The Context of Upheaval

David J. A. Cairns

in Advocacy and the Making of the Adversarial Criminal Trial 1800–1865

Published in print January 1999 | ISBN: 9780198262848
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682414 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Modern Legal History

The Context of Upheaval

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During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries capital punishment dominated the criminal process. There were nominally over two hundred capital felonies, ranging from the most serious crimes against the person and property to species of poaching, pick-pocketing, and shoplifting. This prevalence of the death penalty distracted prosecutors, witnesses, counsel, judges, and jurors from a strict investigation of the facts and application of the law, and hindered the rational development of criminal law and procedure. When the widespread repeal of capital statutes began in the early 1820s this influence of punishment on the trial slackened, and created the opportunity for procedure to develop in an adversarial way and indeed pressed it in that direction.

Keywords: capital punishment; capital felonies; crimes; prosecutors; criminal law; criminal process

Chapter.  11509 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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