England

Trial ends after a request for trial by battle

April 20, 1818
England
The Ashford v Thornton murder trial ends after the defendant asks for his right to trial by battle

Abraham Thornton had been accused of the murder of Mary Ashford when she was found dead, drowned in a pit with little or no evidence of violence. Thornton had been the last person seen with Ashford as they left a dance together. Due to extreme lack of evidence, Thornton was acquitted of murder but Mary’s brother William Ashford brought an appeal against Thornton.

Thornton, not wanting to endure a second trial, requested his right to trial by battle, which was surprisingly still legal at the time of his request. Ashford declined to meet him on the field of combat and Thornton was released again.

A mob, angry at this turn of events (the locals strongly believed Thornton had killed Mary Ashford), assembled outside the court, though Thornton was able to escape out a side door under the direction of one of the judges. Thornton emigrated to the United States soon after, and the law regarding trial by battle was removed the following year.

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