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Xnsolvents in Massachusetts.
Atkinson, Samuel D. Blakesley, Hubbard Call, Robert Chase, Hezekiah (a) Chase, Hezekiah jr. (a) Cheney, Joseph A. Conant, Oliver J. Crane, James Currier, Hugh M. (0) Davis, Perley A. Dodge, Richard jr. Eames, Dennis Felton, Nehemiah H. Fiske, Edward R. (6) Gragg, Richard Hill, Charles E. Hobbs, John Kinsman, J. Sumner Knowles, David K. (c) Lamson, Wm. P. Lawrence, Alden Lyford, Horace O. McCrillis, James Myrick, Wm. H. Nichols, Moses o. Otis, John (d) Pannott, J. Howard Pease, Argalis (d) Potter, Joseph S. (e) Prentiss, Caleb jr. (f) Prentiss, J. G. Putnam, Austin G. Putnam, Avery D. (g) Reynolds, Werden (0) Rice, Elisha H. Ridlon, Thomas H. Sandford, Giles Savage, Norman Smith, Willard W. Steel, William Stevens, Charles C. Stone, Lewis Symonds, George W. Taylor, William Thayer, Wm, S. Veazie, Charles N. (c) Young, Darius F. (h)
MONTHLY LAW REPORTER.
THE CASE OF WILLIAM PALMER.
The recent trial of William Palmer, for the murder of Jobn Parsons Cook, deserves more than a passing notice. The extraordinary circumstances under which the crime was committed, the universal interest excited by it among all classes of persons in England, and the character of the trial, all combine to render the case one of uncommon importance to the whole community as well as to the legal profession.
Palmer, the convicted murderer, is a man about thirtyone years old. He was originally possessed of some property, received a good medical education, and began to practise as a physician. He married early in life a young girl, an heiress, and very soon abandoned the practice of his profession for the more exciting and congenial occupation of the turf. He owned race horses, attended all the races, and betted largely. In this pursuit he soon lost whatever fortune he had ; and in the year 1853 was forced to raise money to enable him to carry on his racing speculations. To obtain funds he had recourse to usurers, and from one of these he obtained money at the enormous rate of sixty per cent. per annum. This rate of interest, which seems to men in legitimate business so frightful, is said by persons of experience to be rather a moderate premium for VOL. IX. — NO. 111. — NEW SERIES.
loans made under such circumstances. The securities upon which these loans were made consisted of Palmer's notes, with the indorsement of his mother, a woman of considerable fortune. The indorsements, it appears, were not genuine, but were either forged by Palmer himself, or written by his wife, by his direction. His success on the turf did not furnish him with the means of paying these loans, and he was obliged to have recourse to other expedients. He procured an insurance of £13,000 upon the life of his wife, and in a few months she died. The insurance was paid to Palmer without objection, though since his arrest upon the charge of which he stands convicted, there have been grave suspicions that she died by no natural means, and he has been indicted for her murder. At a late date he procured a similar insurance of the same amount upon the life of his brother Walter, an uncertified bankrupt, who also died. The same suspicion exists in this case, though no bill has been found against Palmer. There is some evidence, also, that the original proposal was for an insurance of £1000, and that the amount of the proposal was altered by Palmer and a confederate, without the knowledge of his brother. About the time of Cook's death, Palmer was also endeavoring to effect a further insurance of £13,000 on the life of a man by the name of Bates, a quasi groom in his employ; but this scheme was not accomplished, and originated probably in the refusal of the insurers to pay the policy on the life of his brother. · Mr. John Parsons Cook, the victim of Palmer's crime, seems to have been rather a graceless youth, who, possessed of a fortune of about £12,000, and bred as an attorney, preferred a life of reckless dissipation and pleasure, and had been for some years a well-known racing man. He was an intimate of Palmer's, who seems to have been a popular man among his fellows, and Palmer and he had been concerned together in races and racing speculations.
On the 13th of last November, Cook's horse, the “ Polestar," won the Shrewsbury Handicap, and at the same races Palmer's horse, “ Chicken," was beaten. By this turn of fortune Cook was the winner of nearly £2000, and Palmer was a hopeless bankrupt. He owed his money-lender £13,000 upon the forged notes, and was daily pressed for payment, and threatened with suits against his mother upon her supposed indorsements. He had but a mere trifle at his banker's. The payment of the insurance upon his brother's life was refused, and he had no possible resource.
Under these circumstances, upon the theory of the prosecution, he determined to possess himself of all Cook's late winnings, of the horse Polestar, and whatever other property Cook might have; and by these means, if possible, to retrieve his condition, and for this purpose he compassed his death. It was urged by the defence, that Cook was his most intimate friend, that there had been previous transactions between them, that to save him from bankruptcy Cook was willing to furnish, and was actually lending him his recent gains, and that to no one was the death of Cook so great a misfortune as to Palmer, whose ruin became thereby inevitable. It is not material for us to discuss which of these theories was the most clearly supported by the evidence. It was shown that Palmer, during the week succeeding the races, while Cook was ill at Rugely, received some portion of the money that Cook had won, and applied it to the payment of his own debts; that he either fraudulently, or with Cook's consent, endeavored to obtain possession of other sums, and either procured or forged Cook's signature to an instrument acknowledging a large indebtedness to Palmer.
Passing from this to the other points of the case, it appears, that on the 5th of November Cook left London for Rugely, the town in which Palmer lived; that he was then in excellent health, though he had been suffering from sores in the throat, the result of previous dissipation, which, however, were rapidly disappearing; and that at midnight on Tuesday, November 20, he died in great agony, after a very short and sudden illness. A coroner's inquest was held, and the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against William Palmer. The excitement in Staffordshire, in which county Rugely is situated, was so great, and the prejudice against Palmer so intense, that, on the suggestion of Lord Campbell, a special act of parliament was passed, allowing the prisoner the benefit of trial at the Metropolitan Court of the Old Bailey, in London, and providing that the expenses of the trial should be kept as a separate account by the proper officer ; that this account should be transmitted to the authorities of Staffordshire ; that all objections to any of its items should be made by them in twenty-four hours after receiving it; and that it should be paid by the county of Staffordshire. And at a later day the government directed the attorney-general, Sir Alexander Cockburn, to take charge of the prosecution, instead of leaving its management to counsel, to be employed by the private prosecutor, as is usual in England. By the courtesy of the attorney-general, the counsel for the defence were fully informed beforehand of all the evidence for the prosecution, and on the 7th of May, after all this preparation, the trial came on in London before three judges, Lord Campbell, Baron Alderson, and Mr. Justice Cresswell. The leading counsel for Palmer was Mr. Shee, a barrister of considerable professional reputation, who evinced great ingenuity and boldness in his conduct of the cause, and whose argument for the defence, occupying eight hours in delivery, was extremely forcible and able. It is said that the prisoner's brief was offered to Sir Fitzroy Kelly, and that he demanded the enormous sum of 1000 guineas retainer, besides a very large fee for each day that the trial should continue, thus putting an effective prohibitory tariff upon his employment. The trial occupied twelve days, an unprecedented length of time for a criminal case in England. As the Old Bailey contains no accommodations for jurymen, the jury were kept at the London Coffee House, and were taken to the Temple Garden for a daily walk, attended service on Sunday at the Newgate Chapel, and were conveyed for a short excursion to the country. In the course of the trial, one of them made a pathetic appeal to Lord Campbell, for permission to go under the charge of an officer tɔ visit his wife, who had been confined during his absence. This request, his lordship, hearing that the lady was doing very well, thought might furnish a bad precedent, if acceded to, and so refused.
Before proceeding to a statement of the evidence in the case, a brief description of the prison and the court, and the general appearance and conduct of the trial, may not be uninteresting.
The prison in which Palmer was confined was the Old Newgate prison, from which a private passage leads through the burial-ground where the bones of executed felons repose, and finally opens directly into the dock of the court-room; and through this Palmer was daily conducted. Both the bench and the bar wear wigs and gowns, as well as the sheriff's and the governor of the prison. These gowns vary in color and style, those of the judges are of blue cloth with broad pink cuffs, and a sort of red hood at the back. At the opening of the trial the judges all appear with bouquets, and the prisoner's bouquet, composed of rue, is strewn before him. The prisoner stands during the whole trial. The counsel for the crown open their case and intro