I finally finished that book – the one about the first murder on a British railway.
The man that was convicted, and then hanged, was a German working as a tailor in Victorian London.
The discomfort that existed in the city, after his conviction, was huge. He was a man of previously excellent character who was at the mercy of forces beyond his control ( the press and the judicial system of the age ) He’d been found guilty by the press long before he appeared in court, and whilst there was condemned by the testimonies of a few people with ulterior motives ( financial in the main but also prejudice )
After the sentence was given – death by hanging – the very press that had sought to see him hang, switched sides, having realised their quite possible error.
The court process did not oblige the Crown to release information that they held which could have shown the accused in a better light ( and saved him ) He was not allowed, either, to give any evidence at all in his own defence during the trial, so was totally at the mercy of a few possibly unscrupulous characters, and judged on their dubious ‘ evidence ‘.
Fifty thousand people gathered to see him hang, many, many of them unconvinced that justice was being done. No appeal was allowed despite many misgivings that came to light after the verdict. To have faced the gallows before a crowd that huge, knowing that he was innocent, must have been mental torture for him, his only solace being his belief that God knew the truth and would let him into Paradise.
Who knows how many miscarriages of justice there were back then, not rectifiable after a death sentence – one of the reasons why corporal punishment was halted ( though in Britain not until 99 years later, in 1964 ) At least now people live to get a second chance.
Whilst not anywhere near as terminal, I recall being involved in a dismissal of someone from their job, for theft. The person was dismissed on the seemingly very credible statement of another ( trusted ) person. What possible motive can there have been for that person to have lied? A couple of years later, that trusted individual was caught on camera stealing, and turned out to have been stealing for a significant time, and in large amounts. The motive for her to have incriminated the other person was to distract attention from herself – she had been the culprit in that crime too.
Being wise after the event was too late. The person dismissed two years earlier never had justice, and I really don’t know how that went on to affect that innocent victim.
What I did come to realise though is that those protesting innocence vehemently, really ought be taken seriously, as all is far from necessarily as it seems. People with no obvious motive can distort the truth very easily for their own gain, and do so no matter how condemning for another.