Book recommendation: The Great Defender: The Life and Trials of Edward Marshall Hall KC, England’s Greatest Barrister by Edward Marjoribanks (Author) and Gary Bell QC (Introduction)
When Sir Edward Marshall Hall died in 1927 it was the end of an era. Tall, strikingly handsome and charming, the barrister was the finest advocate ever seen in the English criminal courts. Known as ‘The Great Defender’ as he fought tooth and nail for his clients, those in the shadow of the hangman’s noose were often saved from execution by his dramatic and eloquent defence. His closing speeches to rapt juries were legendary and there was never a free seat in the public gallery or on the press bench when he was in the Old Bailey. Marshall Hall did not win every case – the ‘brides in the bath’ murderer George Smith and poisoner Frederick Seddon were sentenced to death – but not without a fight from the amazing advocate. One of his finest victories came in 1894 when he saved the life of Marie Hermann, a former Austrian governess who had resorted to prostitution to feed her three children, one of whom was blind, after her husband abandoned her. Charged with the murder of an elderly client, even she believed she would be hanged. Marshall Hall gave an impassioned plea to the jury which ended with him, with tears on his cheeks and pointing to her in the dock, begging, ‘Look at her, gentlemen of the jury, look at her. God never gave her a chance. Won’t you?’ They did, and she was found not guilty of murder. Despite success in court, Marshall Hall’s personal life was tragic. His first wife, Ethel, whom he adored, informed him on their honeymoon that she could never love him and died in agony following a botched, secret abortion after getting pregnant with her lover’s child. This biography, written by his friend Edward Marjoribanks, with an introduction by criminal barrister Gary Bell QC, details many of the advocate’s famous trials and his life outside court.
Available fromÂ Amazon.