Feb 26 1856 Carlisle Assizes (part 2)
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CARLISLE, FEB 26.
CROWN COURT. -- (Before Mr. Baron MARTIN.)
Margaret ROBINSON, aged 18, dressmaker, was indicted for the wilful murder
of her female infant child at Penrith on the 11th of December last.
Mr. MONK and Mr. WEST prosecuted, and Mr. SCOTT defended the prisoner.
It appeared that the prisoner was a dressmaker, living at Penrith with her
grandmother. Prior to the 10th of December last the figure of the prisoner
had excited observation among her neighbours, who thought her in the
familyway. After that date her sudden change of appearance excited further
comment. She was questioned by her grandmother about having had a child, but
denied it. The neighbours also talked to her about it, and she not only
denied it, but asked some of them to go with her to a surgeon that she might
be examined to clear her character. At length two of her neighbours about a
fortnight after did go with her, and the surgeon found milk in her breasts
and other appearances which induced him to say she had given birth to a
child. The prisoner then went home, and in a fit of desperation apparently,
avowed that she had had a child, and that she would stand by herself as
nobody would stand by her. She then opened a box in her bedroom, from which
she took the dead body of a child, which was wrapped up in a cover. A
surgeon was sent for, who examined it. He found a white mark round the neck,
and on putting his finger down its throat he felt some unusual substance,
which he extracted, and which turned out to be a piece of cotton cord and a
piece of rag, which had been forced under the tongue with such violence as
to create an artificial aperture. The child, in the judgment of Mr. WICKHAM
and Mr. JACKSON, surgeons, had lived, and it had died from strangulation. On
cross-examination it was elicited that the mark on its neck might have been
made by the umbilical cord having got twisted around it. Some women became
frantic and insane during the labour, and the injuries inflicted on the
child might have been done by the mother in a paroxysm of pain while alone
and unassisted in labour.
The learned counsel having addressed the jury for the prisoner,
His Lordship carefully summed up the facts, telling them if they thought
themselves not warranted in finding the prisoner guilty of wilful murder, it
would be their duty to find her guilty of concealing the birth of the child.
The jury found the prisoner Guilty of concealment of birth.
His Lordship said this was a case differing widely in its criminality from
the last. The prisoner best knew what had caused the death of her child. She
had, however, endeavoured to conceal her shame by placing the dead body of
the child in a box and denying that she had given it birth. In the last case
the concealment had been but for a short period, when the prisoner had
herself called in her neighbour to see the child. The sentence of the Court
was that the prisoner be imprisoned for 18 calendar months and be kept to