CRIMINAL JURIsPRUDENcE, Narratives of Remarkable Criminal Trials. Translated from the German of Anselm
Bitter von Feuerbach, by Lady Duff Gordon Murray.
✓ OYAGES AND TRAVELS, Enterprise in Tropical Australia. By G. Windsor Earl, M.R.A.S., Linguist to the North Australian Expedition, and Commissioner of Crown Lands for Port Essington.
Fiction, Madden and Malcolm. Yelasco. By Cyrus Redding. In three volumes Xetay. MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE,
Four Lectures on the Advantages of a Classical Education as an Auxiliary to a Com- mercial Education. With a Letter to Dr. Whewell upon the subject of his Tract On Liberal Education." By Andrew Amos, Esq., Into Member of the Supreme
Council of India, Recorder of Nottingham, &c Bentley.
FRUERBACH'S REMARN.ABLB CRIMINAL TRIALS. ANSELM RITTER VON FEUERBACH., "a man celebrated as a judge, a legislator, and a writer," was for many years President of the highest Criminal Court of Bavaria. The penal code of Bavaria was framed by him ; his exposition of the criminal law is a text-book for the whole of Germany ; and he has published an account of remarkable criminal cases that have taken place during the present century, many within the range of his own experience. An elaborate account of the German criminal jurisprudence, with some notice of Fenerbach and his volume of Trials appeared in the October number of the Edinburgh Review. Lady Duff Gordon was then known to have been engaged on the sub- ject; and the reviewer tendered her some advice, which it appears she has followed, as regards confining herself to a selection of cases, and con- densing the disquisitions with which Von Feuerbach intermingles his narrative. But for that and another notice in one of the Foreign Quarter- liss, we might have entered into this very curious volume at greater length than we now propose. The peculiar system of Bavarian criminal jurisprudence gives to the eases in that country a consistency, completeness, and philosophic cha- racter, which it were vain to look for in any English report either civil or criminal. The examining judge combines in himself the functions of public prosecutor, police magistrate, and coroner, but with much larger powers than those officers in England possess, or rather under a totally different law of evidence. The idea of "fair play," much less of giving the prisoner any advantage, is unknown to German jurisprudence. The object is to get at the offender by every and any means. Hence, independently of direct and circumstantial evidence bearing upon the immediate offence, his whole life and character ate investigated, to test the probability of guilt or innocence. The results of this process, collected by a much higher-trained jurist than the best of our trader- lawyers can pretend to be, and reduced to writing for the superior triba- .nals to decide upon, naturally exhibit a more full and consistent story than English jurisprudence would admit of, where the law of evidence rigidly shuts out everything not directly bearing upon the acts charged in the indictment, and even then excludes much which has a moral though not an Anglo-legal force,s—leaving the "antecedents" of the prisoner, and the probabilities of the case, to the "Crowner " and the penny-a-liner, assisted by the gossip of the Police. Big the Germans do not stop here. Although the prisoner may be found guilty, and con- demned to imprisonment for life on the evidence, he cannot be executed until he has confessed. The great object of the judges is therefore to extort a confession; and here the unscrupulousness, and indeed cruelty of the German jurisprudence, comes into full light. Not only are the more legitimate means of long and incessant examination, with all the arta of cross-questioning, brought into action, but it is sought to entrap the criminal. For instance, he is not acquainted with the charge against him—indeed it is a legal offence in him to try to get at it or the wit- nesses: at starting he is admonished to confess ; a hope is intimated That in such case his punishment may be softened ; and he is then asked why he is arrested. When these efforts fail, recourse is had to dramatic surprises. The prisoner is suddenly confronted with one or more wit- nesses, or with an accomplice if there be one ; in eases of murder he is shown the body—at an early stage if it can be identified, or if not the bones are retained to be suddenly displayed before him at a midnight ex- amination with melodramatic concomitants ; and during all these question- ings the criminal's countenance and behaviour arc carefully watched, and form a part of the evidence which is sent to the Central Criminal Court. In cases of refusal to answer, the prisoner is put upon bread and water; and if he persists in his silence he is beaten. It should be mentioned that The examining judge collects evidence in favour of the suspected as well as against him, which is subsequently handed over to an advocate assigned ; a plan which, whatever else may be said of it, does not give odds in favour of escape. Such a system would not be endured in this country. Independently of motives some good some bad, we have neither time nor patience for it. To treatwith the German minuteness all the criminal cases that annually occur, would require such a host of functionaries, that the unemployed barristers, numerous as they are, could not fill them up ; the prisons could not hold the offenders; nor in very exciting cases would the public patience wait. Riembauer, a Romish priest who had murdered one of his mistresses, held out for four years, underwent upwards of a hundred examinations, and the documents swelled to forty-two folio volumes. German patience alone could stand this, even in functionaries who are paid for it (for the people know nothing of what is going on); but the British public must have had the man hanged long before, or have been diverted to some fresh case.
Nor have we much faith in the system considered as a scientific instru- ment of truth—as a metaphysical mode of overcoming the reason of the criminal, driving him from position to position, and as it were check- Mating him at last scion regle. No doubt, the majority confess; but * The counsel and judge, however, are perpetually urging moral conclusions upon the jury, and sometimes not very properly perhaps.
they are frightened into it, or badgered into it, or get worn down by imprisonment and the torment of incessant questioning. In murder Feuerbach has seldom found the dead body fail, especially in cases of infanticide : yet this is rather an affair of the nerves of the criminal than of the skill of the judge. See how a jail-bird and military man can bear the test, even a few days after the cold-blooded murder of his victims.
a As soon as the prisoners reached Nurnberg, at about four p. tn of the 24th, they were conducted, according to legal practice, to view the bodies lying in Biumler's house. The corpses were laid m their coffins, with the faces exposed and the bodies covered with their own bloody garments; Bilumler on the right, and the maid-servant on the left hand,—thus leaving a passage open between the coffins.
" Paul Forster was brought in first: he stepped into the room, and between the two corpses, without the slightest change of countenance. When desired to look at them, he gazed steadfastly and coldly upon them; and replied to the question whether he knew the body on the right, 'No, I know it not; it is quite disfigured: I know it not.' And to the second question, Do you know this one to the left ? ' he answered in the same manner,Igo she has lain in the grave. know her not.' When asked how he knew that the body had lain in the grave, replied, pointing to the face Because she is so disfigured; the face is quite de- cayed here!' On being desired by the judge to point out the exact spot which he thought so decayed, with a constrained air, but with the coarsest indifference, he grasped the bead of the murdered woman, pressed the brow, the broken nose, and the dieeks with his fingers, and said quite coolly, Here: you may see it clearly ! ' He attempted to evade every question addressed to him by the judge, by affecting that the idea of murder was so utterly foreign to him, that in all innocence and simplicity he mistook the deadly wounds for the result of decay. "All the endeavours of the judge to wring some sign of embarrassment or feeling from this man, as he stood between his two victims, were vain: his iron soul was unmoved. Only once, when asked, Where, then, is the corn-chandler to whom the house belongs?' he appeared staggered, but only for a moment. The judge went so far in his zeal as to desire him to hold the hands of both corpses, and then to say what he felt. Without a moment's hesitation, Forster grasped the cold hand of Baumler in his right, and that of Schutz in his left hand; and answered, He feels cold—ah, she is cold too'; an answer which clearly contained a sort of contemptuous sneer at the judge's question. During the whole scene, the tone of his voice was as soft and sanctimonious and his manner as calm as his feelings were cold and unmoved."
As we have intimated, the collection and arrangement of the materials, the style of the narrative, and the reflections with which the reports are occasionally intersprinkled, are far superior to anything we can show in this country. The method of telling the tale is rather to be called legal than natural. It begins with the first evidence which reaches the au- thorities, and then follows them pan i passu to the end. In the volume before us this is of no consequence, because all the cases except two are involved in doubt and mystery, and those two cases have metaphysical characteristics which fix the attention upon the psychology ; but in com- moner affairs we suspect the reader would see the guilty long before Gex- man justice reached him, and a feeling would ensue similar to that of an audience which penetrates the course and denouement of an ill-constructed plot. Our ,procedure begins with placing the accused at the bar; we plunge in mantis res, and have the hero at once upon the scene, when we can catch him.
There is little of the romance of crime in this volume. There are more thrilling stories in French and Italian jurisprudence, and even in our own Newgate Calendar. Notwithstanding a sort of scientific or scholastic handling, there is nothing but the felon in the narra- tives of Feaerbach : we feel the gulf between crime and tragedy, and are never drawn into admiration, such as the villains of Scott, Byron, and Schiller, inspire in the romantic. In despite of foreign manners, the romance of the country, and the selection of the cases, everything about the offender, and very often about the victims, is felt to be low and worthless : their birth, generally among the dregs of the pa 'lc; their education, little or none ; their training and circum- stances . ifortunate; and above all, their bias and disposition bad—idle, sensual, and profligate. Their ability reaches no higher than to cheat ; and in some cases there is a total blindness to consequences. Detection seems certain, yet they proceed ; and though we must not argue from war to murder, yet the men who have been soldiers contemplate the deed with the greatest coolness, plan its perpetration with more of method, and bear the upshot—the fin-tune de guerre—with greater equanimity. The only really respectable person out of the fourteen trials, is Steiner, a
shoemaker of Ratisbon who having a trifling suit decided against him by a local magistrate, and the decree enforced somewhat peremptorily, even- tually shot his supposed persecutor in the open market-place. The sentence of death was mitigated on medical representation ; at which Feuerbach is wroth : but the physicians were right. The monomania did not merely operate as to the murder, but influenced the whole life of Steiner. He quarrelled with his friends, his physician and his wife, upon the besetting subject of his lawsuit, and so misconducted his business as to be reduced to poverty. The most educated and intellectual criminal was the priest Riembauer : but he was the son of a labourer ; he was ordy a cnrate in the church ; and though a popular preacher among the villagers, his status was humble if not mean—" Est saerificulus in pago et rustieos decipit." His intrigues were with peasants and cook-maids, ;.nd he was a 0-Arpar in money matters. The only case prompted by other than sordid and felonious motives was a parricide, in which the wife and four grown-up children were aiding and abetting in the murder of the head of the family, a miller, of gross, profligate, brutal, and tyrannical habits ; whom the English law would have restrained in one direction, by binding him over to keep the peace. His family, however' were so feeble-minded and igno- rant, that though they were disturbed after the murder, yet they could not be persuaded that they had committed any great crime. They were also religious in their way, and so attached to each other that the two sons remained at home and bore their father's brutality in order not to leave their mother without some guard. The case of Caspar Frisch, the murderer from vanity, is, as may be supposed, vulgar and sordid enough in its motives, when we say that a watch and a few florins were the moving principle. Yet there is some- thing less of the common felon about it, from the murderer fancying' —which seems likely enough—that his creditor had cheated him, and his Christian contempt for him as a Jew. There are touches of the poetical, too, in the narrative, though overwhelmed by the minute and physical details.
"Frisch (after he had resolved upon the deed] declared that his conscience was disturbed, and that he could neither sleep, eat, nor drink, during the whole week. This did not, however, alter his determination. He heard an owl hoot Jane night, and thought that it was intended as a warning to him: but he only !aid, 'Hoot as much as you will, you carrion; I will do it, spite of all your hoot- ing.' The scheme, engendered by covetousness, fed by pecuniary embarrassment, and strengthened by the idea that Landauer had cheated him, found a powerful apology in his contempt for the Jewish race. 'He is but a Jew! there is no harm done: what busmess had he to charge so much and to take away all my money?' • • •
"the Jew came as appointed at about one p.m., when Frisch's cousins were frouYhome, bringing with him the two watches. He desired Frisch to give him a written assurance to the effect that the money was really his, and the same which he had formerly buried. The Jew then demanded payment of his debt; but Frisch told him that the money was concealed up in the old castle between two rocks, and that he must go with him to get it. This was in itself suspicious, and directly at variance with Frisch's former statement, according to which the money was buried in the shed. Nevertheless, the simple Jew, infatuated by love of gain, merely exclaimed, What, upon the hill ! only think !' and went on his way thither. He sat down beside the stream at the foot of the hill to wash his feet while waiting for Caspar Frisch; who went up the other side of the castle-hill, and beckoned to the Jew, whom lie saw sitting below, to come up. The Jew, eager to possess the money, ran up, repeatedly exclaiming, Caspar, where is it? where IS it, Caspar?' In answer to this question, Frisch led him to a spot where three fragments of rocks formed a sort of cavern, in which lie told him that the money was buried. Frisch now began to tremble in every limb. He was himself astonished at the blindness of the Jew in not taking alarm at his strange de- meanour. At length Frisch stooped to the ground, and began to remove some stones; but he soon ceased, saying that it hurt his crippled fingers, and that the Jew must kneel down and scrape out the earth and stones himself. The Jew complied; and while he was busily employed in clearing away the stones, and thinking of nothing but the treasure which was soon to appear, Frisch snatched ups stone, weighing, as he said, about three pounds, and with it struck the Jew on the head as hard as he could. His victim fell backwards; but quickly recovered him- self, and attacked his murderer, striking at his face, and exclaiming, in a broken voice, 'Casper, let Inc go!' Frisch now seized him by the body, or, as he afterwards said, by the leg, threw him down, and fell upon him. Even then, the Jew, who was undermost, struggled hard for his life, and would have overpowered Frisch, had not the latter got one finger of the Jew's left hand between his teeth, thus depriving him of the use of the hand. The stones which lay scattered around afforded ready instruments of murder. Frisch struck the wretched man about the head and brow; and although at each blow the stone dropped from his crippled hand, he quickly seized another, and continued the attack. He gave the Jew ten or eleven blows, until his head was crushed, and Frisch perceived that he was dying: he then robbed the dying man of his watches and money, and left him."
Lady Duff Gordon has done her part very well. Though the book is an abridgment as well as a translation, the foreign character of the com- position is maintained without stiffness in the diction. What is perhaps still more difficult, the spirit of the original matter and life is preserved : all the little circumstances of German manner and the characters of the criminals are presented with truth and nature, without effort.