Francis William West, a gentleman of independent means. living at
Hazlewood Cottage, West Clifford, near Torrington, was tried on Monday, at Exeter, by Baron Pollock, for the wilful murder of his wife, during the night between 20th and 21st December last. That he shot her was not disputed, the only question being whether he shot her intentionally or not. It is certain that he was the worse for drink, and had been latterly an habitual drinker. It did not appear that there was on this occasion any quarrel, though when under drink Mr. West had been known to threaten her. The prisoner and his wife lived together generally on affectionate terms, and one of the servants deposed that she heard what sounded like a laughing expostula- tion from the wife, just before the shot which killed her, though two screams were heard after the laughter. It was shown that the prisoner had had a sunstroke, that since then he had been a drinker, and that his head was affected after drinking, and that his hand trembled very much. Sir Henry James made an eloquent speech on his behalf, and the jury found him guilty only of manslaughter, for which he was sentenced, to eight years of penal servitude. Very likely the verdict was just, but would a poor man, who could not have specially retained Sir Henry James, have had anything like an equal chance of so lenient a verdict ? Many a. poor man who has killed his wife under the influence of drink has been found guilty of murder and hanged, with at least as much in his favour as there was to say for Mr. West. The power to secure a great display of eloquence still counts for very much—far too much—in the administration of the criminal law of England.