The Easy Way Out

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

Thomas Daniels was an innocent man. Thomas Daniels was a man who was abused by his wife almost daily and was made out to be an absolute monster just because a terrible accident happened. The information was astounding in today’s comparisons and situations: there is no way these accusations would have stood up in a court case today because all of the evidence is completely circumstantial. In today’s society this case would absolutely zero merit and wouldn’t even be taken before a judge because there would nothing of substantial value.

The Story

Thomas Daniels was accused of murdering his wife and threatened to death and dissection, simply based off of the coroner’s observations. He went to court on September 16, 1761. He was accused of murdering his wife Sarah by pushing her out of a second floor window on August 28, 1761. The court case consisted of several witness testimonials for both the prosecution and the defense and involved a massive amount of hearsay. The biggest problem with this entire case, however, was the fact there was such a large amount of prejudice involved in the sentencing. Abuse can go two both ways, and in this case it is entirely assumed that Daniels was abusing his wife. There were several points made suggesting that Daniels was indeed the victim. Those were essentially ignored and pushed to the side so that Daniels appeared guilty. It’s hard to get the truth out of the other side because she died in the fall, his wife Sarah wasn’t there to prove or disprove the evidence. This is precisely the reason that it could be interoperated today as a completely ridiculous sentencing because the 18th century contained so many bias towards the roles of males and females.

In the Beginning…

Thomas Daniel’s case began with a testimonial from Mary Allen, a woman who claimed she witnessed what happened from her home: which was three doors up the street. Allen claimed that she looked out a window that faced the accused window. She said that she stayed there for a while and then heard a woman scream multiple times. Allen goes on to tell an extremely detailed and elaborate description of how she heard two people arguing and a woman’s voice constantly screaming. It’s clear that she is on the prosecution’s side as she sets up the case to highlight the “damsel in distress” story that the prosecution was selling. This was example number one of the fact that gender roles were so prevalent in the 18th century. Women were seen as something that needed to be protected, taken care of and anything but their own person. They belonged to the men around them, which sets up Daniels to look like an absolute monster for throwing someone so much daintier than him out of a window. It seems only possible that a man would be capable of bullying a woman, not the other way around.

When Allen was cross-examined her tune changed slightly because she unable to state key facts affecting the fall, like how high the window was from the street or how the women landed when she fell. These are things that could have changed the case as it would help to understand if jumping would have the same impact as falling out of the window. This was highlighting the opposite factor that potentially Sarah was arguing with Daniels and maybe she took a step back too far and fell out the window, or maybe she jumped.

And In The Middle…

 

The case then continues on to interview a woman named Mary Loveland, who claimed to have actually known the victim. She told a very similar story to Allen stating how Sarah was screaming and yelling and how it sounded so scared and fearful. This is yet another example of how this story was so biased towards the deceased, the write up didn’t say anything about what Sarah had said during the supposed argument or the fact that she actually landed on her stomach…suggesting that the was facing the window as she fell out. This could also lean towards the fact that she jumped…whereas if she was pushed she probably would have been facing inside the room, still arguing.

There were then several interviews by other women that claimed to see or hear what happened and all agreed with the other two women, that the arguing they heard was a male voice yelling, the female was yelling back but sounded intimidated. It is very possible that all of these women were just supporting what the others said, at the fear of being different and then somewhat penalized themselves. Daniels was set up by all of these women to look like an absolute monster for arguing with his wife. There is no focus on maybe the most important factor that she landed face down in the street, meaning that she was facing out of the window before she “fell.” I use the term fell lightly because I’m really not so sure that that is indeed what took place that night.

In Daniels’ Defense…

Following the extensive witness list provided by the prosecution there were several character witnesses for the defense. All of these people, mostly men however a few women, including a close friend of both Sarah and Daniels, stated that Daniels and his wife were constantly arguing wherever they were. They brought up matters of infidelity and drunken misconduct on the part of Sarah. They felt sorry for Daniels that he had gotten himself in such a difficult marriage, commenting on how hard he tried to keep her sober and keep them together. According to them Daniels was consistently facing abuse from Sarah, whether verbal or physical, and he would just take it without retaliating. This is one of the factors that I think was overlooked by the court, Daniels had proven by several that he was faced with an abusive marriage and did not know how to handle it. But he did it without physical abuse, suggesting that him pushing Sarah out of a window would be extremely out of his character.

But There’s One Catch…

One of the most obvious problems with this case is the fact that there was a man, Charles Hilyard, who lived underneath the home the accused and the victim shared. He would probably have had the best account of what happened there on a daily basis but more importantly that evening. Unfortunately he was called to appear but did not.

And Let’s Not Forget…

Daniels also provided four additional women that confirmed the story that he was telling, that that is what happened. Then provided four old friends, ranging from knowing him for three years to almost twenty years, as character witnesses. These men discussed not only Daniels as a person but also confirming the aggression of his wife throughout their entire marriage.

So Let Us Recap…

The prosecution states that Daniels’ was constantly physically and verbally abusing his wife and managed to push her out of a second story window to fall to her death. The defense states that she simply was frustrated and intoxicated and actually jumped to her own death. With a variety of witnesses both sides attempting to show that the other was the abuser and that their side provided ample evidence that they were indeed the victim. Daniels’ was so overly aggressive to the prosecution by pointing out that he pushed his wife out of a window. His defense was the opposite especially because he had witnesses to many of his and his wife’s domestic spats and how her drinking was her downfall. His ability to stay calm as she hit him was something his witnesses (some who were friends) commended him for.

The Problem…

This case is a perfect example of how the court system worked in the 18th century. This man was accused and eventually convicted based on circumstantial evidence. The facts seem to demonstrate a very abusive relationship between him and his wife but yet the sympathy still seemed to lie with the deceased. He was boxed into his supposed gender role of the time, stating that he as the man could have been strong enough to push her out and therefore it must be true. By stating that all of the abuse was coming from his end was preposterous if anyone took the time to look at both sides of the story.

The state of Daniels after she fell from the window was also a massive telltale sign that he had at the very least been abused that night. His clothing was all ripped, and he was scratch and bruised and most importantly he was crying from the loss of his wife. He was barely able to speak to the officer after the fall because he was unable to contain his emotions. I think that because of the solidified and assumed gender roles it was thought that a man, being as strong and big as they are, could not possibly be bullied by someone smaller and so far socially below them. This is something that now in modern terms we know for a fact is not true. Women are able to be the abusers and they have the power to do so because many men do believe that they should never hit a woman. So they become overwhelmed with the abuse and many become ashamed because their ego is affected negatively.

In The End…

The court system failed Thomas Daniels because it was the easy way out and without any hard evidence: it was all circumstantial.

 

 

All quotations  from the trial transcript are taken from The Old Bailey, http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17610916-44-off229&div=t17610916-44#highlight.

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3 comments on “The Easy Way Out

  1. enewcombe16 says:

    This was a very well written and very interesting blog. Your sentences and paragraphs flowed very nicely. This is a great piece to write on because it was the man being abused by the women and telling that he had still been convicted even though the witnesses and evidence suggested other wise! There is only one thing that could make this paper better and that would be at the line in the third paragraph, “Then she hear what she thought was “, i was just wondering if it was suppose to be heard instead of hear. Overall great job!

  2. sdroberts87 says:

    Darcy, the case you chose is very interesting; the issue of domestic abuse is still relevant in today’s society. And often when these cases are brought to the public, they feature women being abused – you focus on a case where the evidence points to a man as the victim, which challenges the reader’s predispositions. Saying this, you also take a clear stand in your belief in Thomas Daniels’ innocence. Your first statement, “Thomas Daniels was an innocent man,” is very strong, and drew me in quickly. I liked that you chose to do this, rather than just relay the facts of the case to the reader. But I found myself getting lost in the details, and I found it difficult to see the big picture. I suggest that you try to make it more story-like, as in summary over “he said,” “she said.” You might also want to give the post a quick proofreading. There are some spelling and grammatical errors that need attention, but are an easy fix. Lastly, I really like the way the post is broken up. Smaller paragraphs invite the reader in, and make it easier for the reader to follow along. Great post!

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