This is a strange case in which it appears that evidence was given against the prisoner by a thief-taker who perjured himself for the blood money given by the government to bounty hunters who prosecuted a person to conviction. Part of its significance lies in the fact that were the prisoner found guilty of theft to the value of 4s 6d he might well be executed as the Judge, Mr Baron Hotham, indicated.
Continue reading “The Trial of John Wheeler for Theft with Violence: Highway Robbery”
This was the trial of an eleven year old boy – William Horton – who was indicted for stealing various articles of linen and clothing to a total value of 13 shillings.
The first witness called by the prosecution was John Birdsey. He testified that he was a watchman and that on the 10th June at 2 am the prisoner and two more passed him and wished him good morning. At 3 am they passed him again and he saw they were loaded with something beneath their clothes. He pursued them and they dropped the bundle and ran away. He managed to catch Horton.
Continue reading “The Trial of William Horton for Theft”
This is an interesting case in which Captain Nelson (he was not yet an Admiral) gave evidence for a deranged sailor and made some interesting statements about service in the royal navy. It was also a case in which the Judge, Mr Justice Heath, correctly told the jury that in a trial for murder (but not otherwise) the burden of proof lay on the prisoner to prove his innocence. That remained the position in law until the House of Lords belatedly reversed it in the case of Woolmington in 1935.
James Carse was indicted on 12 December 1787 for murdering Sarah Hayes with a clasp knife with which he cut her throat, an injury from which she died instantly.
Continue reading “Garrow and Horatio Nelson – The Trial of James Carse for Murder”
Garrow’s London was a vast cosmopolitan city with a small central area that was alive with criminal activity. Despite the wealth concentrated in the West End of London the artisans and the poor of the city generally lived in insalubrious and crime-ridden areas so graphically described later by Dickens. Most of them were law-abiding but there were criminal districts where schools of particular crimes were concentrated including shoplifting, coining and horse stealing. At the time many goods which are mass produced and cheap today were made by hand and were expensive to buy. These included handkerchiefs, clothing, pots and pans, goods made of wood or cast iron, rope and spoons and forks all of which were frequently stolen and easily sold.
Continue reading “Garrow Trials”
A Battle of Forensic Giants
William Garrow and Thomas Erskine were good friends. They were also two of the greatest barristers this country has ever seen. Garrow as champion of the poor and disadvantaged in the Old Bailey and Erskine as a freedom fighter in the shockingly biased State Trials that stained English criminal law at the end of the eighteenth century. But the two of them overlapped.
Sometimes they appeared on opposite sides in a trial and sometimes they worked together. One of the trials where they were opponents was that known as “Mrs Day’s Baby”. It is reported in the book “Sir William Garrow: His Life Times, and Fight for Justice” on pages 66 and 67. However, there is an aspect of it not mentioned in the book. The case was heard at the Huntingdon Assizes before Mr Justice Heath in 1797. It caused an enormous amount of gossip and large crowds attended the hearing. The issue before the court was whether the defendant, who was heir to a large estate, had in reality been a child purchased from a poor woman in a workhouse.
Continue reading “Garrow v. Erskine”
A biographical sketch on Garrow at the time of Garrow’s retirement states:
“Of his skill in the art of cross-examination, many remarkable instances might be mentioned; but the attempt would be vain, by description, to convey any idea of the extent of his powers when called forth by such occasions as demanded their full exercise…”
Continue reading “Discussion of trials Garrow was involved in”
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