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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.