Using one uniquely well-documented murder case from a small Northamptonshire village, this article explores two themes. First it analyses the genesis of the case in the local context and uses it to assess the potential impact of local xenophobia on the eighteenth-century criminal justice system. The village community pushed for a murder charge. The defence portrayed the accused as a victimised newcomer and argued for justifiable homicide. The victory of the former provides a revealing case study of the power of local xenophobia. The second part of the article then develops a top down perspective. Since the petitioners in this case included four highly prominent dukes and duchesses, it can be used to assess the ability of the aristocratic elite to obtain pardons and thus to control a central element in the criminal justice system - the death sentence. Although a constable had been killed, the evidence against the accused was highly problematic. Powerful aristocratic connections should therefore have been able to obtain a pardon but how effective were they in this situation?
- criminal justice system
- local xenophobia