Executed, after a great Legal Argument, On 7th of March, 1791, in the Isle of Ely, for the Murder of his Wife.
IN the case of this unfortunate man the judges were called upon to decide whether he had murdered his wife by kicking her, or whether her death was occasioned only after "reasonable chastisement," which he had inflicted upon her.
Bartholomew Quailn, a poor labouring man, was tried at the assizes for the Isle of Ely for the wilful murder of his wife; but on the Court doubting whether the affair was murder or manslaughter the jury found a special verdict, which, being removed certiorari, was now argued, in the presence of the prisoner, by Mr Plumtree for the Crown, and Mr Wilson for the unhappy man at the bar.
The facts were principally these. The prisoner, with his infant child on one arm, and a coarse bag on the other, followed his wife out of a public-house in the parish of Hadgrane, in the county of Cambridge. Soon afterwards his wife was seen lying on the road, quarrelling with her husband, who stood near her, because he would not give her the bag which he held in his left hand. High words passed between them; and, upon some provoking expressions being made use of by the wife, the prisoner ran up to her and kicked her violently as she lay on the ground. She got up and endeavoured to run away from him, but he ran after her, and on his overtaking her she again fell to the ground, when he again kicked her with great violence. She rose again, and endeavoured to make her escape, but he again followed her, and on her falling down he kicked her violently as before.
While she lay on the ground a person called to him and asked him how he could treat his wife so barbarously. To which he replied that he would serve her in the same manner. The deceased rose again from the ground, and endeavoured to get from him, but he followed her, threw her down, and gave her several violent kicks, upon which she clapped her hand to her side and exclaimed, "Oh, Bat, now you have done for me!" or "Now you have killed me," or some words to that effect; and soon after she expired.
The prisoner showed great grief and concern for her death. The jurors found that she had not given him any other provocation; that her spleen had been burst by the kicks she so received; and that the said bursting of the spleen had been the cause of her death.
Mr Plumtree, after an elegant exordium, entered into the definition of murder as laid down by Hawkins and Hale; described the two kinds of malice in fact and in law, or, as they are more generally called, malice express and malice implied; and contended that, from the circumstances of this case, the Court must imply that the prisoner was impelled by that malice which, according to the words of Mr Justice Forster, showed "his heart to be regardless of social duty, and his mind deliberately bent upon mischief."
Mr Wilson, for the prisoner, raised two objections in point of form, which, however, were overruled by the Court.
The judges gave their opinions seriatim, and were clear and unanimous that the facts as stated on the special verdict amounted to the crime of murder. They relied upon the doctrine laid down by Mr Justice Forster that "in every charge of murder, the fact of killing being first proved, all the circumstances of accident, necessity or infirmity are to be satisfactorily proved by the prisoner, unless they arise out of the evidence produced against him; for the law presumes the fact to be founded on malice until the contrary appears"; that upon the present occasion there was no one fact of provocation stated on the verdict that could induce the prisoner to kick his wife in so violent a manner, for, so far from her making any resistance, it appeared she endeavoured all she could to get away from him. Chastisement, wherever that right exists, must be done in a reasonable manner; but where it is exercised in so violent a manner as in the present case it shows the heart to be regardless of social duty, and deliberately bent on mischief.
This case was like the case of the park-keeper who tied a boy to a horse's tail and then struck the boy, which occasioned the horse to run away, by which the boy was killed. Death, perhaps, was not intended in either case, but the mode of correction in both was violent; or, as the printed report of the case called it, it was a deliberate act; from which, as death ensued, it was adjudged to be murder.
There was also a case in Kelynge, pages 64 and 65, where a woman was indicted for murdering her child; and it appeared that she had kicked her on the belly, and it was adjudged murder.
The Clerk of the Crown called upon the prisoner and, after reading the proceedings, asked him what he had to say why the Court should not pronounce on him judgment to die according to law.
Mr Justice Ashurst, putting on the black coif which is worn on these occasions, pronounced sentence of death in the most solemn and affecting manner -- viz. that the prisoner should be hanged by the neck, and his body delivered to the surgeons to be dissected and anatomised.
He was executed on the 7th of March, 1791.