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The case of Oscar Slater by Sir Arthur Conan…
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The case of Oscar Slater

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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This is the second of the two famous real life criminal cases Arthur Conan Doyle became involved in, and as a result of which the Court of Criminal Appeal was set up. Unlike the case of George Edalji, a clearly totally innocent and victimised man who could not physically have carried out the crimes of which he was accused, Oscar Slater was a character of rather shady reputation who may have been living off the proceeds of prostitution. That said, the evidence of him supposedly having murdered an elderly lady, Marion Gilchrist, and stolen an item of jewellery was paper thin, e.g. there were several witnesses to his alibi and the descriptions given by witnesses of the murderer did not accurately match Slater in key details. As in the Edalji case, there is a feeling of his being a “type” – a shady character of swarthy, foreign appearance (he was a German Jew), on whom it was convenient for the Glasgow police to pin the crime. In fact, the evidence seems to point to the murder having been committed by someone whom the old lady knew and to whom she had given admittance to her flat. Slater was sentenced to death on a majority jury verdict of 9-6 (shocking enough in itself to my mind – how can there be no reasonable doubt if 40% of a jury are not convinced?). A couple of days before his scheduled execution date, after a public petition, this was commuted to life imprisonment and he served 19 years. His case is a salutary reminder that people should not be judged on specific crimes by their general conduct in other situations. ( )
  john257hopper | Nov 15, 2013 |
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