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By Dana Y. Rabin (auth.)

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The structure of the ‘accused speaks’ trial required the defendant to respond to the evidence against him, in person, without the aid of a lawyer. ’46 Given the structure of the altercation trial, it should not surprise us that defendants developed a language of mental excuse. In the ‘accused speaks’ trial the judge constituted an important presence, intervening and questioning the victim, the accused, and any other witnesses and often interjecting comments and thinly veiled opinions. 48 While some judges dispensed with summation or any detailed instructions to the jury, others charged the jury very specifically.

I, c. 80 As John Beattie has shown, evidence from the first few years after the passage of the Transportation Act illustrates the swift and significant effect it had on the English legal system. Between 1718 and 1720 transportation completely replaced whipping, branding, the pillory, and imprisonment; moreover, the availability of transportation led trial Pleas of Mental Distress in the Courtroom 35 juries to increase the use of partial verdicts, verdicts that convicted prisoners of less serious charges than those stated in the indictment.

30 The Old Bailey took the place of the assizes in the capital. 32 An indictment, marked ‘true’ bill, ‘billa vera’, indicated that they found probable cause, and the case proceeded to a trial jury. 33 After the grand jury ruled on the bills, the prisoners were brought into court in chains. 36 Although prisoners had the right to challenge individual jurors, they seldom did so. Each juror received a list of the prisoners’ names and the charges against them. ’38 If no one stepped forward, the judge called on the justice of the peace who had examined the prisoner to open the prosecution’s case.

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