When Edward McGowan, indicted in San Francisco as an accessory before the fact to James Casey’s murder of James King of William, finally appeared in Sacramento he had the support of the Law and Order Party and was himself skilled at evading capture. After the killing he had hidden in San Francisco until June 27th when he slipped into San Mateo County and, by way of little used trails, made his way to the Refugio Rancho in Santa Barbara County on July 3rd. When news of his whereabouts reached the vigilantes James F. Curtis and a party of vigilante police soon arrived on the schooner Exact. McGowan, first with the help of a supposed highwayman and horse thief named Jack Powers and later that of Dr. Nicholas Den of the Dos Pueblos Rancho, managed to evade capture by hiding in the mountains and other remote places.
While the elections of 1856 had left San Francisco firmly in the hands of the vigilante backed People’s Party, the state legislature had fallen under the sway of anti-vigilante forces led by Senator Tilford and Assemblyman Estell and a movement was put forward to have the case against McGowan moved to another county. Lt. J. Martin Reese of the San Francisco Blues was sent to bring McGowan to Sacramento. The two men left Santa Barbara on Feb.14th and by way of the Pacheco Pass and Stockton they arrived in Sacramento on Feb. 28th. The bill passed about the time McGowan arrived and the trial was moved to Napa County where it began on March 27th. Here a Dr. A. Beverly Cole testified that it had not been James Casey’s shot that killed King but instead King died from the wrong practices of those in charge of his care. But in spite of this shocking testimony little real evidence was brought forth to prove McGowan aided and abetted Casey in anyway. After three days McGowan was acquitted, but for the remainder of his life he was a changed and likely a harmless man.