This trial report begins: 'A full and Particular Account of the Trial and Sentence of Wm. Alexander, and Janet Blackwood, or Martin, who were tried before the High Court of Justiciary, on Monday 29th January 1827, for Murder, and Assault, on the person of Catherine Smith, wife of the said Wm. Alexander, on 6th September last, who died in the Infirmary on the 8th, September, in consequence.' This broadside was printed for William Henry and cost one penny.
Despite the severity of this crime, and the number of witnesses who willingly came forward, neither Alexander nor Blackwood were sentenced to be executed. Alexander was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to transportation for 14 years, and a not proven verdict was returned for Blackwood. In Scots law the not proven verdict effectively produces the same result as not guilty: the accused walks free and can never be tried again for the same crime. Not proven, however, leaves an element of doubt, suggesting that the accused is considered guilty by the court, but not beyond reasonable doubt.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.
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Date of publication:
1827 shelfmark: Ry.III.a.2(74)
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