The Killing of Percy Casserley
A member of the jury: possible arguments
Obviously, there is no way to tell definitely if Ted Chaplin has committed a murder or just a manslaughter. Let’s consider the whole case “fact by fact” and see if one can logically derive the degree of Chaplin’s guilt.
First, let’s estimate the prosecutor’s (McClure) arguments. Almost undoubtful fact is that Ted Chaplin was in the house of Casserley and saw his death, and he is a very good object for prosecutor’s attack, especially in the light of his own description of the story. There is a slight chance of mistake in this statement but it is almost neglectible. We can suppose that Percy Casserley was murdered, if he was murdered at all, not by Ted Chaplin but Georgina Casserley, his own wife. Ted Chaplin claimed then that he was the witness of Casserley’s death to pull any possible accusations away from Georgina Casserley. If so, he succeeded and Georgina was not really blamed; eleven days of her imprisonment (provided mainly by the social critics of the moral aspect of the love story of her and Ted Chaplin) can not be compared with twelve years for Ted Chaplin.
A good question is the one about the gloves. It seems to be a bit strange that Ted Chaplin went to Casserley’s house with gloves on his hands. While the weather allows a reasonable explanation, it cannot help with the fact that Chaplin, according to his own words, first pulled them off after he started talking to Casserley (as any man would do in a standard situation), but then put them back after just a few words. By the time he did so Casserley did not give him any answer to his request (just because he had no time to do so – it all happened very quickly!), so Ted Chaplin obviously had no reason to leave so soon. The reasonable questions is: what if Chaplin took gloves with the initial intention conceal his fingerprints?
The most lethal thing for Ted Chaplin is the presence of a certain amount of bruises on the body of Percy Casserley in the absence of the like on his own body. The only reasonable explanation is that Casserley was beaten prior to his death, and the only person who could do that was Chaplin.
Also, the prosecution can use to its favor the fact that, according to the Ted Chaplin’s version, the fighting between him and Casserley took a relatively long period of time. Hardly any kind of fighting, defensive or offensive, against an old and drunk person can take that long.
Due to the weird and logically unclear situation with the failure of Casserley’s .25 automatic gun a number of further questions to help the prosecution arise. The gun was found to have a defective reloading mechanism. Weapons expert told the court that after the first shot the pistol would invariably jam, making the following fire impossible. The question is how could Casserley die after being shot from the jammed gun? There should be no second shot at all! Or maybe the gun failure took place after it was all over?
And, finally, one of the very basic points upon which Chaplin’s story is based. Some things taken from Casserley’s home were found at the Chaplin’s flat; the explanation he gave was that he brought them there to help to create an imitation of burglary. Those things were just a diamond ring and a life-preserver (a cosh). Isn’t there something strange in the fact that such few valuable items were taken, and a lot of other stuff (say, silverware) left untouched? Was Chaplin so naïve to think that he took enough to his flat to simulate a robbery?
What is really surprising is that the defense never mentioned the conditions of Percy Casserley’s mind and body on the evening he died. Autopsy procedure revealed a lot of information on the number of bruises on his corps but told nothing about the alcohol concentration in his blood.
At the same time, as we all remember, Casserley was drunk. Note that his usual dose of a bottle and a half of whisky (according to his wife) is more than enough to expect inadequate behavior, including Casserley’s occasional shot at himself. The old man could be drunk to a such degree that he was not able to control his finger on the trigger and, of course, not able to understand the dangerous situation.
One of the prosecutor’s attempts to “catch” Ted Chaplin and find contraversial points in his evidences was based on the fact that, according to Chaplin, Casserley grabbed the gun with his left hand during the fighting and did so several times; at the moment of the shot the gun was also in his left hand. Since it was known that Casserley was a right-handed person, the prosecutor insisted that Chaplin told lies.
Hardly there is a point to use such a logical derivation as a support. As Casserley was drunk to a high degree, he probably was not able to control his actions to the full extent, and it could made no difference for him if he used his right or left hand to take a pistol. Actually, it is a difficult job to try to explain a behavior of a drunk person; still, anyway, one should take into consideration that such a behavior can not be commented or explained without a special expertise. In this case, even the level of alcohol in Casserley’s blood was not measured.