Saturday, November 12, 2011

Murderers Strange Delusions –James Flower Greengrocer – Stone, Staffordshire - February 1900

James Flower, a greengrocer, was indicted at the Staffordshire Assizes, on Monday, December 3, for the wilful murder of his wife, Florence Flower, at Stone, on the 2nd November.

Mr James and Mr J. B. Atlay prosecuted, and Mr Graham and Mr C. B. Morgan defended. Mr James, in opening the case, said there were facts in the case as to which there could be no dispute. That the deceased met with, her death at the hands of the prisoner would not be disputed and it was for the defence to satisfy the jury that prisoner was not guilty or not responsible for it, or that the offence could be reduced to one of manslaughter. The question the Jury would have to determine would be whether the prisoner's mind at the time he killed his wife was such, that he could be convicted of murder, or whether he was insane at the time he committed the act.

That the prisoner was suffering from delusions at and about the time of the tragedy there was no doubt, and that he had been drinking for some time previously was equally certain, and he would invite the attention of the jury to the evidence which would be given concerning the state of the prisoner's mind. Previously to going to live at Stone prisoner was in the army, from which he was discharged with a good character. Prisoner had earned his full pension. He had served in two campaigns and. owing to his life in hot climates and to military, service, he contracted kidney and liver complaint, and he was sent to the hospital. After being there some time he was certified unfit for further service, and he was discharged in March 1886. Prisoner shortly afterwards married and settled at Stone, where he kept a greengrocer's shop.

 In October last prisoner took to drink, owing, as he said, to the loss of a horse, but that was an extraordinary cause, because it was a fact that prisoner had a good business and a large balance at the bank. Counsel then detailed the circumstances leading up to the crime, and said that on October 31 prisoner went to a solicitor for the purpose of giving instructions for the making of his will, and on November 2 he was seen by a doctor. During the night prisoner cut his wife's throat with a razor, and he then went into the street and told a policeman what he had done. The Treasury had instructed Dr. Spence of Burntwood Asylum to examine the prisoner and that gentleman would be called. The facts having been spoken to by witnesses, Mr Hunt, deputy-medical Officer at the prison said that he examined prisoner when admitted and found him in a dazed condition. The man was under the delusion that people were following him about to murder him and when asked why, he said a man at the Black Horse, Stone, had felt his bumps and that the man had been offering people large sums of money for his head.

When asked about the murder prisoner said he did not remember anything about it. He (witness) came to the conclusion that prisoner believed that what he said was true. The delusions continued three or four days after prisoner's admission to the gaol.

Dr. Spence also gave evidence as the result of his examination of the prisoner; the effect of which was that he had come to the conclusion that the prisoner was not accountable for his actions when he murdered his wife.

The Judge: Is it possible after this evidence to put it to the jury that this is a case of wilful murder?

Mr James said it was clear from the evidence that the probability was that the prisoner did not know he was doing a wrong act when he murdered his Wife, and if he were to address the jury he should certainly ask them to find a verdict to that effect.

The Judge said it was quite true that drunkenness was no excuse for an offence, but drinking might bring about a state of mind in which a man had no responsibility. If they thought that on the evidence they ought to come to the conclusion that prisoner was labouring under infirmity of mind brought about by drink or anything else so that he did not appreciate the nature of the act, they would be entitled to say that he was not responsible, owing to insanity.

The jury returned a verdict that prisoner was insane at the time he committed the murder, and he was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure.

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