The Big Hill Murder and the Colonial Death Penalty
Provenance : The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria | Public Record Office Victoria | Published : 2018
This article is a case study of the way the decision to commute a death sentence was reached. The Big Hill murder attracted intense public interest in 1860 and generated extensive records. These document the processes by which the governor and ministers decided to exercise the prerogative of mercy and commute the death sentence of a convicted murderer; they also record the prisoner’s later attempts to clear his name. The case shows how commutation of a death sentence was influenced by official perceptions of the degree of certainty with which guilt was established, and illustrates the processes that authorities used to reach, and reassess, that conclusion.