|Chapter Title||AM I INNOCENT|
|Newspaper Title||PetersburgTimes (SA : 1887 - 1919)|
|Trove Title||The Italian Peasant|
AM I INNOCENT ?
The tears that filled my eyes suddenly dried. My cheeks became covered with a
That I would be suspected of this awful
crime was certain !
How should I act ? An error would ruin me forever. I must be calm, for this was a crisis in my life, a crucial test of my judgement. Suspected ? Didn't I even suspect myself ? I had been conscious of just such a vague fantasy every instant since the appalling moment of discovery. Unless the murderer were found at once, the least I could hope for would be long imprisonment and the disgrace and dangers of a jury trial for the murder of my wife. Think of my position ! The circumstantiality of the evidence against me was crushing. It was sufficient
to hang me.
Let me analyze it, beginning with the theory of innocence (though the public and the jurymen would entertain a presumption of guilt the moment after my arrest) and concluding with the opposite view. Here's the defence, for example :
I had left home to avoid a quarrel, and had successfully restrained my feelings, under the utmost provocation Never at any previous time had I struck, or threatened, my wife,' in the presence of witnesses,' the district attorney would add. Her exclamation was an idle taunt, uttered in anger, but without significance or reason. She was ill, and had been for weeks. Dr. Stanage, our physician, could settle that. Many witnesses could doubtless be found to testify that, to the best of their knowledge and belief, I never before been accused of murder or any other crime. Then I'd take the
stand and tell the story of the night, in a frank and unreserved manner.
But, God save me ! A prisoner in the dock charged with murder cannot hope to clear himself on his own testimony ! The events of the night would be pieced together from the statements of other and often unfriendly
How different everything would be, presented in that way ! Here's an outline of the State's case against me, as it ran through my mind !
To begin with, the moral weight of a grand jury's indictment.
The prisoner - for I'd be in the criminal dock, remember - had left home in a rage. This, on the testimony of his servants. His wife had certainly been in terror of her life, as attested by the last words she was known to have uttered to the prisoner,—' known to have uttered,' remember. Robert Bowers, the butler, possibly well disposed towards his late master,—' his late master,' because the scandal would alienate even my servants, - might give the words of the deceased the gentlest possible rendering—as, for example, ' You'll worry me to death ;' but Maria McCandlass, maid to the deceased, would repeat the prophetic words with thrilling accuracy,—' the prophetic words,' understand.
She would doubtless disclose other
language from the half-crazed woman sufficient to convince a jury that her life had been repeatedly threatened.
To Be Continued.