The short life of this culprit was remarkable for producing two surprising instances of the uncertainty of identity.
On the 4th of September, 1772,he was arraigned at the bar of the Old Bailey, for robbing Mrs. Ryan, at which time, in a note taken of the circumstance, he was called 'the unfortunate barber's boy,' being then very young. The prosecutrix, and other evidence, swore positively that the prisoner committed the robbery on the 17th of June then last past. The Court consequently supposed conviction would follow; but, being called on for his defence, he said he was innocent, and that the books of the Court would prove where he was on the day of the robbery. Reference was immediately made to the records; and strange, yet true to relate, that, on the very day and hour sworn to, Male was actually on his trial, at the bar where he then stood, for another robbery, when he was unfortunate enough to have been mistaken for the robber. He was consequently acquitted, and his case greatly commiserated.
We might reasonably conclude that these escapes, when innocent, would have deterred him from guilt; but the inside of Newgate will very soon contaminate the youthful mind, and, though discharged with honour, he came out a determined thief. His career of villainy was short indeed; for in six months afterwards we find him expiating his crimes at the gallows. He was at length charged with a real robbery, committed by him on the person of Mrs. Grignion, and, being unable longer to prove an alibi, as he had hitherto done, he was found guilty. The circumstances of his acquittals, which might have proved advantageous, now militated against him. Mercy could not be extended to one who, in defiance of all warning, would turn robber. He suffered at Tyburn March the 25th, 1773, along with Matthew Doyle, for robbing Mr. Lewis Herne; Joseph Richardson and Jonathan Brannon, for burglary. The ages of these four malefactors did but just outnumber the scriptural number of the years of one man; yet it was said, 'though young in years, they were old in iniquity.'
A very remarkable instance of personal similitude happened at New York, in North America, in the year 1804. A man was indicted for bigamy, under the name of James Hoag. He was met, as was supposed, in a distant part of the country by some friends of his first wife (for there, as well as in our own country, there can be but one real wife), and apprehended. The prisoner denied the charge, and said his name was Thomas Parker. On the trial, Mrs. Hoag, her relations, and many other creditable witnesses, swore that he was James Hoag, and she swore positively that he was her husband. On the other side, an equal number of witnesses, and equally respectable, swore that the prisoner was Thomas Parker; and Mrs. Parker appeared, and claimed him as her husband.
The first party were again called by the Court, and they not only again deposed to him, but that by stature, shape, gesture, complexion, looks, voice, and speech, he was James Hoag. They even described a particular scar on his forehead, by which he could be known. On turning back the hair, the scar appeared. The others, in return, swore that he had lived among them, worked with them, and was in their company, on the very day of his alleged marriage with Mrs. Hoag; Here the scales of testimony were balanced, for the jury knew not which party to give credit to. Mrs. Hoag, anxious to gain back her husband, declared be had a certain more particular mark on the sole of his foot. Mrs. Parker avowed that her husband had no such mark; and the man was ordered to pull off his shoes and stockings. His feet were examined, and no mark appeared.
The ladies now contended for the man, and Mrs. Hoag vowed that she had lost her husband, and she would have him. During this strife a justice of the peace from the place where the prisoner was apprehended entered the Court, and turned the scale in his favour. His worship swore him to be Thomas Parker; that he had known, and occasionally employed him, from his infancy: whereupon Mrs. Parker embraced and carried off her husband in triumph, by the verdict of the jury.