Presentation on theme: "Keywords and key domains … in the Trial of the "The Rugeley Poisoner" (William Palmer)"— Presentation transcript:
Keywords and key domains … in the Trial of the "The Rugeley Poisoner" (William Palmer)
The Palmer Trial Took place – May 1856 Note - a new Act of Parliament– The Palmer Act - was rushed through parliament so that the trial could be held at the Old Bailey in London (it was felt that he would not receive a fair trial at the Stafford Assizes). Accused of: poisoning John Parsons Cook, and forgery Outcome: “Guilty” Palmer was hanged at Stafford 14th June 1856 Subsequently convicted of murdering his wife, Anne, and his brother, Walter, by a Coroner’s jury (also rumoured to have murdered his child/children). For more details, see: Dave Lewis’s website:
Exploration of opening speeches In particular, Sir Alexander Cockburn (Attorney General) Mr. Serjeant Shee, Q.C. (late replacement for Mr. Serjeant Wilkins) Why the Palmer trial? First ever trial in Britain where someone was accused of murder by strychnine. Came after the Prisoners’ Counsel Act (1836), which lifted the felony counsel restriction (i.e. defence counsel not being allowed to address the jury (May 2003: 87)) Fitzjames Stephen described it as “exhibit[ing] in its very best and strongest light the good side of English Criminal procedure” (1890: 269) Not looking at the closing speeches because: The Defence was not permitted to make a closing speech summing up the case on behalf of the prisoner until the introduction of the Denham Act 1865
One truth – tetanus – but two explanations: Both the Prosecution and the Defence agreed that Cook died from tetanic convulsions (or “tetanus” = a disorder of the nervous system) - but they did not agree upon what caused the tetanus. At the time of the trial there were considered to be three main types of tetanus: idiopathic tetanus = the cause of a disease is not known. traumatic tetanus (or "lockjaw“) = caused by an infected wound. tetanus due to strychnine (now known not to be a form of tetanus).
Exploring “keyness” (Cockburn versus Shee) Cockburn – key words (13+) strychnine, cooks, oclock, Herring, fisher, named, ill, sickness, Cheshire, Dr Bamford, Tattersalls, replied, Dr, administered, Palmer, bilious, discounted, produce, same, became, found, prisoner, Padwick, proceeds, and, returned, Palmers, certain, sent, pills, finding, Bates, Hawkings, Mr. Stevens, declined, liabilities, offered, acceptance, continue Shee (13+) strychnia, Mr., Dr., not, ‘s, have, my, she, probably, submit, her, convulsions, we, is, I, crown, evidence, knew, Fisher, would, could, learned Cockburn – key domains (13+) Time, Money, medicines and medical treatment, numbers, moving, coming and going, anatomy and physiology, quantities, similar/different, geographical names, cause/connected, Open/closed; Hiding/Hidden; Finding; Showing, getting/giving (possession) Shee (13+) Unmatched, pronouns (etc.), definite (+ modals), evaluation (true/false), thought/belief, degree: boosters, knowledge, negative, learn, being, general ethics, speech (communicative), liking Both use “Cook” freq. – but they differ in respect to how …. Cluster with bills, forged, betted debt, turf …
Tracing the “crime narrative” throughout the rest of the trial … Attorney General: Words that are “key” in the examinations as well as his opening speech – found, health, period, symptoms Words that were not key in opening speech, but which nevertheless belong to (statistically) significant semantic fields – health, dose, muscles, tissues, pills, doctor (= medical), convulsions, convulsive, sickness, disease, fever, sick, vomiting (= the symptoms/outcome of sickness) fatal, deceased (= death) horse (= gambling) forged, commit, crime (= illegal activities) Bamford, Cheshire, Padwick, Bates, Hawkings, Newton, women, chambermaid, Boycott, Gardner, Tattersall, Shrewsbury (= people and places important to/involved in the crime narrative) Shee: Words that are “key” in examinations – Cook’s, coroner, Dolly’s, mother, Stephens, Dutton, Barnes, Lavinia, Talbot (= people important to the crime narrative) yesterday, before, now, times (= (periods of) time) coroner, throat, vomited (= medical) swear, asked, talk, spoke, stated, complain (= verbal activity)
References May, Allyson N The Bar and the Old Bailey Chapel Hill, NC: Univrsity of North Carolina Press. Stephen, Fitzjames. 1863/1890. A General View of the Criminal Law. London. Archer, Dawn Tracing the development of “advocacy” in two nineteenth century English trials. In M. Dossena and I. Taavitsainen (eds.) Diachronic Perspectives on Domain-Specific English. Bern: Peter Lang; Linguistic Insights series, pp