ItemForensic Eloquence from the Prisoner's Box
A Student of High-Class Literature Convicted of a Crime Makes an Eloquent and Successful Plea for Clemency
In the case of the King vs. William Cripps, tried before the Count court last week, the grand jury found a true bill and a verdict of guilty was returned by the petit jury. The Solicitor-General, Hon. W. P. Jones, appeared for the crown and the prisoner conducted his own defence.
After the verdict of guilty was returned, the prisoner was given a chance to make a plea for clemency on his own behalf, which he did in a most clever and pathetic manner. His reference to the sorrow of his aged parents in their declining years, should he be sent to prison, to his beloved sister now upon her dying bed, and to the many temptations against which he had to fight, were truly touching, and stowed away down in the heat of hearts of that young criminal, there was at least a keen perception of the good side of life, and a knowledge of the advantages of abstaining from sin.
He referred to his previous conviction in the county court and penitentiary. Since his return from that institution, he said, he had been besieged and sought after by the lowest and the most unclean element in the town of St. Stephen and had received very little recognition or encouragement from the better class in society, which had made it doubly hard for him to resist the temptations which were thrown across his path almost at every turn he made.
"I want," said the young prisoner, "to be a good and an honorable man. I have higher and better ambitions than to be a criminal. My parents are very old, both over seventy, and I want to spare them the great sorrow they would feel should I again be sent to prison, for I am their only boy. My sister, too, is now on her dying bed, I know she cannot recover; I want to spare her grief also. If your Honor will show me the clemency for which I now plead, I will show your Honor that your mercy and your confidence have not been misplaced."
His manner, although cool, was earnest, and carried with it evidence of sincerity and evidently touched the heart of the learned Judge, for after a gentle reprimand His Honor said he would suspend sentence and discharge the prisonwer on his own bail. In an interview between the Solicitor General and young Cripps after court had adjourned, Mr. Jones congratulated him upon his escape from a severe sentence and asked him where he had obtained his education. "Oh, I was educated in the public schools of St. Stephen," was the prompt reply. "but," continued the Solicitor General, "you seem to have a great command of language and express yourself very fluently, how did you acquire that art?" to which the precocious convict blandly replied, "Oh that would naturally be gained by reading such authors as Scott, Thackeray and Dickens."