Authors: Kieran James
Addresses: Accounting, School of Business and Enterprise, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley Campus, Paisley, PA1 2BE Renfrewshire, Scotland
Abstract: The criminal trial of Mrs. Florence Maybrick, held in Liverpool, England during the height of the British Empire 1889, is widely regarded as one of the greatest travesties of justice in British legal history where even the judge at the end of the trial remarked "well, they can't convict her on that evidence" and the chief prosecutor nodded his head in agreement. Mrs. Maybrick was tried for murdering her husband via arsenic poisoning. However, the trial became a morality trial when the learned judge, Mr. Justice James Fitzjames Stephen, linked Mrs. Maybrick's demonstrated adultery to her alleged desire to physically remove her husband by administering poison. The jury, which pronounced a guilty verdict, consisted of 12 untrained and unschooled men who were unable to grasp the technical evidence and were probably unduly influenced by the judge's summing-up and by the professional status of one of the medical witnesses for the prosecution. The case is a timely reminder today for an international audience of the fallibility and inherent weaknesses of the legal system and the desperate need to retain Courts of Criminal Appeal within the courts system.
Keywords: arsenic addiction; British history; Florence Maybrick; legal history; Liverpool; Jack the Ripper; James Maybrick; social history.
International Journal of Critical Accounting, 2017 Vol.9 No.2, pp.85 - 102
Received: 23 Dec 2016
Accepted: 13 Feb 2017
Published online: 28 Jun 2017 *