Garrow prosecuted General Thomas Picton, who, while serving as the first British governor of Trinidad, ordered that a young free person of color, Louisa Calderon, be tortured to get her to confess a crime. Being brought home to face a series of related charges, Picton was eventually tried on the single count of using torture on Louisa Calderon. The trial commenced on February 24, 1806 in the court of King’s Bench. Garrow was prosecutor. It was a much followed event in London. And it was this trial that was featured in the next to last episode of the BBC1 historic drama “Garrow’s Law” (originally aired 27 November 2011). The trial is also featured as Chapter 7 of our biography: “Sir William Garrow, His Life, Times and Fight for Justice.” The trial is one of the highly remembered cases in Garrow’s career. Continue reading “Thomas Picton: “Inflict the torture upon Louisa Calderon””
Garrow’s aggressive style of cross-examination often uncovered circumstantial information that motivated juries to bend the rules and reduce the severity of punishment.
In episode 2 of series 3 of “Garrow’s Law” on BBC1, two men are accused of destroying silk looms in an act of industrial sabotage. When the jury bring in a verdict of not guilty on the one against whom his co-accused had pleaded King’s Evidence to secure his own release, Justice Buller told the jury to change their verdict – but they declined to do so. This is an example of what is called jury nullification.
Cross over London Bridge into the Borough High Street and step back in time to imagine you have joined William Garrow as he cleaves his way through a chaos of carts and carriages, the jostling hubbub of Borough Market and, with the stench of breweries, tanneries and slaughterhouses in the air, passes by the Marshelsea and Kings Bench prisons and heads towards St George’s Fields, on the 5th of May 1798.
It is ironic that after tonight’s episode of ‘Garrow’s Law’ (BBC1, 5 December 2010) people are likely to be asking ‘Who is Thomas Erskine?’, the barrister who made such a dramatic entrance in the final episode of series two. Indeed, so much has William Garrow within a few short weeks lodged himself in the public psyche as the radical reformer of his era that others – who took the greater share of the credit in the past – have been more or less relegated to a secondary or supporting role. Continue reading “Who Was Thomas Erskine?”
Artists of political satire in the early 1800s had fun on occasions with William Garrow, along with many others in the public eye. The British Museum is preserving over 10,000 of these satirical prints from this period…including a few with Garrow in the focus of the satire. In addition, Dorothy George, in her ‘Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum’,( IX, 1949) has given the political context to some of these prints. Drawing from these collections, and with some added words of my own, here are some of the satirical prints I find most interesting….ones that illustrate Garrow stories that I enjoy telling.
“Knock it on the head, BBC. Judges don’t use gavels” Continue reading “Judges’ gavels”
This trial is briefly mentioned in the book, Sir William Garrow: His Life, Times and Fight for Justice, but merits fuller treatment since it brings together in one case the issues of corroboration of accomplice evidence, pious perjury by juries and an example of a jury changing a verdict which had already been handed down.
The 1740s saw an effort made to exclude the evidence of an accomplice of the accused who was endeavouring to save his own life by testifying against his partner in crime. In the first five months of that decade there were four well-reported cases in which uncorroborated accomplice testimony appears to have been sufficient to convict. Then, in December 1744 there were three acquittals in which the only ground mentioned for the verdicts was lack of corroboration.
This is a case where two women were charged with theft but had no counsel to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. Garrow volunteered to do so without fee even though on the face of it the case against the prisoners seemed clear cut. He is seen vigorously questioning another thief-taker. The case also reveals Garrow challenging hearsay evidence. At the time hearsay evidence was often allowed by the judges and it was the insistence by Garrow and other barristers that it be excluded that led to the introduction of the rule of evidence that forbade it. Continue reading “Trial of Sarah Slade and Mary Wood for Theft”
This is another trial of a young boy, where Garrow persuaded the jury to use their discretion and reduce the amount involved to avoid a sentence of death or transportation.
Peter Miller (aged nine) was charged at the Old Bailey on 22 April 1789 with feloniously stealing ten shillings in money from the person of Thomas May.
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.