Coustantine Mac-yennis: Man of Means, Man of Murder

“By Temple Bar I lean again,
Haunted by many a famous face,
With oddest pictures in my brain,
Jumbling together time and place.
The night drops down, the moonlight fades
Along the filmy City sky:
With draggled hose and broken blades
The Mohawks come with shriek and cry;
And in the light the dim street clothing
I see with loathing
Two hideous rebels’ heads that rot on high.”
London Poems.

The trial discussed in this blog can be found on the Old Bailey Online.

At 6:30 on a Saturday morning laundress Frances Williams was chased through a passage while being stabbed repeatedly with a sword. The man chasing her, Coustantine Mac-yennis, was convinced that she was a witch who had killed someone and hid the evidence by bewitching him.

Mac-yennis was Frances’ employer. Two days prior to her frightening last minutes she had told her husband, Richard, that Mac-yennis had threatened her, and that she feared for her life.  Williams asked her husband not to return to Mac-yennis’ house, but Frances ultimately decided that Mac-yennis’ behavior could only be explained by drunkenness or perhaps having “been at a Masquerade.

Benjamin Robinson, who testified on behalf of Williams, was walking in the Temple, when he heard the commotion.  What he saw next horrified him.  Mac-yennis is standing over a woman (Frances), who is crouched on her hands and knees in front of him, and waving a sword, yelling, “I’ll stick her again.” Robinson bravely replies, “Are you not a base man to abuse a woman so?” To which Mac-yennis replies, “Damn you, you dog, I’ll stick you too.”

At this point Frances is still alive and starts crawling towards Mac-yennis, who then delivers the deathblow through her heart and begins running after Robinson. This is when some “Tub Folks” show up, people who Mac-yennis fears physical repercussions from, and so he surrenders himself.

Receiving nineteen stab wounds in total, Williams died a miserable and terrifying death.

Much can be said about 18thc life from this heinous crime. The first of which has to do with living in a crowded city. This crime took place in St. Clement Danes London, an urban area with a relatively high rate of crime, something that the London Lives website chalks up to “high social tensions” in the region. London Lives also notes that these were typically violent thefts.

StClementBooth

The social composition of St Clement Danes as described by John Strype in 1720 © Motco Enterprises Ltd, 2003 (base map only).

A second thing we can glean about life in the 18thc London, is the social positioning of its wealthier class members. Taking into account population size, it is quickly apparent that Frances’ employer was also obviously a person of means. Not only could he afford a laundress, he was well known about town. This is best illustrated by Mr. Jenkins’ testimony.

Prior to the week of the murder Mr. Jenkins (whose first name we are never given) call on Mac-yennis for tea. Things quickly fall apart when Mac-yennis finds no milk in his cupboard, for the tea and goes on a tirade saying that Frances was a “witch and a cat and had drunk up his milk, and put straw upon the fire, and had made a rash come out upon him.”

All this, over some milk? Even by 18th c. standards, this behavior was quite out of the ordinary. Witch hunts were falling out of fashion in London by this time, with the last person executed some ten years later, this seems to have solidified, for Mr. Jenkins at least, that Mac-yennis was not in his “right mind.”

Mr. Jenkins saw Mac-yennis again the day before the murder was committed. He testifies that Mac-yennis treated him so strangely that he “shunned his company.”

It is interesting to note that it was not until Mac-yennis behaved oddly in public that Mr. Jenkins decided it was time to part company, and not his vicious ramblings about Frances’ practicing witchcraft.

Perhaps the damning testimony against Mac-yennis’ sanity is that of Francis Garvan and Doctor Fitzgerald.

Garvan testifies that on the Sunday before the murder, Mac-yennis came to him to tell him that there was a “scheme laid to draw him into a plot, and that there was a Juncto of them, and that Mr. Gordon was the chief of them, that one wanted to see him write, and another to see his seal, and he found his papers rifled, and said there was a letter in Mist’s journal, that was leveled at him.” I’ve left the quote in its original grammatical format because I think it conveys a sense of lunacy, nicely.

Mac-yennis then complains to Garvan that the people of Westminster Hall were conspiring against him, and that he feared being “taken up.” Mac-yennis then tells him that he is planning on leaving the kingdom.

Garvan is worried enough about Mac-yennis at this point to tell Doctor Fitzgerald.

The doctor corroborates Garvan’s story and adds that someone named Mr. Sexton has also sent for him to see Mac-yennis. When Doctor Fitzgerald arrives Mac-yennis he finds him “under a disorder,” and raving about a supposed barbarous murder of a friend.

Doctor Fitzgerald asks Mac-yennis if he’s been sleeping, to which he admits to have not slept in five nights. The doctor sends for a surgeon (for medication?), but Mac-yennis protests violently, refusing to be “blooded” by brandishing his sword.

This exchange also speaks towards the wealth and status of Mac-yennis. Not only could he afford to see a doctor, he also had friends who could afford to send him a doctor.

Mac-yennis was ultimately given a “not guilty” verdict due to “non compos mentis.” This was a relatively rare verdict in 18th c London. A search of the Old Bailey records between the years 1674 to 1789 reveals only forty-nine cases with this ruling.

In Frances’ case, her murderer would be set relatively free. This disposition is also an interesting example of how the mentally ill were treated after committing terrible crimes. In the decades following this crime, punishments, as well as social expectations regarding the treatment of the mentally ill, would shift dramatically.

In 1724, when this crime was committed, the mentally insane were generally relegated to the care of their relatives.

It wouldn’t be until some eighty-odd years later that the “”Act for the Safe Custody of Insane Persons Charged with Offences” would provide proper guidance to the courts in matters of insanity.

3h-BEDLAM_7E1

It is unlikely Mac-yennis was committed to an institution like the one pictured above, however. It was at about this time in history that the Medical Model of disability emerged. This disposition does seem to reflect some level of compassion towards Mac-yennis,

Alternatively, given the extreme polarization of wealth in the 18th c., it is just as likely that Mac-yennis was a wealthy, and therefore powerful, enough gentleman to sway public opinion in his favor.

When looking over the disposition in its entirety, it does certainly seem to reflect an imbalance.

It is interesting to note the order in which things appeared. The first couple of testimonies give the gory details of the crime. The second batch reflects on Mac-yennis’ character and status in the community. The third all seem to corroborate Mac-yennis’ plea of insanity. In each instance, the testimony is recounted, seemingly, in its entirety.

By the time we reach the bottom of the disposition, however, the person documenting the trial moves towards a summarization of unnamed witness testimonies, called “evidences” who all apparently testified to Mac-yennis acting strangely, “like a crazed person” for the week and a half leading up to the murder. It is also stated that Mr. Sexton, along with some other friends of Mac-yennis’, “were about to have him taken care of,” and the amount of these friends were to many to list in the disposition.

The last aspect of 18th c life I would like to touch on is that the evolution of an organized police force. In the 18thc there was an expectation that private individuals would help to maintain the peace by helping to catch criminals and identify them. This type of social responsibility is nicely reflected in Benjamin Robinson’s testimony above.

In a crime-ridden city like St. Clement Danes, however, there was an organized system of police. In this case it was Constable John Bouch. For a more complete history of the evolution of police in London please click here.

Finally, I would like to examine the single piece of damning testimony, that seems to go entirely unnoticed by the courts and other eyewitness accounts.

When Constable Bouch got word of the “disturbance,” he went to secure Mac-yennis who tells him that Frances was a witch who had committed a murder, however, Mac-yennis could not find proof of the crime because, he says, Frances had bewitched him.

Bouch then testifies that Mac-yennis smelled strongly of liquor and was very drunk. When Bouch tells him what he’d done, Mac-yennis, presumably recognizing the seriousness of what he’s done, says that surely he must be put to death.

This begs the question, how then, was insanity or lunacy defined in the 18th c? Up until this point in the disposition it has been established that Mac-yennis was acting completely out-of-character, and doing things he wouldn’t ordinarily.

This single piece of testimony seems to support the argument that Mac-yennis was, perhaps, just plain wealthy enough to get away with . . . murder.

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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.

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirates Life For Captain William Kidd

“My name is Captain Kidd

As I sailed, as I sailed,

Oh my name is Captain Kidd as I sailed,

My name is Captain Kidd

And God’s laws I did forbid,

And most wickedly I did as I sailed.”

-Great Big Sea

            The wail of a newborn filled a home in Greenock, Scotland sometime in the mid sixteen fifties.  This baby would grow from a boy, to a rambunctious teenager and finally into a young man that would leave his native land, cross the Atlantic multiple times, captain and capture ships, seal his name in history and conclude his life at the end of a rope.  His name was Captain William Kidd.

William Kidd grew up well accustomed to the sea, sailing and its corresponding company.  Settling in New York, America, he lived as a mariner and was known to often associate with pirates.  However, he also kept more socially acceptable company, which caused a certain Colonel Levingston to recommend him to Lord Bellamont who spoke with King William III of England and the Board of Admiralty concerning Kidd becoming a privateer.  Kidd’s thorough knowledge of pirate berths made him a strong candidate.

Little choice is offered when dealing with the Monarchy, and so Kidd accepted and became an official privateer under the King of England.  He began his voyage from England and set sail in the ship Adventure Galley in the later part of 1695.  Prior to his travels as a privateer, Kidd had been nicknamed “Wizard of the Seas” for his experience, knowledge and navigational skills.  His trips under the English flag only served to cement this title.

Captain Kidd sailed south to the Portuguese Madeira Islands and then Northwest through the Strait of Gibraltar to Bonavista, on Spain’s Eastern coast.  He then headed back out to the Atlantic and turned South, entering one of his longest stretches as he made his way around Africa to Madagascar.  After making berth for a short while he continued at sea to the Gulf of Aden, and then further East to Calicut, India.

It was here off the coast of Malabar that Kidd committed murder.  His gunner, a man by the name of William Moore died after being struck in the temple by an iron-ringed bucket at the hands of Captain Kidd.  Apparently there was talk on board that some wanted to take over a Dutch ship within proximity but the Captain had refused, as it was not within their allowance.  An exchange of words happened ending in Kidd calling Moore a “Lousy dog” and Moore responding straightforwardly, “If I am a lousy dog, you have made me so; you have brought me to ruin, and many more.”[1]  Then Kidd paced and delivered the fatal blow.  Moore died the following day on October 31, 1698. The Adventure Galley sailed on.

Laying capture to an encountered ship, Kidd returned to Madagascar, sold it and ventured on to take an English-captained ship called the Quedah Merchant.  The Quedah became Kidd’s new flagship and he burned the Adventure Galley at St. Mary’s, an island in close proximity to Madagascar.  These acts seemingly marked Kidd’s entrance into piracy.

Setting sail now for the West Indies, a part of the Caribbean Ocean hosting Porto Rico and the Isle of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Kidd was refused at a few ports.   Eventually he moored at the Island of Mona located in between the aforesaid Islands.  It was here that he sold the Quedah to a man by the name of Bolton.  Eighteen members of his crew stayed behind with the ship.  Kidd traveled on to St. Mary’s, Jamaica in a sloop he had purchased from Bolton in Mona.  While in St. Mary’s, ninety members from his crew joined an East India ship titled the Mocha Merchant, which sailed under a pirate flag.  Kidd then made a few more stops, selling and trading many of his prizes from captured ships before ridding himself of the sloop and sailing as a passenger up to Boston, New England (Massachusetts).

Meanwhile, Bolton had sold the Quedah Merchant and set sail to Boston unbeknownst to William Kidd.  Connecting with Lord Bellamont in regards to the Quedah and its affairs as he had learned from the eighteen crewmembers, Bolton sealed the Captain’s fate.  When Kidd arrived in Boston, he was immediately seized for investigation.  Bellamont had contacted England and though it was not clearly proved that the Quedah Merchant had been wrongly taken, other clear acts of piracy and the murder of William Moore warranted Kidd be shipped back to England.

Back in the King’s land, Captain William Kidd stood trial for murder and other acts of piracy on May 8 and 9, 1701.  At the beginning of his trial, Kidd refused to plead, as he had sent for his French passes that would have excused his taking of certain ships believed to be part of his piracy.  Unfortunately, these were not present for his trial, nor did the judge allow for a delay in the proceedings.  Finally, Kidd consented and pled “not guilty” and the trial commenced, ending with him being found guilty.  The following trials convicting him of piracy also found him guilty though he claimed his innocence all the while.

Captain Kidd was sentenced to death by hanging at Execution Dock on May 23, 1701.  The first attempt to hang him went awry when the rope broke and he fell to the ground.  Kidd was offered a chance to repent as the next noose was fixed, and he apparently did so.  The second try was successful and his body was strung up over the Thames as a warning to other pirates.  So concluded the life of Captain William Kidd: pirate.

There are many interesting insights into life in the eighteenth century from Captain Kidd’s tale.  Service to country and King, separate social groups, the escape that the sea offered and the power testimonies had seem to be strong themes reflecting the society of the day.

Right off the bat we are faced with William the third, the King of England.  There is a monarchy and it is clear who is in control.  Whether Kidd wanted to become a privateer or not wasn’t really a question.  The King made a decision and Kidd couldn’t really say no as that would be going against the absolute top-dog.

The chain of command is clear, Kidd, a mariner is at the bottom, but since he is knowledgeable in the ways of the country’s enemies, namely pirates, we find a Colonel takes notice of him.  The colonel turns up the ladder to a Lord, who in turn converses with the King himself and the Board of Admiralty.  If the Lord is conversing with the King, one can only assume that he is near the top of the social hierarchy.  The Board of Admiralty is clearly just below the King as well and was most likely either appointed by the monarchy or just of very high ranking.

Kidd was enlisted by the head of England to serve, by policing the seas.  This was not a glamorous, easy job, but it did provide a fully provisioned sloop, and the captain and his crew were allowed to keep a small percentage of the plunder they looted from captured ships while the rest was to be returned to serve England.  Privateers provided a service to the public and contributed to society by the bounty they captured.  The policing role aided in protecting the country’s ports from potential threats.  For King and country.

William Kidd may have been at the bottom of the hierarchy concerning the King, but he wasn’t yet England’s bottom rung.  The society even had a sub-gender-hierarchy in that it was strongly patriarchal.  The social classes were great in England and Kidd’s account in the Newgate Calendar displayed his position clearly when it stated that he hung around with pirates.  Pirates and sailors weren’t very high in the social order.  Despite the lack of choice to become a privateer, Kidd may very well have thrilled at the chance to move up in the social ladder.  The captain of a ship was a higher position than sailor, answered to Colonels and Lords and offered more security.

Not only did it offer more security in the sense that a captain was given a ship and provisions, but once away from the mainland, the ship and crew, in essence, became it’s own country.  The only policing had to be within the crew or from another ship, which could be sunk or outrun.  The ocean opened the world to sailors whereas on land, travel was still restricted and communities were more isolated.  Laws on land were more plentiful and harder to escape.  Hierarchies still found their way onto the ship, but there were less extreme separations between crewmembers’ statuses.  It was more or less the captain and first mate at the top and the rest of the crew on par with each other.  In a sense, mutinies were a form of violent democracy, rather different and dramatic compared to the dictatorial monarchy of the day.

It took but a word from the King for action to happen.  Words were incredibly powerful in the eighteenth century.  Should any law be violated, such as a planned mutiny, or in the case of Captain Kidd, his murder of William Moore and other piracy acts, all it took was someone’s account to seal the case.  The main evidence court had to go on at the time was someone’s word.  How easy it could be to create a false truth or testimony against someone.  Such words could bring a person to their death at the end of a rope.  Kidd was convicted because of verbally shared stories.  Witnesses testified in court for and against him.  A single word, “guilty”, sent Kidd to the gallows.  It all began with word of mouth.  The whole of his murder trials, Kidd begged “not guilty”.  What if he was right?   It could all be just an eloquent story created by his crew, the only persons of possible witness.  The only evidence to the murder was someone’s story.

The eighteenth century was a time where someone’s word was not taken lightly.  It mattered.  It was also a time where one did not speak out or act against King and country.  The King was the highest bidder and the rest of society followed in ladder-like order.  Word watching and dictatorial style monarchies sitting at the top of a strongly separated social ladder kept society in firm hands making the sea a means of freedom, a route Captain William Kidd took until it all caught up with him.  The eighteenth century was a tough time.


[1] The Library of Congress Online, Captain William Kidd Trial Transcript, P. 7 (p. 13)

Extras:

Great Big Sea “Captain Kidd” Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hyhiqq-FzDU

1945 “Captain Kidd” Movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOdP20D4-Nc

Crude Land-Crossing Captain Kidd Map: http://www.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm#/map/32430

 

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Should We Place Trust in Titles?

On March 26th, 1768 Frederic Lord Baltimore escaped conviction for raping one Sarah Woodcock. This innocent verdict also decided the fate of his accomplices, Elizabeth Griffenburg and Anne Harvey, who were set free as a result of Baltimore’s acquittal. It is my opinion that justice was not served on this sad day, for I believe Lord Baltimore escaped conviction due to his high position in society, and due to society’s faulty perceptions of noblemen.

Lord Baltimore was a nobleman who attained his fortune through inheritance. His father served for the parliament of Epsom, England, where Lord Baltimore was born and grew up. Lord Baltimore did not confine himself to England, for he used his wealth to travel abroad. During his travels he was inspired by a rather odd form of architecture. He was fascinated with the design of the Turkish harems (the part of a Muslim household reserved for a man’s multiple female partners), so fascinated in fact, that upon his return to England he had part of his house torn down in order that it could be rebuilt to resemble the Turkish harems that captured his attention abroad. In this house, he kept a number of women for the purpose of satisfying his needs. However, he soon realized that he needed diversity in his life, so he promoted many of these women to the role of agent. The women who were assigned the role of agent were responsible for going out and procuring some fresh faces that would satisfy the Lord’s hungry libido. Unfortunately, Sarah Woodcock was one of the girls who was unwillingly scouted for a role in Lord Baltimore’s revolting play house.

Sarah Woodcock was brought to the attention of Lord Baltimore by Mrs. Harvey, who was later put on trial with him as an accomplice in his rape. A member of the “rigid sect of dissenters called Independents,” Sarah Woodcock never strayed from her Christian duties. She was both respectable and beautiful. Her appearance attracted Lord Baltimore, but her unwillingness to be swayed by the compliments paid to her by a married man protected her from ever being fooled by his flattery. The disinterest she showed in Lord Baltimore motivated him to take extreme measures. With the help of his accomplices, Mrs. Harvey and Mrs Griffenburg, Lord Baltimore tricked Sarah Woodcock into entering his house.  Mrs. Harvey convinced the girl to come to the house of a customer who took great interest in her work. Reluctant to oblige, she had little choice, as she was soon pushed into a coach that took her and Mrs. Harvey to Lord Baltimore’s house. Sarah Woodcock unknowingly entered Lord Baltimore’s house, thinking that she was entering the house of a lady who was interested in buying her products. However, when Lord Baltimore walked in, she soon realized that this was not the case, as she recognized him from the previous visits he had paid to her shop.

Suspicious of Lord Baltimore’s intentions, Sarah Woodcock refused any food or refreshment offered her, and insisted on leaving the house. However, Lord Baltimore continued to come up with excuses as to why she needed to stay longer, and refused to allow her to leave. Sarah Woodcock soon realized that she was being detained against her will when Mrs. Griffenburg and Mrs. Harvey pushed her from the window, from which she was trying to signal for help. It became increasingly clear that Lord Baltimore was not going to let her go when he threatened to “throw her into the street” if she tried to communicate with anyone from the window. Thus, Sarah Woodcock was detained against her will, being forced physically to refrain from seeking help, and being threatened with her life if she did not obey his orders.

The  rape occurred on the fourth night after Sarah Woodcock’s arrival at Lord Baltimore’s. Having refused almost all food offered her, she was extremely weak, and was unable to fight off Lord Baltimore, who succeeded in raping her.

Twice (according to Miss Woodcock’s deposition) was this horrid purpose effected; and, though she called out repeatedly for help, yet she found none; and in the morning, when she went to Mrs. Harvey’s room, and told her what had passed, the latter advised her to be quiet, for that she had made noise enough already.

The abuse shown towards Sarah Woodcock continued for days, as she was repeatedly raped by Lord Baltimore night after night. Mrs. Griffenburg and Mrs. Harvey continued to assist Lord Baltimore in containing Sarah Woodcock. What is more, both women believed that she should be grateful for what was happening to her, because Lord Baltimore was a man of good fortune. Sarah Woodcock responded by saying, “that all the fortune the man possessed should not prevail on her to think of living with him on dishonourable terms; and she again demanded that liberty to which she had so just a claim.” Sarah Woodcock was intelligent and ethical. She did not excuse Lord Baltimore’s behaviour on account of his noble status, and his good fortune. She understood that money did not buy him rights to her body, because she did not want his money or his association.

Unfortunately, wealth and status was exactly what assured Lord Baltimore’s freedom. His position as a nobleman placed him in high regard in society, and the court was unwilling to defame a man whose position as a nobleman would bring shame to the country as a whole. I can argue this because Lord Baltimore did not offer any valid evidence that would contradict the accusations made towards him on behalf of Sarah Woodcock. Rather, he relied on the reputation of his father and the supposed honour that he gained from his family’s position in society.

I am sure I have sufficiently atoned for every indiscretion, which a weak attachment to this unworthy woman may have led me into, by having suffered the disgrace of being exposed as a criminal at the bar in the county which my father had the honour to represent in parliament, and where I had some pretensions to have attained the same honour, had that sort of an active life been my object.

Lord Baltimore basically argued that his father’s role in parliament and his relation to his father spoke to his own honour, credit, and respectability. Basically, he believed that he did not need to defend himself because his societal status should speak for itself. Furthermore, he argued that he had suffered enough from the defaming that Sarah Woodcock’s accusations had caused him. He stressed the importance of equating status with trust and this was emphasized when he referred to Sarah Woodcock as unworthy. Sarah Woodcock would be regarded as unworthy for two reasons in the eighteenth century. For one, she is a woman, and second, she is of lower status. Therefore, Lord Baltimore describes Sarah Woodcock as unworthy in order to make a point that trust should be based on gender and status. He further equates his reputation with trust when he states,

 I will take up no more of your lordship’s time than to add that, if I had been conscious of the guilt now imputed to me, I could  have kept myself and my fortune out of the reach of the laws of this country, I am a citizen of the world; I could have lived anywhere: but I love my own country, and, submit to its laws, resolving that my innocence should be justified by the laws.

Lord Baltimore placed his trust in his own country, because he knew that the court would be biased in his favour. Furthermore, he wanted to be tried in England, because he knew the court would have to face disgracing the country if they decided on a verdict of guilty.

Lord Baltimore argued that he should be deemed trustworthy despite the fact that he completely abused his power. However, Sarah Woodcock had trouble conveying his hypocrisy, because his unethical behaviour towards her made her question her trust in any Lord. Her case was weakened by her failing to trust in Lord Mansfield, when she first escaped from Lord Baltimore. She initially denied abuse to Lord Mansfield, “who was the supreme magistrate in the kingdom in criminal matters,” because she did not know if she could trust this Lord until she asked her family and friends if he was an honourable man. Therefore, the title of Lord did nothing to secure her trust because Lord Baltimore proved to her that a high ranking in society does not speak to one’s character. She later explained to Lord Mansfield why she had not told him the truth initially, however her change in story most likely impacted the jury’s decision.

To be sure, Lord Baltimore’s hypocrisy helped assure his victory, as he maintained the trust of those who heard his words, but who were not impacted by his actions. Thus, the jury voted in his favour, because they chose to believe that his title, and the honour associated with his title spoke to his character. His success serves as a perfect example of how power was abused in 18th century society.

Now, the question remains, how far have we progressed since the 18th century? I would argue that we still place a tremendous amount of faith in titles, as is evident in the trust we place in doctors, policemen, and politicians. We trust in the people who hold these professions, because we trust in their training and their ability to help us. However, do we trust too easily? How often do we take medications doctors prescribe without questioning what we are putting into our bodies? How many times do policemen get away with unjustified shootings? And how many times do we place our trust in a politician’s false promises? Just some food for thought to leave you with.

All quotations  from the trial transcript are taken from The Newgate Calendar, http://www.exclassics.com/newgate/ng441.htm

Photo taken from http://www.exclassics.com/newgate/ngillus.htm 

“Prime it with Oatmeal”

Crimes against children always seem to feel especially barbaric. Violence against an innocent can often only be viewed as unnecessary and particularly cruel, and modern day society is especially intolerant of these types of crimes. Unfortunately, this was not always the case.

Edward Clark was only about ten years old when he was shot in the chest for behaving much the way little boys do; he climbed a tree. His murder occurred in South-Mims, outside the house of a man called John Wedon.  Edward Clark, being a poor boy, was often provided for by Mr. Wedon.  On this particular day, Edward had climbed a tree near the entrance to Mr. Wedon’s house. When Mr. Wedon saw the child, he asked him to come down, telling him that if he didn’t, he’d shoot him. The boy refused, replying “No you won’t, Mr. Wedon”.  Mr. Wedon then entered his home, and retrieved his gun. The gun, however, was unprimed (that is, it had not been filled with gun-powder). The boy, teasing Mr. Wedon, told him to “prime it with oatmeal”. Mr. Wedon primed the gun, and went outside, by which point Clark, seeing the gun, had come down from the tree. Mr. Wedon then shot him in the breast, a wound which killed the boy instantly.

John Wedon was tried for murder on June 30, 1714. He claimed that he did not know how the gun went off, or that it had been charged. He also stated that he loved the boy, and never intended to harm him. Although he was found guilty, it was not of the murder with which he was charged.  Instead, he was found guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter. How is it possible that a man who shot a little boy could be found anything other than guilty of his murder? There are, unfortunately, several possibilities as to how John Wedon escaped with the punishment of branding, rather than hanging or imprisonment.

First, as is the case in so many trials from the eighteenth century, most of the evidence was witness testimony. The witness to the crime, who is un-named in the trial transcript, acknowledged that when the gun was fired, Mr. Wedon seemed surprised. This keeps in line with Mr. Wedon’s own defense that he did not know the gun was charged, and did not intend to actually shoot the boy. Further keeping within Mr. Wedon’s defense, the witness testified that he had cried out that he “deserved to be hanged” when Edward Clark fell dead.  Also testifying was a man who had used the gun a few days earlier, while hunting. He stated that he had sent the gun back to Mr. Wedon’s home, charged, and that it was possible that Wedon did not know that the gun remained charged.

There is, however, a reason that cases can rarely be made based solely on witness testimony in modern court-cases. Witnesses are often unreliable, and are subject to corruption and bribery. It seems likely that John Wedon was not a man of small means. He provided for Edward Clark, in spite of no apparent relationship to him, which he would not likely be able to do if he were in a similar state of poverty. Of the three witnesses who testified, only two would need to be paid off, as the third did not witness the crime directly, only having seen Edward Clark come down from the tree, and later, hearing the gun shot. Even if witnesses were not bribed, humans are in part defined by error, and what may have seemed like a man expressing grief over having killed a child he loved could have been a man anguished upon realizing he would be punished for his crime.

Whether or not the witnesses were less than honest, there was at least one case of corruption influencing the case. A man named Hardam, Edward Clark’s uncle, was prosecuting. Hardam received a bond from another man, Bugbert, which would cover damages that may occur in the event that Mr. Wedon was not prosecuted. When this was discovered, proceedings had to be stopped. The jury found Mr. Wedon guilty of manslaughter rather than murder (and both Hardam and Bugbert were ordered to be prosecuted by the court).  In a system so corrupt that a man is not only permitted to prosecute his nephew’s killer, but he is willing to accept bribes to keep him from being found guilty, it does not seem terribly far-fetched that witnesses could be paid off as well.

A second unfortunate factor in the verdict of Mr. Wedon was Edward Clark’s status. As a man, he would already have been held in a status unattainable to women and children, and Clark, at ten years old, was still very much a child. Even more importantly, Clark is clearly labelled as a poor boy in the transcript. As a child living in poverty, his status would have been more or less non-existence, and as such, finding justice for him would not have been of great concern to very many.

Even without looking at flaws in the court system, it seems almost impossible to take Mr. Wedon at his word. Perhaps saying that he was unaware that the gun was charged would suffice as an excuse if he had simply picked it up and fired it. However, when he picked up the gun, it was not primed.  He would have had to fill the gun with powder, and it seems unlikely that at some point during this process he did not notice that the gun was not charged.

Like many victims, Edward Clark was failed by the eighteenth century court system, simply because of his status. Because he was a poor boy murdered by a wealthier man, his murderer received only a branding, despite taking a human life.

Changing Paradigms: The John Hunter Trial

“You keep the title of ‘president’ even if you only served one term.  The same goes for rapists.”

Christy Leigh Stewart

Today, if you asked how many people would agree with this quote, it can be estimated that only a small percentage would not.  This is because in the 21st century, we live in a society that believes in safety, freedom of choice, and justice.  Unfortunately for ten year-old Grace Pitts, she was born three centuries too soon.  The reason Grace Pitts’ case sparked my interest was because of how extremely unjust it was.  I went through numerous cases from both the 17th and 18th centuries before deciding that I wanted to focus on a case involving rape.  I made this decision because while scrolling through the Old Bailey Online, I recognized a pattern.  A pattern that consisted of far too many rape cases ending in the phrase, “The Prisoner was acquitted.”  Because I certainly fall into the category of people who would agree with the quote mentioned above, it enraged me to see how many rapists were getting off scot-free, and being released back into society.  Grace Pitts’ case was especially alarming due to the reasoning behind the final verdict.

The trial took place on April 29, 1747.  It began with the council introducing the case to the courtroom.  The defendant, John Hunter, was being charged with the rape of ten-year-old Grace Pitts.  The first witness called to the stand was Hannah Wilkinson, whom Pitts lived with at the time.  She stated that she realized something had been done to the child when she noticed that her clothes were soiled.  She was also questioned about Pitts’ demeanor, her health, and her relation to the Prisoner.  Following Hannah Wilkinson’s testimony, the Council for the Prisoner asked that Grace Pitts not be used as evidence because of her young age.  However, in the end, it was decided that the victim would be allowed to testify.

The council asked Pitts to tell the story of what happened to her.  She explained that she went to John Hunter’s house to speak with one of his maids.  Hunter told the child that they were not around, but if she would go into the back room with him he would give her an orange.  Pitts explained that she did not see any harm in taking the orange, so she followed him.

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When they were in the room, Pitts tells the court, “He shut the Door and used me ill; he set himself down in the Chair, and pulled something out of his Breeches, and pulled me to him.”  Pitts was asked multiple times if the act had hurt her, to which she replied that it did.  She was also asked multiple times if she cried for help, to which she replied that she would have had she not been threatened by Hunter and told not to do so.  After the act was complete and she had returned home, Pitts said that she did not tell anyone what had happened because she was afraid.  It was not until Hannah Wilkinson inquired about the condition of her linens that she shared the story.

The other witness called upon in support of Grace Pitts was Surgeon Dove.  The surgeon had examined Pitts the day before, and explained that her parts were “very much distended, much enlarged and soul.”  Following the surgeon’s short testimony, those there to speak on John Hunter’s behalf stepped up.  (Important Note: Hunter himself did not speak at the trial).  Hunter had four witnesses, all of whom spoke highly of him.  He was described as modest, sober, honest, and a man of good character.  Very few questions were asked to Hunter’s witnesses, therefore we are not provided with further information from them.

The ending to the trial is what really grasped my attention, and provoked me to do further research on the subject of the trial.  We learn that because Pitts had turned ten four months before the act had been committed, she had to be tried as a mature woman in this case.

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The court considers any child under the age of ten to have been drawn in (whether by force, delusion, or deceit), which means the act was done without consent, making it illegal.  However, in Pitts’ case, because she is over ten years of age, the rules change.  The rape of a mature woman means a carnal knowledge of the body of the person, happening by force, without the consent of the individual.  In short, the difference is that delusion and deceit are no longer considered factors in the act when the victim is over ten.  Going back to Pitts’ story, Hunter had lured her into the back room with bribery, which would normally be categorized as deceit.  Instead, the court says that Pitts, being of mature age, gave some consent of her will because she chose to follow him.  Therefore, Hunter did not commit the act using any force (as far as we know).  Because of this, John Hunter cannot be found guilty of raping Grace Pitts.

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If this makes you wonder how many other people may have been released on similar terms, you are not alone.  London Lives tells us that between 1690 and 1800, 38% of all defendants were acquitted, with an additional 20% convicted on a reduced charge.  This means that only 42% of all defendants were ruled guilty on the full charge originally put against them.  The good news is that this number rose to 72% in the 19th century.  However, for victims like Grace Pitts in the 18th century, it meant living in the midst of your abuser.

To begin my analysis of the case, I feel it is necessary to remind you how far women have come since the 18th century.  Women’s rights were not even up for debate until the late 19th century (early 20th century in many places), so our expectations of justice for Grace Pitts are about 150 years off.  At this time, men and women were thought to have been made up of different characteristics both physically and mentally, and were not viewed as equals because of this.  Gender roles were very specific.  Men were the stronger, more powerful, and more intelligent sex, while women were chaste, weak, and modest.  These stereotypes were pretty much universal, meaning all men and all women fell into their respective categories.  Can you imagine how difficult it would be to plead your case, accusing a man of an unlawful act, as a woman with all these strikes already against you?

It is crucial to discuss the process by which trials took place in the 18th century.  The initial action taken upon the case being presented to the law was a meeting between the members of the grand jury.  A grand jury was made up of men from the middle to upper classes.  Given that this case was Man vs. Woman, we can begin to see how the odds stacked up in Hunter’s case before the trial even began.  Even a group of the most astute men would have found it difficult to side with a petty little girl, rather than a fellow businessman.  It was simply unjust.

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The grand jury would meet to decide whether or not there was sufficient evidence against the accused to bring the trial in front of a jury.  If the grand jury approved the case, it was then referred to as a “true bill”.  If they rejected the case, it was pronounced “ignoramus” and forgotten from then on.  If the grand jury found they were able to directly place charges on individuals, the case was a “presentment” and immediate action was taken.  Grace Pitts’ case was approved; therefore, it was a true bill and was taken to court.  The actual trial in court was a direct confrontation between the prosecutor (who was typically the victim), and the defendant.  Following the trial, the jury would reveal their verdict.  The entire process typically took less than thirty minutes.

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One of the most obvious differences today is that we have lawyers.  A lawyer’s duty is to professionally defend either side of the case, depending on whom they are hired by.  This makes the courtroom a more controlled environment for trials.  The other major difference is the formation of the jury.  In Grace Pitts’ case, because she was both young and a female, she had to have felt intimidated pleading her case to a jury of upper class males.  Today’s juries are much less biased, as they are selected randomly.  A jury will never be made up solely of women or solely of men, and they often have multi-racial members (when in a multi-racial community).  This ascertains that the verdict of the trial will not be decided for any reason beyond pure justice.  The jury is given as much time as they require to deliberate until they reach a unanimous verdict and announce it to the court.  Juries today would be much more sure of their decision than in the past, simply based on the time they take to come up with their verdict.  This is obviously a positive thing when people’s lives are on the line.

In order to showcase the differences in the justice system over the past 300 years, I had to find out how someone would be charged in a similar case today.  I chose to base my research on Canadian law so I am better able to relate to what I find.  In Canada today, John Hunter would be brought up on four offences, leading to an overall verdict.  The offences would be as follows:  Sexual assault, sexual assault causing bodily harm, sexual interference, and luring a child.  During my research, I found a story involving a P.E.I. man who was charged with several accounts of sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.  Shane Douglas Doucette was convicted earlier this month when his pre-teen victim came forward after years of abuse.  Doucette was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison.  Although this case was more extreme than the one between Hunter and Pitts, it provides a comparable over the course of three centuries.  The general amount of jail time for a man like Hunter would be between two and five years in modern Canada, depending on his location and sentences given in similar cases before him.

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The most interesting thing about this process was narrowing down a case that demonstrated how differently justice was served in the 18th century to how it is now.  It was astounding how many cases there were that ended with the prisoner being wrongfully acquitted.  In many cases, this was simply because the alternative was sentencing them to death, and many felt that the punishment did not fit the crime.  That is important to note because it proves how far we have come since then in assuring that there is a fair punishment for every crime committed.  Evidently we can see that there are less people like Grace Pitts in the world today, dealing with resentment and fear, and we live in a better world because of that.

Please follow the links I have included throughout to find more information on the John Hunter Trial, the court process in the 18th century, sexual assault laws in our country, as well as a few similar cases happening around us today!

Also, leave a comment below to let me know what you think … I would love to hear your arguments and assertions!

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Richard Coleman

  What happened?

  Richard Coleman was clerk to a brewer, and had a wife and several children.  Coleman was wrongly executed for a crime he did not commit; the murder of Sarah Green.  Sarah Green was walking home from Kennington Lane late one evening and was approached by three men who appeared to be brewer’s servants. Two of these men assaulted Green.  She made it home at 2 o’clock in the morning and was sent to St. Thomas’s Hospital after explaining what happened to her the night before.  Green claimed it was the clerk from the brewhouse who was one of the men who treated her so poorly, and so Richard Coleman was the assumed attacker.  While at an ale house two days later, a drunk Richard Coleman was with Daniel Trotman who was sober at the time, and a stranger approached Coleman on the matter of the assault.  He was asked if he knew of Kennington Lane, and then if he knew that a woman had been poorly treated there.  Coleman replied yes, he was aware of both.  The stranger then asked if Coleman was one of the men who assaulted Sarah Green.  An innocent Coleman replied “If I had, you dog, what then?” and then proceeded to throw his spoon at the stranger, resulting in a fight he eventually walked away from. Coleman returned to the ale house the next day only to be told of the previous days events and how badly he acted, but Coleman did not remember the incident.  Aware of his own innocence Coleman payed little attention to the incident between himself and the stranger that happened the previous day.  Coleman and Trotman went before the magistrate and Coleman was charged on suspicion of assaulting Sarah Green.  The magistrate however thought that Coleman was innocent but sent him to the hospital Sarah Green was in so she could identify whether Coleman was one of her attackers or not.  Green thought Coleman was one of her attackers but could not be sure, so Coleman was admitted bail.  The accusers asked for Coleman to be brought before Green once more.  Coleman took with him the landlord of the place that Green had been on the night of the incident.  The landlord swore that Coleman was not one of the attackers, but Green swore that Coleman attacked her.  The justice did not believe Green to be mentally stable at the time and believed Coleman was innocent so they let him go on the condition that he would bring bail the next day. Coleman did as promised and brought bail the next day. A coroners jury then issued a warrant for the arrest of Coleman.    A reward of 70 pounds was issued for whoever could find Coleman and bring him in.  Coleman in attempt to prove his innocence did not hide but rather printed in a newspaper “I, Richard Coleman, seeing myself advertised in the Gazette as absconding on account of the murder of Sarah Green, knowing myself not any way culpable, do assert that I have not absconded from justice; but will willingly and readily appear at the next assizes, knowing that my innocence will acquit me.”  Coleman was apprehended, and although people swore he was elsewhere at the time of the incident, was convicted of the crime.  Coleman was executed on the 12th of April, 1749 and following his execution James Welsh and Thomas Jones confessed that they committed the crime.

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What does this say about 18th century society?

    The execution of the innocent Richard Coleman shows the flaws of the popular form of punishment at the time.  Hanging was the favored form of punishment at the time but unlike a prison sentence, if it is found that the convicted was wrongly accused and punished, the punishment of hanging cannot be reversed.  According to Steiker and Steiker “The execution of some innocent people is simply the unavoidable cost of implementing capital punishment and thus is comparable to the foreseeable deaths that occur whenever the government undertakes an important social project, such as building a bridge or constructing a dam.” (Steiker, 587-588)  This is a problem because the execution of innocent people is foreseen but not prevented.  The other issue with this outlook on execution is that because of the number of executions in the 18th century due to its popularity as a form of punishment and the lack of scientific advancements such as DNA to prove innocence or guilt, it can be assumed that more innocent people were wrongly executed than in modern death penalty cases.  A persons life should not be worth the gamble of guilt or innocence just to provide some type of justice for the victim.  There are other alternatives such as life in prison.
A wrongly convicted man cannot be brought back from the dead following execution if he is found innocent after the hanging.  Not only was Richard Coleman executed for something he did not do, the magistrate believed Coleman to be innocent, yet still hanged him.  This is a result of the many times that Coleman was granted bail and then pursued further until he was found guilty.  This is another flaw with the law system at the time.  Once a man is found innocent he should not be accused and put on trial for the same act again.  If the pressure from Green’s side did not continue after Coleman was granted bail, it can be assumed that Coleman would have lived the rest of his life until his natural death.  The evidence to support Coleman’s innocence was strong as he had several witnesses attest to his whereabouts on the night of the attack and yet this evidence was disregarded and the final accusation by Green that Coleman was her attacker held up in court.  Green’s testimony should not have been regarded since she was asked previous to this claim where she could not give a definite positive identification of Coleman as her attacker.  Green was also deemed to be unstable at this time so her claims should not have been given as much weight in the decision of the jury.  Other than the victim there were no other eye witnesses to the assault but it was assumed because Green thought it was the clerk from the brewery that it must have been Coleman who assaulted her.  Without proper evidence against the accused, the accused should be assumed innocent until proven guilty, but that is not the case for the 18th century law system.  This shows the “he said she said” structure of the law system at the time, which gives more weight to the accusations of the victim than the evidence to support the innocence of the accused.
The wrongly executed lose not only their lives but also their dignity. As quoted from Steiker and Steiker  “those who are innocent and sentenced to death suffer the additional devastation of being blamed for a terrible crime; their names, families, and entire lives are forever tainted by such ignominy, quite apart from the death of their bodies.” (Steiker, 588)  Therefore, it is not only the executed who lose something, namely their lives, but the families have to deal with the shame of the execution of their loved ones, who may never know that their loved ones were innocent.  If they do find out that their loved ones were innocent, the families then have to live with the pain of knowing the law system failed them and their loved ones were killed for crimes they did not commit.
Another interesting point to look at is the fact that the warrant for Coleman’s arrest and the response from Coleman were written in the newspaper.  Rather than just turn himself in without fixing the tainting of his name, Coleman chose to respond to the warrant by replying in the newspaper, declaring his innocence for all to see.  This can be considered an attempt by Coleman to clear his own name after the many false accusations against him when he was sure he did not commit the crime.  Norma Landau writes “According to both Snell and King, newspapers’ reports of crime presented a distorted image of crime – an image of crime as more violent and horrific than it actually was. Since, they argue, readers rarely had knowledge of crime other than what they read, then newspapers played a major role in constructing their readers’ understanding of crime. As a result, their arguments highlight the role of newspapers’ editors in constructing their readers’ concept of the nature and prevalence of crime.” (Landau, 402)  From this we can assume that although the newspaper was a valuable resource to spread word of crime, it was not always honest to the true acts do the crime leaving an unrepresentative image to persuade readers.  This can further the tainting of the image of an accused man who may truly be innocent.

Ultimately this trial tells us that eighteenth century Britain was so concerned with closure for the victims, that it turned a blind eye to the signs that the accused was innocent.  Rather than letting the evidence lead them to a suspect, eighteenth century Britain used the suspect to lead them to the “evidence.”  Speculation alone was grounds for conviction, whether or not the alibi of the accused can be confirmed.  Unlike today’s law system where the accused are innocent until proven guilty, 18th century Britain held the accused as guilty until proven innocent.

Works Cited

Landau, Norma. “Gauging Crime In Late Eighteenth-Century London.” Social History 35.4 (2010): 396-417. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

“Richard Coleman.” The Newgate Calendar. Stephen Hart, 2014. Web. 1 March 2014.

Steiker, Carol S., and Jordan M. Steiker. “The Seduction Of Innocence: The Attraction And     Limitations Of The Focus On Innocence In Capital Punishment Law And Advocacy.”     Journal Of Criminal Law & Criminology 95.2 (2005): 587-624. SocINDEX with Full     Text. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.