Sunday, 6 January 2013

6th January 1813: The trial of Mellor, Thorpe & Smith - Part 4: the verdict

At just before 8.00 p.m., and after being in Court 11 hours, the Jury in the trial of George Mellor, William Thorpe & Thomas Smith returned after only 25 minutes deliberation. They found all 3 defendants Guilty.

Unlike all the other prisoners on trial in the Special Commission, Mellor, Thorpe & Smith received sentence immediately.

The prisoners were asked by the Judge why sentence of death should not be passed and said:
George Mellor – I have nothing to say, only I am not guilty.

William Thorpe – I am not guilty, sir; evidence has been given false against me; that I declare.

Thomas Smith – Not guilty, sir.
Sir Simon Le Blanc then passed sentence:
You, the several prisoners at the bar, have been tried and convicted of wilful and deliberate murder; under all circumstances an offence of the deepest malignity, but under the circumstances which have appeared in this case in particular, as far as one crime of the same denomination can be distinguished from another, this may be pronounced a crime of the blackest dye. In other cases, the Court has been able to discover something which might work upon the passions of mankind, and might induce them to commit an act, at which, in their cooler moments, their minds would have revolted. But, in the present case, the crime was committed against a man, who appears to have given no offence to any one of you, except that he was suspected of having expressed himself with a manly feeling against those who had set up a right to violate all property, and to take away the life of any man who had been supposed to encourage others to do what I trust there still are men sufficient in this country to do—to stand manfully forward in defence of their property. For that reason, he was marked out by you as an object of the most cowardly revenge. You, attempting to associate with yourselves such men as you could prevail upon to join in your wicked purposes, way-lay him at the moment when he is returning home, almost in mid-day, with a boldness which one has scarcely ever witnessed in trying offences of this description. But in the course of your trial, proceedings have come before the Court, at which human nature should be so debased. That the national character should be so debased; that men, who ought to boast of their character as Britons, should have dared to hold forth, in the language in which you have held forth, and with so little discretion, that assassination and destruction of property were instruments in your hands, to be exercised at your pleasure, and against any person who had happened to offend you—independently of this, that you should have dared to take into your hands the holy scriptures, and to administer an impious oath to those who were cognizant of your offence, calling the Almighty as a witness (that Being whom you were conscious you had offended in the highest degree), calling upon him for vengeance upon the heads of those who should discover your crimes—these are circumstances which have appeared in the course of this trial, and which have scarcely ever appeared in the course of any trial which has been brought before a court of justice.

It is not upon the testimony of one, or two, or three witnesses, that your guilt depends; and let me advise you not to lay that balm to your souls, that you have been deprived by false accusation, and by false oaths, of your lives. A chain of circumstances has been discovered in the course of this trial, which does not depend upon the oath of any one, or two or three men, whom you may denominate even as bad as yourselves. But even from the testimony of those, who, if there had not been honest to a certain degree, would have given a different evidence, it is clear that two at least of you were guilty; and as little doubt remains, from other evidence, upon the guilt of the third.

In the shop where you have worked, some of you appear to have gained such an ascendancy over the minds and over the consciences of the workmen, who were in some degree under your control, that you could mould and fashion them to any wicked purpose you yourselves might imagine. Their eyes, I hope, will be opened by the fate which awaits you; they will see, that though for a short time the career of the wicked may continue, yet the law is sure at length to overtake them.

To you, the unfortunate persons who stand at the bar (for every man who has disgraced his character as you have, must be deemed unfortunate), to you the only kindness I can offer, is, in the advice to prepare, as speedily as you can, for that execution of this sentence, which must surely await you; to make the best use you can of the period still allotted to you in this world—longer far than was allowed to the unfortunate person who was the object of your revenge; that you will take the opportunity of making your peace with that Almighty Being whom you have offended; that by the sincerity of your repentance, the fulness of your confession, and the acknowledgement of your offences, you may endeavour to obtain that forgiveness in the world to come, which I cannot hold out to you any hopes of obtaining in this world.

It remains only to me to pass upon you the sentence of the law. That sentence is, that you, the three prisoners at the bar, be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence, on Friday next, to the place of execution; that you may be there severally hanged by the neck until you are dead, and your bodies afterwards delivered to the surgeons to be dissected and anatomised, according to the directions of the statute. And may God have mercy upon your souls.
The execution was scheduled for 2 days time - in the midst of the proceedings, and despite the fact that all 3 prisoners were on trial for other offences.

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