life, stepped onto the stage. To this day, no one can explain Bailey’s unshakable resoluteness to keep his client out of the gas chamber. For ten years, it became almost a monomania for the former Superior Court Judge. That’s why he went to the California State Supreme Court.



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