Withdrawl of Prosecution
Sir Edward Clarke--May I claim
your lordship's indulgence while I interpose to make a statement, which,
of course is made under a feeling of very great responsibility?
My learned friend, Mr. Carson, yesterday addressed the jury upon the question of the literature involved in this case, and upon the inferences to be drawn from the admissions made with regard to letters written by Mr. Oscar Wilde; and my friend began his address this morning by saying that he hoped that yesterday he had said enough in dealing with those topics to induce the jury to relieve him from the necessity of dealing in detail with the other issues in this case. I think it must have been present to your lordship's mind that those who represent Mr. Wilde in this case have before them a very terrible anxiety. They cannot conceal from themselves that the judgment that might be formed on that litera-ture, and upon the conduct which has been admitted, might not improbably induce the jury to say that Lord Queensberry in using the word "posing" was using a word for which there was sufficient justification to entitle the father, who used those words under these circumstances, to the utmost consideration and to be relieved of a criminal charge in respect of his statement. And with this in our clear view, I and my learned friends associated with me in this matter had to look forward to this--that a verdict given in favour of defendant upon that part of the case might be interpreted outside as a conclusive finding with regard to all parts of the case. And the position in which we stood was this: that, without expecting a verdict in this case, we should be going through, day after day, an investigation of matters of the most appalling character.
Under these circumstances I hope your lordship will think I am taking the right course, which I take after communicating with Mr. Oscar Wilde. That is to say that, having regard to what has been referred to by my learned friend in respect of the matters connected with the literature and the letters, I feel we could not resist a verdict of not guilty in this case--not guilty having reference to the word "posing." Under these circumstances I hope you will think I am not going beyond--the bounds of my duty, and that I am doing something to save, to prevent, what would be a most horrible task, however it might close, if I now interpose and say on behalf of Mr. Oscar Wilde that I would ask to withdraw from the prosecution. And if you do not think that at this time of the case, and after what has taken place--if you do not think I ought to be allowed to do that on his behalf, I am prepared to submit to a verdict of not guilty, having reference, if to any part of the particulars at all, to that part of the particulars connected with the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray and the publication of The Chameleon. I trust that this may make an end of the case.
Mr. Carson--I do not know that
I have any right whatever to interfere in any way with this application
my learned friend has made. I can only say, as far as Lord Queensberry
is concerned, that if there is a plea of not guilty, a plea which involves
that he has succeeded in his plea of justification, I am quite satisfied.
Of course, my learned friend will admit that we must succeed upon the plea
in the manner in which he has stated; and that being so, it rests entirely
with your lordship as to whether the course sug-gested by my learned friend
is to be taken.
Mr. Justice Collins--In as much as the prosecutor in this case is prepared to acquiesce in a verdict of not guilty against the accused, I do not think it is any part of the function of the judge or of the jury to insist on going through prurient details which can have no bearing upon a matter already concluded by the assent of the prosecutor to an adverse verdict. But as to the jury putting any limitation upon the verdict of justification of the charge, which is "posing as a sodomite"--if that is justified, it is justified; if it is not, it is not. And the verdict of the jury must be "Guilty" or "Not Guilty." There can be no terms and no limitations. The verdict must be "Guilty" or "Not Guilty." I understand him to assent to a verdict of Not Guilty, and of course the jury will return that.
Sir Edward Clarke--The verdict is "Not Guilty."
Mr. Justice Collins--The verdict is "Not Guilty,"' but it is arrived at by that process. I shall have to tell the jury that justification was proved; and that it was true in substance and in fact that the prosecutor had "posed" as a sodomite. I shall also have to tell them that they will have to find that the statement was published in such a manner as to be for the public benefit. If they find on these two points, the verdict will be "Not Guilty."
(To the Jury)--Your verdict will be "Not Guilty"; but there are other matters which have to be determined with reference to the specific finding of complete justification, and, as I told you, that involves--that the statement is true in fact and substance, and that the publication is for the public benefit. These are the facts on which you will have to find, and if you find them in favour of the defendant, your verdict will be "Not Guilty." You will have to say whether you find complete justification has been proved.
[The jury consulted together briefly.]
The Clerk of Arraigns--Gentlemen of the jury, do you find the plea of justification has been proved or not?
The Foreman of the Jury--Yes.
The Clerk of Arraigns--And do you find defendant not guilty?
The Foreman--Yes. (Applause.)
The Clerk of Arraigns--And that is the verdict of you all?
The Clerk of Arraigns--And also that it was published for the public benefit?
Mr. Carson--Of course, the costs
of the defence will follow.
Mr. Justice Collins--Yes.
Mr. C. F. Gill--And Lord Queensberry may be discharged.
Mr. Justice Collins--Oh, certainly.
The Court adjourned.