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Colonial Cases

R. v. Papalardo, 1857


R. v. Papalardo, 1857

Supreme Constitutional Court, Constantinople
Source: The Times [London], 30 November 1857

Last week the first criminal trial by jury took place in the Supreme Consular Court.  The case was one of manslaughter.  In the evening of the 15th of last month a Maltese pilot named Papalardo came with his little daughter of 8 or 10 years of age on shore at the village of Bujukdere and went to one of the numerous spirit shops kept by his countrymen.  While there another Maltese shopkeeper came up and asked him to pay the money he owed to him.  Papalardo replied that he would do so as soon as the shopkeeper would send him his bill.  This latter, not satisfied with this, abused him, and went out into the streets continuing his insults, and calling the other to come out, when he would settle his account.  Papalardo came out, when the other struck him with his fist, which the first repelled, and felled his adversary to the ground; the people rushed out of the shop and found him dead, with a bleeding wound under his left collar-bone.  A common sailor's knife, with traces of blood on it, was found some yards off.

   As the new consular court had not yet begun its functions at the time the crime was committed, the evidence was collected by the ordinary consular authorities, but the trial took place before the newly installed Judge of the Supreme Consular Court.  According to the Order in Council a jury of six British subjects was named, three of whom were Maltese.  Mr. Logay, the law secretary of the judge, acted as prosecutor for the Crown, and Mr. Whitestone, one of the resident barristers, for the defence.  The trial was fixed for the 12th inst., and the courtroom fitted up in the temporary buildings occupied by the Consulate was crowded speedily with Maltese.

   The trial took three hours, in which 15 witnesses were examined. The chief witness against the prisoner was his own daughter, a child of 0, which made the examination rather painful.  There could be no doubt about the act having been committed by the prisoner, who had come up himself the day after the deed to the Consulate, and said that people accused him of having murdered the shopkeeper, but that he had only defended himself against his aggression.

   The evidence proved clearly the great provocation to which the prisoner had been exposed; it proved, besides, his former good conduct, as well as the bad character borne by the shopkeeper, who was under the strong suspicion of having murdered the mate of a vessel some months ago.

   The judge summed up the evidence, and admonished the jury to consider whether the evidence was such as to convince them that the prisoner had committed manslaughter, and not tom let themselves be biased by the consideration of the prisoner's previous good conduct, which circumstance had nothing to do with the facts of the case.

   This remark was to the point, for, if juries in general are rather apt to mix up considerations which ought to remain foreign to the facts of the case, this was so much the more to be apprehended here, as every one of the class of people to which the prisoner belongs is in the habit of carrying a knife about him and using it freely too, so that the use of these instruments to settle quarrels might have been rather looked upon in a milder light by a local than an English jury, especially under the extenuating circumstances which prevailed in this case.

   After some deliberation a verdict of Guilty was returned, the jury recommending the prisoner to the mercy of the Court on account of the great provocation to which he had been exposed and of his previous good conduct.

   The judge then addressed the prisoner, and pronounced him guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced him to 18 months' imprisonment.  He took an opportunity in his address to allude to the use of the knife, and expressed his determination to administer the law in its strictest sense, in order to put a stop to this practice.

    This first trial by jury will I hope not be without effect; it will convince the troublesome Maltese and Ionians that punishment follows crime closely, a fact with which they could only be imperfectly impressed as long as no cases of felony would be judged by the Consular Court.

    While speaking of this latter, I must say a few words on a subject which I have already before noticed - namely, the Consular prison. ...


Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School