According to Wikepedia, the Reverend John Selby Watson (1804 – 6 July 1884) was a British classical translator and murderer. He was sentenced to death in 1872 for killing his wife, but a public outcry led to his sentence being reduced to life imprisonment.
Born in 1804 Watson was educated by an uncle and graduated from
A few weeks after finishing his four-volume History of the Papacy to the Reformation, on
Watson recovered and stood trial at the Old Bailey in January 1872. Despite a history of arguing with his wife, Watson did not argue provocation. Instead, he pleaded insanity, as his counsel put it: "an antecedent improbability in the deed which would lead everyone in the first instance to seek an explanation in insanity." The judge, Mr Justics Byles, opposed this excuse strongly in his summing-up. After deliberating for an hour and a half, the jury found him guilty of murder but with a recommendation that mercy be shown because of his age and previous character. Byles however sentenced him to death.
After the trial many affidavits from doctors were presented testifying to Watson's insanity at the time of the murder. Byles then changed his mind and told the Home Secretary that the medical evidence presented at the trial suggested that "this is not a case in which the sentence should be carried out." After more investigation the Home Office decided that some "imprecise mental unsoundness" had been present and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Due to no obvious signs of madness, however, he was not sent to