Does anyone have experience of historical death sentences and pursuing a retrospective pardon / clemency?
My great great grandfather was hanged for the murder of his wife in 1896. There is no doubt that he was the perpetrator, but given his considerable mental health issues at the time of the crime, I have often thought about how one would go about seeking "clemency" or a "pardon" (apologies, not sure of the correct terminology given that he was the perpetrator).
Witness testimony and medical opinion at the time of the trial confirms that he was mentally ill. He had close family members in the local asylum at the time of the trial, and another with a previous history of mental health issues and asylum stays, suggesting there was a genetic preposition. A court appointed psychologist at the time declared him insane and that he should not face the death penalty, but the prosecution then brought in a second "expert" who declared him sane and appropriate for the death penalty.
How would I pursue this, and does anyone have any advice? And any suggestions as to the correct legal terminology for what I am seeking?
Hopefully someone will come along with a better/more targeted set of answers and pointers but I thought I would throw this into the mix. If you go it alone the chances are it will cost a fair bit getting a barrister and his/her Team to look at all the evidence. Along with that you would probably be talking employing forensic psychiatrists to make a fresh case on the mental health examination based on papers rather than having a live patient.
The genetics issue could be a factor but apart from exhuming the body and doing a DNA test it's not clear if that could be proven. Circumstantial evidence still applies I believe. I was in here originally looking at Huntington's disease as a possible explanation for a similar thing. However, the more I have looked into the paperwork the less I am inclined to be able to use genetics as an excuse my family (ish) connection with a man who was hung for murdering his wife in 1891. Take a look at my Thread in here.
A little while back I posted up a link to a BBC programme called Murder, Mystery and My Family. They are repeating the programme at stupid o'clock in the morning on BBC2 but worth taking a look on BBC iPLayer if you can get it
Basically, Top criminal barristers Sasha Wass and Jeremy Dein re-investigate historical cases. Some were re-opened and some where not. The onus was on the Team to find fresh evidence or factors where the Jury etc might have been misled etc. That's a very simplistic description but from what you describe maybe it's worth contacting the Programme makers - Chalkboard TV (see below for contact details) and ask if there is scope for your story to be investigated if they are making more programmes?
Chalkboard TV Studio 2, 65 Aspenlea Road, London W6 8LH
020 8237 1194 firstname.lastname@example.org
One thing to take into consideration though, on the BBC programmes there were very disappointed family members in some of the cases where the legal framework was not sufficient enough to re-open a case. Incredibly sad as it was like a last hope which had been dashed.
A court appointed psychologist at the time declared him insane and that he should not face the death penalty, but the prosecution then brought in a second "expert" who declared him sane and appropriate for the death penalty.
Just to add another thought on this...
The BBC Prog I mentioned resulted in at least 2 of the cases being put forward for a fresh examination of the evidence based on the Judge or the Detective having subsequently being found to have been corrupt or unreliable in their professionalism from what I recall.
I assume you have the name of the "expert" so it is worth doing a search on the person on other cases they were brought in on. If you can find anything (perhaps a newspaper article) which suggests anything pointing to their reliability to give evidence being unsound it could possibly help you take this forward on a technicality?