The Identic Turn: The Culpability of Accessories and Perpetrators

Penny Crofts
2015 Social Science Research Network  
This article analyses the legal concept of wickedness through the 16th century case of Saunders and its representations by treatise writers. Saunders had tried to kill his wife by giving her a poisoned apple. Not knowing it was poisoned, his wife gave the apple to their daughter, who died. Saunders was charged with murder but argued that he did not have malice against his daughter, and therefore should not be found guilty. Treatise writers drew upon different sources to construct a persuasive
more » ... del of legal wickedness including evil intention, harmful consequences, manifest criminality, and the religious imagery of the apple. Saunders is a reminder of alternative models of legal wickedness that have been neglected. I InTrODuCTIOn John Saunders had a wife whom he intended to kill, in order that he might marry another woman with whom he was in love, and he opened his design to ... Alexander Archer, and desired his assistance and advice in the execution of it, who advised him to put an end to her life by poison. With this intent the said Archer bought the poison, viz. arsenick and roseacre, and delivered it to the said John Saunders to give it to his wife, and accordingly gave it to her, being sick, in a roasted apple, and she eat a small part of it, and gave the rest to the said Eleanor Saunders, an infant, about three years of age, who was the daughter of her and the said John Saunders her husband. And the said John Saunders seeing it, blamed his wife for it, and said that apples were not good for such infants; to which his wife replied that they were better for such infants than for herself; and the daughter eat the poisoned apple, and the said John Saunders, her father, saw her eat it, and did not offer to take it from her lest he should be suspected, and afterwards his wife recovered, and the daughter died of the said poison. And whether or not this was murder in John Saunders, the father, was somewhat doubted, for he had no intent to poison his daughter, nor had he any malice against her, but on the contrary he had a great affection for her, and he did not give her any poison, but his wife ignorantly gave it her ... But the most difficult point in this case, and upon which the justices conceived greater doubt than the offence of the principal, was, whether or no Archer should be adjudged accessory to the murder. 1 Saunders was found guilty of the murder of Eleanor and put to death. 2 Archer provided assistance for the murder of Saunders' wife, but the
doi:10.2139/ssrn.2827360 fatcat:g4xoaugrgzf7pjbwud77nrxq4m