On Thursday the 15th of August, 1889, The Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette published the following response to the recent verdict of “Guilty” that had been returned against Florence Maybrick, for the murder of her husband, James Maybrick:-
THE LIVERPOOL POISONING CASE
Not for many years has a criminal trial created so great an interest as that which concluded before Mr. Justice Stephen on Wednesday last.
Ever since the wretched woman, who now lies under sentence of death in Walton Gaol was first arrested, the public seems to have concerned itself very much in the charge brought against her.
THE FACTS OF THE CASE
This all-absorbing interest is not surprising when the facts of the case are borne in mind.
Mrs. Maybrick is the reputed daughter of the Baroness Roques, her first husband, a Mr. Chandler, of Mobile, U.S.A., and grand-niece of Jefferson Davis, a whilom President of the great American Republic.
We cannot vouch for the accuracy of these statements, though set them down as being commonly accepted.
It is certain that the condemned woman has been well brought up, having received her education in Germany. It is also certain that her husband, James Maybrick, was in a good social position at Liverpool. These facts alone gave the case great prominence.
But when to these was added the strong element of doubt created in the popular mind by the contradictory nature of the medical testimony, the excitement naturally rose very high.
We fail to see, however, why the verdict pronounced on Wednesday should create a sensation or cause surprise, unless we assume that many people had, prior to the trial, quite made up their minds as to what the verdict should be.
TREATMENT OF THE JUDGE AND JURY
We must deplore, as all reasonably thinking people deplore, the fact that, even in Liverpool, with its large floating low class population, a crowd could be convened capable of behaving in the manner in which a crowd is reported to have behaved towards Judge and Jurors at the termination of the case.
Both Judge and Jury were thoroughly impartial, and for six successive days had given the case their closest attention.
They had before them all the witnesses and observed their demeanour under examination and cross-examination.
THE JURY HISSED AT
They had seen the prisoner, a delicately nurtured lady, sit day after day in the dock, arraigned on the most terrible of all charges; they had heard her pitiable statement – her shameful confession of infidelity; and they had heard, too, every point in her favour that the most able and eloquent counsel at the English bar could put forward: still, sworn to give a true verdict in accordance with the evidence, they felt constrained to say “Guilty.”
And yet, forsooth, these gentlemen, after having conscientiously discharged a most painful duty to the community at large, must needs be hissed by a rabble crowd as they leave the hall of justice.
The incident, in which we trust no respectable citizen of Liverpool took part, only serves to show to show the value of popular (?) ebullitions.
THE JUDGE HAD NO DISCRETION
We note that the Judge, in passing sentence, refrained from any expression or approval of, or even incurrence in, the verdict of the jury.
“The jury,” said his lordship, “have convicted you, and the law leaves me no discretion.
HOPES OF A REPRIEVE
There does not seem, therefore, to be any strong barrier to the hopes now entertained by many persons that Florence Maybrick will be reprieved.
At the same time, we cannot but see the overpowering weight of the evidence put forward by the prosecution.
ARSENIC FOUND EVERYWHERE
The deceased had taken arsenic at one time, but there was no evidence to show that he had done so within a reasonable period of his death.
Yet arsenic was found in his remains: not even the defence denied that.
How came it there?
Arsenic was found in the prisoner’s pocket, in her handkerchief, a portion of her nightdress, in her apron, in the jug in which she sent her husband’s food to the office, in the meat juice she administered to him, in the pipes leading from the lavatory. Almost everywhere that it could be reasonably expected to be found,
“Star-eyed science” had discovered it.
There had been a quarrel Between her and her husband, and they were, apparently, reconciled by Dr. Hopper. Yet, after that reconciliation, Mrs Maybrick went to London and shared rooms there with a man named Brierley.
On a certain day after Mr. Maybrick became ill, and just when, in the opinion of his doctors, he was showing symptoms of recovery – at a time too when his wife was, according to her own account, “miserably unhappy, terribly anxious ” about him – when she was calling him her “dear old darling” – she sat down and hurriedly wrote to her paramour, stating that her husband was “sick unto death,” and made a number of other statements of a most grave and compromising character,
The physician thought her husband was recovering; what ground then had she for saying that he was “sick unto death“?
THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
Sir Charles Russell’s defence was that the deceased had not died from the effects of arsenic; yet Mrs. Maybrick, in her statement to the Jury, said that at the earnest entreaty of her husband, she put white powder in the meat juice.
How her counsel regarded this statement we cannot say, but the conclusion it points to can be discerned by the veriest tyro.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Maybrick’s character was not one in which veracity was a marked trait and, naturally, the jury could not attach much importance to her statement.
THE WHOLE CASE TO BE RECONSIDERED
As to her chances of reprieve, we can express no opinion. The whole case is certain to be reconsidered by the Home Secretary in the most careful manner.
In the meantime, popular ebullitions of sympathy must not be allowed to weigh on the mind of anyone.
We feel certain that the Jury at Liverpool have discharged their duty most conscientiously, and, except on the very strongest and most urgent grounds, it would be manifestly most improper for any person to impugn their verdict.