Relax, Linden! Mrs. Leigh-Perrot DID speak!
Posted by Laura W on April 22, 1998 at 23:19:41:
In response to Defendants testifying, written by Linden on March 28, 1998 at 20:38:31
From Jane Austen's Town and Country Style, by Susan Watkins:"At her trial, which opened on 27 March 1800, before a courtroom of two thousand persons, Mrs Leigh-Perrot was allowed to make a brief statement in her own defence. Her words were few, but carried great emotion. It took the jury less than ten minutes to decide upon her innocence. During the same assize, five of Mrs Leigh-Perrot's fellow prisoners were sentenced to death; among them was a fourteen-year-old burglar."
There is also an account in Jane Austen: A Family Record, by William Austen-Leigh (and revised by Dierdre LeFaye):"The trial took place at Taunton on Saturday 29 March 1800, in the Great Hall of the old castle buildings, before a crowded court. The criminal law of England, as it then existed, made it very difficult for Mrs. Leigh-Perrot to prove her innocence; she could not give evidence on oath on her own behalf, her husband was not allowed to give evidence for her, and her counsel were not allwed to address the jury on her behalf but could only examine and cross-examine witnesses. Mr. Leigh-Perrot had engaged the best counsel and secured his most influential acquaintance as witnesses to his wife's good character, but he was aware that if they encountered an unsympathetic jury it would be quite possible for a failure of ustice to occur. According to family tradition, he had arranced that in case of an adverse verdict followed by transportation he would sell his property and accompany his wife to Australia.
Miss Gregory, Filby and a junior shop-girl Sarah Raines told their well-rehearsed tale for the prosecution -- Filby now claiming that he had seen Mrs. Leigh-Perrot pick up the card of white lace from a box on the counter -- and in response to this Mrs. Leigh-Perrot was allowed to do no more than assure the jury that she was innocent of the charge. However, her lawyers were able to cast doubts on Filby's honesty and character; other witnesses testified that extra items besides their proper purchases had been included in their parcels from the shop; three Bath tradesmen spoke of Mrs. Leigh-Perrot's integrity in her dealings with them; and 11 of the couple's long-standing friends from Berkshire and Bath attested to her high moral standards. The judge's summing-up lasted nearly an hour, and after a consultation of less than 15 minutes the jury returned a verdict of 'Not Guilty,' which was greeted immediately by claps of approval from the spectators. 'The trial lasted seven hours, and the sene at the acquittal was extremely affecting. The agitation and embraces of Mr. and Mrs. Perrot may be more easily conceived than described.'"
So it appears that one cannot testify in one's defence under oath, but one may be allowed to address the jury for a few moments.
Hope this helps!
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