Saturday, July 12, 2008


Charges of Murder When Corpses are Missing

English jurist Matthew Hale said, "I would never convict any person of murder or manslaughter, unless the fact were proven to be done, or at least the body found dead." 2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 290 (1678). A few months ago I discussed two cases in which there was an accusation of murder, but the person supposed to be murdered later turned up alive. One was the case of the Boorn brothers, wrongly accused of murdering Russell Colvin. 6 American State Trials 73 (J. Lawson ed. 1916). Another was the case of Cratinus, wrongly accused of the murder of a female slave by Callimachus and Callimachus' brother-in-law. Isocrates, Against Callimachus 52-54. I just came across another such case in Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet 44 (tr. H.W. and F.G. Fowler):
On one occasion, indeed, an Epicurean got himself into great trouble by daring to expose him before a great gathering. He came up and addressed him in a loud voice. 'Alexander, it was you who induced So-and-so the Paphlagonian to bring his slaves before the governor of Galatia, charged with the murder of his son who was being educated in Alexandria. Well, the young man is alive, and has come back, to find that the slaves had been cast to the beasts by your machinations.' What had happened was this. The lad had sailed up the Nile, gone on to a Red Sea port, found a vessel starting for India, and been persuaded to make the voyage. He being long overdue, the unfortunate slaves supposed that he had either perished in the Nile or fallen a victim to some of the pirates who infested it at that time; so they came home to report his disappearance. Then followed the oracle, the sentence, and finally the young man's return with the story of his absence.

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