The Law and the Lady
16. First Question--Did The Woman Die Poisoned?
THE proceedings began at ten o'clock. The prisoner was placed at the Bar, before the
High Court of Justiciary, at Edinburgh. He bowed respectfully to the Bench, and pleaded
Not Guilty, in a low voice.
It was observed by every one present that the prisoner's face betrayed traces of acute
mental suffering. He was deadly pale. His eyes never once wandered to the crowd in the
Court. When certain witnesses appeared against him, he looked at them with a
momentary attention. At other times he kept his eyes on the ground. When the evidence
touched on his wife's illness and death, he was deeply affected, and covered his face with
his hands. It was a subject of general remark and general surprise that the prisoner, in this
case (although a man), showed far less self-possession than the last prisoner tried in that
Court for murder--a woman, who had been convicted on overwhelming evidence. There
were persons present (a small minority only) who considered this want of composure on
the part of the prisoner to be a sign in his favor. Self-possession, in his dreadful position,
signified, to their minds, the stark insensibility of a heartless and shameless criminal, and
afforded in itself a presumption, not of innocence, but of guilt.
The first witness called was John Daviot, Esquire, Sheriff-Substitute of Mid-Lothian. He
was examined by the Lord Advocate (as counsel for the prosecution); and said:
"The prisoner was brought before me on the present charge. He made and subscribed a
Declaration on the 29th of October. It was freely and voluntarily made, the prisoner
having been first duly warned and admonished."
Having identified the Declaration, the Sheriff-Substitute--being cross-examined by the
Dean of Faculty (as counsel for the defense)--continued his evidence in these words:
"The charge against the prisoner was Murder. This was communicated to him before he
made the Declaration. The questions addressed to the prisoner were put partly by me,
partly by another officer, the procurator-fiscal. The answers were given distinctly, and, so
far as I could judge, without reserve. The statements put forward in the Declaration were
all made in answer to questions asked by the procurator-fiscal or by myself."
A clerk in the Sheriff-Clerk's office then officially produced the Declaration, and
corroborated the evidence of the witness who had preceded him.
The appearance of the next witness created a marked sensation in the Court. This was no
less a person than the nurse who had attended Mrs. Macallan in her last illness--by name
After the first formal answers, the nurse (examined by the Lord Advocate) proceeded to