By Dana Y. Rabin (auth.)
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Extra resources for Identity, Crime, and Legal Responsibility in Eighteenth-Century England
But rather than decriminalizing behavior or creating an easy way for defendants to avoid criminal prosecution, the passage of the ‘Act for the Safe Custody of Insane Persons Charged with Offenses’ (1800) and the promulgation of the M’Naughten Rules (1843) reduced the number of pleas that defendants could introduce in court, circumscribed the language that could be used to describe mental states, and dictated harsher punishments for those acquitted as insane. Historians have associated the anxiety provoked by Hadfield’s acquittal for attempted regicide with fears Crime, Culture, and the Self 21 of political instability posed by the popularity of republican ideas in the wake of the French Revolution.
Instead, the jurors huddled together and conferred in their seats. 53 With the large number of cases heard by each jury (sometimes up to 12) and the fast pace of the trials, the jurors who served at the assizes quickly became well versed in their duties; those lacking experience deferred to the judge and the foreman. 57 In addition to the under-valuation of goods, jurors could bring in a ‘partial verdict’ that acquitted the prisoner of the indicted offense but convicted him of a less serious crime.
The lack of an organized police force meant that many defendants had been caught red-handed by their victims; trials often focused on the degree of an offender’s accountability rather than strict questions of guilt or innocence. Several legal developments during the eighteenth century affected the dynamics of the trial, the presentation of evidence, and the trial’s possible outcome. These developments changed the trial’s configuration and shaped the cultural production of the language of mental and emotional excuse during the eighteenth century.