American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Experiences of a Real Detective by Inspector F.
Edited by “Waters,” author of Recollections of a Police Officer, Leonard Harlowe, etc.
London: Ward, Lock, & Tyler, 1862. 229-52.
Reuben Gill—A Mormon Saint
by Inspector F.

  Here the clerk of the arraigns, who like the rest of the audience had been dumbfounded for a minute or two, jumped up, and facing the judge, exclaimed, “Not guilty—the verdict is NOT guilty.” “The jury have recommended the prisoner to mercy,” resumed the judge, still far wide. “Yes, but with all respect for the jury, that is a recommendation which I cannot act upon. I have now only to pronounce the—.” At this point the clerk of the arraigns placed before his lordship a sheet of paper, upon which he had hastily written, “My lord, the jury have acquitted the prisoner.” The venerable judge coloured to the hue of fire, and was for a moment utterly confounded. He, however, turned the matter off pretty well, concluding thus, amidst the scarcely-suppressed titters of every body in court:—“I have only to pronounce the opinion of the court, which is that you have had a very narrow escape indeed, and to order you to be discharged forthwith.” His lordship then himself hurried out of court, in by no means so dignified a manner as usual. The remaining criminal cases were tried . . .


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    THE last time a venerable judge, not long since deceased, but who had retired from the bench several years previously, went on circuit, a man named Reuben Gill was tried before him for assaulting one John Purcell on the Queen’s highway with intent to kill and murder him. Purcell, a rate collector, who had a considerable sum of money with him, was in fact left for dead by the ruffian who, having possessed himself of the money, decamped and got clear off. Gill was apprehended, and upon Purcell’s sworn testimony fully committed for trial. The learned judge had become exceedingly deaf, and on the day Gill was arraigned his infirmity was more than commonly apparent. In charging the jury, which he did very strongly for a conviction, he misquoted the evidence against Gill more than once, and this perhaps induced the jurors to side with the prisoner against the manifest bias of the judge, and after about a couple of minutes consultation, the jury found the prisoner not guilty, which verdict was immediately recorded by the clerk of arraigns. Then came the comical part of the business.



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