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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 321 pages of information about The Hampstead Mystery.

CHAPTER XIX

Mr. Walters began his address to the jury on orthodox lines.  He referred to the fact that his learned friend had warned them that the life of a fellow creature rested on their verdict.  It was right that they should keep that in mind; it was right that they should fully realise the responsible nature of the duty they were called upon to perform, but it would be wrong for them to over-estimate their responsibility, or to feel weighed down by it.  It would be wrong for them to be influenced by sentimental considerations of the fact that a fellow creature’s life was at stake.  Strictly speaking, that had nothing whatever to do with them.  Their responsibility ended with their verdict.  If their verdict was “guilty” the responsibility of taking the prisoner’s life would rest upon the law—­not on the jury, not on His Honour who passed the sentence of death, not on the prison officials who carried out the execution.  The jury would do well to keep in mind the fact that their responsibility in this trial, impressive and important as every one must acknowledge it to be, was nevertheless strictly limited as far as the taking of the life of the prisoner was concerned.

He then went over the evidence in detail, building up again the case for the prosecution where Mr. Holymead had made breaches in it, and attempting to demolish the case for the defence.  Hill, he declared, was an honest witness.  The man had made one false step but he had done his best to retrieve it, and with the help he had received from his late master, Sir Horace Fewbanks, he would have buried the past effectively if it had not been for the fact that the prisoner, who was a confirmed criminal, had determined to drag him down.  There was no doubt that Hill’s association with Birchill had been unfortunate for him.  It had dragged his past into the light of day, and he stood before them a ruined man.  He had tried to live down the past, and but for Birchill he would have succeeded in doing so.  But now no one would employ him as a house servant after the revelations that had been made in this court.  They had seen Hill in the witness-box, and he would ask the jury whether he looked like the masterful cunning scoundrel which the defence had described, or a weak creature who would be easily led by a man of strong will, such as the prisoner was.

As to what took place at the flat, they had a choice between the evidence of Hill and the evidence of the girl Fanning.  Hill had told them that he had tried to dissuade the prisoner from going to Riversbrook to burgle the premises, because his master had returned unexpectedly; Fanning had told them that the prisoner was in favour of postponing the crime, but that Hill had urged him to carry it out.  Which story was the more probable?  What reliance could they place on the evidence of Fanning?  He did not wish to say that the witness was utterly vicious and incapable

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