Florence Maybrick: Death Sentence Commuted - FLORIE'S DEATH SENTENCE

Among the newspapers covering the Maybrick trial was the Illustrated Police News. Its August 17, 1889 issue prominently displays drawings of Florie in court. The last image (bottom-right) depicts Florie being "taken away in a police van." That drawing is preceded by another interesting illustartion (bottom-left) of a "Demonstration Against the Judge." Click on the image for a full-page view.


Now it was up to Florie's biased judge to pass sentence on her.

British judges followed a tradition before imposing a death sentence: They wore a black cap before speaking. As Justice Stephen was about to pass sentence, he put on his black cap. There was a gasp in the courtroom.

Florence Maybrick was sentenced to hang until she was dead.

Because Britain did not have a Court of Criminal Appeals in 1889, Florence was doomed. Criminal defendants who lost cases—even if the trial was a travesty, the judge was insane and counsel was incompetent—had no recourse. There was no place to appeal an unfair result. Only the Queen could save Florie Maybrick.

But Queen Victoria was not known as a compassionate monarch who regularly pardoned criminals. Not until the public staged a huge groundswell of support—with multiple petitions for clemency—did the Queen act.

As reflected in "An Open Letter to the Queen," published in the September 1892 issue of The North American Review, even Caroline Scott Harrison (wife of then-President Benjamin Harrison) begged Victoria to show mercy. Noted in the various petitions, sent to Her Majesty, was the lack of judicial recourse because of a non-existent appellate process.

Four days before Florie was scheduled to hang, the Home Secretary issued an order that spared her life. Maybrick's sentence was commuted to "penal servitude for life." She served fifteen years in Woking and Aylesbury Prisons.

For all those fifteen years, Florence Maybrick did not see her children. Michael Maybrick, her brother-in-law, saw to that initially. When the children were old enough to make decisions for themselves, they continued on the same path.

Despite their mother's efforts, they had nothing to do with her. After her husband died, Florence never saw her children again.

But Florence Maybrick did not suffer in vain.

Extreme cases, accompanied by gross incompetence, sometimes shake a system to its core. The Maybrick case shook Britain's criminal justice system to the core.

The facts presented a compelling reason to establish a court of appeals. A contemporary (1891) book on the trial, Treatise on the Maybrick Case by Alexander William MacDougall, could not have stated the case better.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 1999

Updated Last Revision: Jul 02, 2019

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"FLORIE'S DEATH SENTENCE" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 1999. Feb 21, 2020.
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