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Theodore Dalrymple profiles a notable NZ murderer

  • July 11th, 2018

Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal concentrates on a New Zealand born murderer in his reflection on the evolution in our criminal justice system, discerned from a quiet evening’s reading of Notable British Trials.

He observes that for roughly 200 years, trial transcripts were popular, if not the favorite, reading material in the English-speaking world?especially in Britain. He describes them “as complete an inventory of human depravity as has ever been assembled.”

John Donald Merrett’s brilliant defense counsel, Craigie Aitchison got a Scottish jury to declare the charge of murder “not proven” after Merrett shot his mother in the head when she discovered he had been forging cheques on her account.

Dalrymple quotes from Aitchison’s final address to the jury: ?I will say only this to you, as one who has been much and intimately in contact with him in these last few days. . . . Send him out from the Court-room this afternoon a free man with a clean bill, and, as far as I can judge, he will never dishonour your verdict.?

Twenty eight years later Merrett killed his estranged and fearful wife, and his mother-in-law, after a life of typically psychopathic financial crime, indifference to danger ( he became a war hero, including to the men he lead) and risk taking with others’ money.

Not the first or the last time that brilliant counsel have fallen for the evil genius of psychopathic criminal clients.

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