Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Fatal Consequences of Drunkenness

A husband who rowed with his wife after he came home drunk ended up causing her death when he kicked out, but at his trial he was cleared of manlaughter. 

At 8 o'clock in the morning of 25th May 1833 John Kearns, a labouring porter, returned in an intoxicated state to his home in Dickenson Street. His wife Annie told him to take his breakfast and go to work, but instead he called her by what the Liverpool Mercury described as an 'infamous name' before tipping the table over. 

When Annie called him names in reutrn, he threw a stone, poker and fender at her, all of them missing. They then fought for ten minutes before, a neighbour intervened and kept them apart. Kearns had a wound to his head which was dressed, but he refused to go to bed and Annie declined to go and seek solace at her sisters. 

Fifty year old Kearns left and went into the street, with Annie shouting abuse after him, causing him to return whilst in an even more furtious state than earlier. Despite the best efforts of a neighbour to hold him back, Kearns kicked Annie in the neck whilst she was picking something up, rupturing the windpipe.

Annie died two hours later and Kearns was taken into custody. At an inquest two day later Annie was described by neighbours as a mild and inoffensive woman. Any quarrels they said, was down to her husband's habitual drunkenness. After a verdict of manslaughter was returned the Coroner, James Aspinall, issued a warrant committing Kearns for trial at Lancaster Castle Regret was expressed that five children had now been deprived of their natural guardians and protectors. 

On 14th August, Kearns was tried and evidence was given that the item Annie was about to pick up was a brick to throw at him. The jury concluded the death was accidental and he was acquitted. 

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