Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The murder trial of Sidney Clay, Part III: Sentencing

[Part II is here]

After Dr Gruyther went to the police to report his suspicious behaviour Clay was arrested and tried for 'unlawfully soliciting Eustace Julian de Gruyther to kill and murder a certain male child aged two months'. There was no proof that the child had died of poison rather than neglect and malnutrition.

The defence argued that Dr Gruyther's testimony 'might have been actuated by motives of notoriety' and that there was no other evidence against Clay. Mrs Manning and Maud Morris both testified that he had tried to help the the boy and that they had done their best to care for him.

The jury found Clay guilty and recommended him to mercy on account of this youth and good character. The judge sentenced him to six months hard labour.

Spy:  Justice Lewis William Cave
Vanity Fair, 1893
Wikimeda Commons image

That judge was Justice Lewis William Cave. This is from his obituary: 'Fearless, if occasionally over-confident, and brusque and stubborn in his demeanour towards counsel pressing a point which appeared to him untenable, he shirked no difficulty, did not hide vacillations under a cloud of verbiage or impalpable qualifications and reservations; and, if he was occasionally wrong—and in the early days of his judicial career he was curiously often right—he was always intelligible.'

Justice Cave told Clay said he ‘should have been disposed to have dealt more leniently with him if he had taken advantage of the opportunity he had had of making an honest woman’ of Morris.

Dr Ginger S. Frost, of Samford University, thinks that means Clay would have got a lighter sentence for trying to kill his son if he'd been married to the mother.

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