The Trial of Thomas Duxton for Burglary

This trial gives a clear example of Garrow’s style in cross-examination.

Thomas Duxton was indicted for feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling house of William Wheeler at about 1am and stealing three silver tea-spoons, three table spoons and a silk waistcoat belonging to a Mr Mitchell with a total value of £3. 3s.

The indictment was opened by Mr. Sylvester.

After being sworn William Wheeler said he kept a public-house, the Coach and Horses, at Isleworth.  When he went to bed on 21st July last he fastened every bolt and lock so the house was very secure. At 5.15am the maid servant called him and when he went down he found someone had entered by the back cellar window and the articles mentioned in the indictment had been stolen.

A Francis Fleming pawnbroker gave evidence that he received the goods mentioned in the indictment, with others, from the prisoner. Asked by Garrow, for the defence, if he kept any book of his receiving stolen goods, Fleming replied that he did not and added, “it was very inconvenient because I thought of settling in another business. I am a single man and I thought of marrying”.

Garrow:  It is very unlucky for the family you meant to honour with your alliance; you are the same Mr Fleming that has been a receiver of stolen goods for six months?

Fleming:  I am the same Fleming that was examined before you on a similar occasion; I have no more to do this sessions.

Garrow:  Now my honest, worthy friend, Mr Fleming, how happened it that you kept this a secret all the summer months, from July down to December?

Fleming:  I did not mean to disclose it, unless I had been compelled to it.

Garrow:  Unless you had been compelled to it by the danger of the gallows; I dare say you was charged with nothing when you made this disclosure?

Fleming:  To my knowledge I was not; I know the situation I am in.

Garrow:  Hear the question and answer it; do you mean to swear, that at the time you disclosed this robbery, you was charged with no offence?

Fleming:  No; I certainly, Mr Garrow, am well acquainted with the consequence; not that I know; that I swear.

Garrow:  Do you mean to swear now, that you was not charged with any offence at the time you made this disclosure?

Fleming:  I must take time to recollect that; I made some disclosures on the Sunday, and some on the Monday; I cannot recollect which it was; I was first taken in custody on the Sunday morning.

Court:  You was charged with somewhat then; was you not?

Fleming:  But I did not know it.

Garrow:  Now did not you know, at that time, that you were in custody for having goods in your possession, which, if you did not shift off from your possession, you was liable to be taken into custody, and hanged for?

Fleming:  You must excuse me; you speak to quick for me.

Garrow: Did you not do this to save your own neck; did you not make the disclosure to save your own life?

Fleming:  I know my motive for making the disclosure; I suppose I must answer, Mr Garrow, in the affirmative, for I know no better; I certainly made this disclosure to save myself.

Mr Mitchell was then sworn and cross-examined by Garrow who suggested he dealt in stolen goods but the Judge, Mr Justice Heath, told Mitchell he need not answer.

The prisoner did not give evidence but left his defence to Garrow.  As counsel for the defence Garrow was not permitted to address the jury but his cross-examination, by discrediting the witness Fleming, had been enough to undermine the prosecution case against Duxton and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Full details of this trial: Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 25February2010) 12December1787, Trial of Thomas Duxton, (Ref:t17871212-78)

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