A pugilist, convicted of manslaughter for killing his opponent, 22nd October, 1812
ON the 22nd of October a fight took place at Moulsey Hurst, between Turner, who made his debut on this occasion, and Curtis, designated the Dutch Sam of his weight from his public fighting. Betting was 5 to 2 and 3 to 1 on the event. Turner exhibited the traits of a British pugilist in more instances than one when he had his adversary in his power. Curtis, from the attitude of Turner, could not get at him, and the gamer he exhibited the more he got punished. At length, after struggling against every disadvantage one hour and twenty-eight minutes, he fell, apparently lifeless, and being conveyed over the water to an inn, at Hampton, he betrayed the most alarming symptoms. Surgeons being promptly sent for, and a vein being opened, he bled freely; but death had grasped him too firmly for mortal aid to prove efficacious.
An inquest was of course held on his body, and the evidence of two surgeons went to prove that he had died of the blows he received from Turner. Mr Griffenhoofe was not present until long after the battle took place, but Mr Jones was present upon the spot, and gave it as his decided opinion that the man could not live. The young man, assistant to Mr Griffenhoofe, bled the deceased about half an hour after the fight, but there was nothing particular to narrate on the subject.
Mr Coombes, of Hampton, proved that the deceased fought with Turner, that they shook hands before the battle took place, and that he assisted in taking the deceased from the ring in a senseless state. He proved, also, that the seconds, the umpire, and the patrons of fighting, strenuously urged Curtis to give in, and that he refused to do so; and even slipped away from his seconds when they were in the act of carrying him away, and fought again.
Mr Kent stated, that, for about twelve rounds before the termination of the contest, he told Curtis he had no chance to win, and that it was a pity he should suffer himself to be beaten to pieces. The reply of the deceased was, that he could not lose the battle; and he maintained this assertion against every remonstrance, until he fell in the last round, and never recovered from a state of stupor. Oliver, his second, advised him also in vain to resign long before the battle was decided, and the umpire refused to hold the watch any longer, but the deceased entertained a notion that he would win until the moment he fell. The evidence of this witness went to explain on the subject of the fall. He stated, that in the struggle for superiority, both men were down, and that Turner had an opportunity of doing mischief to his adversary, by falling upon him, but he broke from him, and behaved in a manly manner, as he had done in other instances during the fight. After this fall, Curtis never recovered from the stupor; and witness believed him to be in a dying state before he reached the inn at Hampton. After being put to bed, Mr Jones the surgeon pronounced him to be in a very dangerous state, and witness together with the people at the inn, used every exertion in procuring medical aid. The deceased at this time was cold at the extremities, and appeared to be dying. Witness went on to state, that the deceased laboured under disease, and that he was advised rather to forfeit the stake for which he fought, than contend for it: but his reply was, that he was sure to beat his man. He died a quarter before twelve at night, but witness left him in two hours after the battle.
The jury without hesitation found a verdict of manslaughter against Turner, who was committed to Tothill Fields Bridewell, till the next Old Bailey Sessions. The evidence on his trial was similar to the above, and in his defence he gave in a paper, in which he declared his aversion to prize-fighting; that though he was unfortunately goaded on to fight with Curtis, he had not the most distant intention of doing him any serious injury, but was, on the contrary, repeatedly desirous that Curtis should give up the contest. No man could feel more regret than himself at the awful result of that contest, but he declared himself innocent of the most distant intention to injure the deceased.
A great many witnesses were called by Mr Andrews, who gave Turner an excellent character for humanity, and for a particularly mild temper. Many of them had known him from his infancy. One particularly declared that perhaps no individual had been more insulted than Turner had been by Curtis, and no man could possibly exercise more moderation and forbearance than for a long time he had done; and though Curtis was repeatedly assured that Turner refused to fight him, he still persisted in these insults, and, if possible, repeated them with more aggravations.
Mr Baron Graham summed up. He observed, that no person whatever could suppose the prisoner actuated by malice in what he had done on the present occasion. It was equally dear that he was none of those desperate offenders in prize-fighting -- a system which had unfortunately become too common in these days. Turner had the appearance of being a brave young man, and therefore was an object for Curtis to attack; ambitious, as every person belonging to the prize fighting corps was, to acquire more renown by defeating the prowess of such a man as Turner. Though a person might disapprove of these battles, it was impossible to feel that horror of them, which a person did when two parties deliberately went out armed, for they could only be considered as a trial of courage. It was a fact unquestionably true, that Turner had no hostility whatever to the deceased; for, on the contrary, he had shewn himself actuated by motives of the purest humanity during the whole of the contest: He (the judge) did not wish to throw any imputation on the deceased; at the same time he deplored that obstinacy he had shewn during the fight, and he particularly deplored the numerous insults he had offered to Turner, and which Turner had long and patiently endured without offering any retaliation: that patience was honourable to him in every point of view. The consequences had indeed been fatal to that unhappy young man; but it would be extremely unjust to say Turner was responsible for these consequences, as being the cause of them. Turner had been very humane during the contest, declining on every occasion to take any advantage of what his superiority in point of strength and wind had given him. The jury could therefore do nothing more than find him guilty of manslaughter.
The jury, after two minutes' consultation, found him Guilty of Manslaughter; but earnestly recommended him to mercy for his humanity in the contest, his sorrow for its issue, and his most excellent character,
Mr Baron Graham -- 'Gentlemen, the court are actuated by the same feelings, and shall certainly not overlook the conduct of the young man at the bar when they give judgment.'
He was sentenced to two months imprisonment in Newgate.