A Young Judge Done
In the course of his attendance at an Assizes in Cork, he was counsel in
a case in which his client was capitally charged, and was so little
likely to escape, and was actually so guilty of the crime, that his
attorney considered the case utterly desperate.
O'Connell entered the Court aware of the hopelessness of his client's
chances. He knew it was useless to attempt a defence in the ordinary
way. There w
s evidence sufficient to ensure a conviction. At that time
it happened that the present Chief Justice, then Sergeant, Lefroy
presided, in the absence of one of the judges who had fallen ill.
O'Connell understood the sort of man he had on the Bench. He opened the
defence by putting to the first witness a number of the most illegal
questions. He, of course, knew they were illegal, and that objections
would be raised.
Sergeant Goold was the crown prosecutor, and he started up, and
expressed his objections. The learned Chief Justice declared his
concurrence, and decided peremptorily that he could not allow Mr.
O'Connell to proceed with his line of examination.
Well, then, my lord, said O'Connell, after a little expostulation, as
you refuse permitting me to defend my client, I leave his fate in your
hands; and he flung his brief from him, adding, as he turned away, the
blood of that man, my lord, will be on your head, if he is condemned.
O'Connell then left the Court. In half-an-hour afterwards, as he was
walking on the flagway outside, the attorney for the defence ran out to
him without his hat. Well, said O'Connell, he is found guilty? No,
sir, answered the solicitor, he has been acquitted. O'Connell is said
to have smiled meaningly on the occasion, as if he had anticipated the
effect of the ruse; for it was a ruse he had recourse to, in order
to save the unfortunate culprit's life. He knew that flinging the onus
on a young and a raw judge could be the only chance for his client. The
judge did take up the case O'Connell had ostensibly, in a pet,
abandoned. The witnesses were successively cross-examined by the judge
himself. He conceived a prejudice in favor of the accused. He, perhaps,
had a natural timidity of incurring the responsibility thrown on him by
O'Connell. He charged the jury in the prisoner's favor, and the
consequence was, the unexpected acquittal of the prisoner. I knew,
said O'Connell afterwards, the only chance was to throw the
responsibility on the judge.