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Inspired by the true case of Patrick Nicholson, James Ward, Joseph Shaw and James Murray; four men accused of murder and brought to the Old Bailey on 1st June 1784.
Garrow was opposed to slave labour: when the sugar planters of the West Indies offered him a job managing their legal affairs, he answered: "if your committee would give me their whole incomes, and all their estates, I would not be seen as the advocate of practices which I abhor, and a system which I detest".
The real trial of Thomas Picton was in 1806 and William Garrow was a prosecutor; many see it as Garrow's finest hour. In reality, Silvester and Judge Buller were not involved in the trial, and more time passed between the incident and the trial: Luisa Calderon was around eleven years old when she was tortured.
Gaol fever or jail fever is known as typhus and more prisoners at Newgate died of it than were ever put to death under the bloody code. Several court officials died from it as well because prisoners would bring the disease with them into court.
The sentence Southouse whispers to Garrow is a Latin phrase: 'Fiat justitia ruat caelum', which means 'Let justice be done though the heavens fall'.
With Industrial Revolution came mass production, which made manual labour obsolete, especially in textile industry. Machines could be managed by the unqualified workers and many skilled textile labourers lost their jobs. People responded by destroying the machines – a capital offence in England at the time. The case in this episode is inspired by the actual case of William Horsford, who was sentenced to death for destroying silk and weaving machines.
In Lady Sarah's time, it was nearly impossoble for a woman to obtain custody over her children. Under the law, the legal power over infants belonged to the father and, as long as he lived, the mother had no rights. Lady Sarah's custody battle is inspired by two real cases of Henrietta Greenhill and Caroline Norton. Their unwavering efforts led to the Infant Custody Act of 1839 and the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857.
This episode describes an actual case: James Hadfield was accused of high treason in 1800. And he was acquitted of attempted murder by reason of insanity. The proceedings in the episode follow very closely the original case. The trial was a crucial turning point in the British law on insanity.
In 18th century England, the age of criminal accountability was seven (in 1795, a nine-year-old boy, Peter Tracy was sentenced to death); and Garrow often defended children. In 1784 he successfully defended eleven-year-old William Horton and nine-year-old Peter Miller. But, he could not prevent a lesser punishment in Miller's case: whipping.
Criminal conversation - legal jargon for adultery - is still legal in North Carolina, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico and Utah. One wronged lady in North Carolina won damages of $9 million in 2010.
The Zong massacre really happened in 1781 when 132 living slaves were thrown overboard by the crew of a slaving ship Zong, owned by Liverpool slave-trading firm. In English law, the act was legal; throwing slaves overboard was not murder. The publicity over this case was the first major turning point in the campaign to abolish slavery.
The real William Garrow defended the accused for free more than once. The words "My Lord, as this poor woman has no Counsel; will you permit me, as Amicus Curiae, to ask ... a question or two" are taken word for word from the case of Sarah Peason, who Garrow defended in 1790.
The duel in the episode was inspired by the real events: Garrow was challenged to a duel by a Swiss nobleman, Baron Hompesch, after Garrow had made fun of him in court.
There really was the case of The Monster at the Old Bailey (1790), which had London in a fever. The man hid a knife in a bouquet of flowers and would stab women in the face or in the hips and buttocks. Ladies did not dare walk outdoors without copper pans over their petticoats for protection.