Sir Thomas Sandy, Mayhem

Hey, Sir Thomas! Look lively! Would you like to tell these folks why you're here?

"On the December 21st, 1670, I and a few other men cornered Sir John Coventry in the streets of London. We were upset about a few statements he had made in parliament and disagreed with his politics. In retribution for his agitating remarks, I sliced off a part of his nose. Even though my action eventually led to the Coventry Act, which made mayhem a capital offense, I am just rooming on death row because Newgate is rather full right now. Since the Coventry Act was passed ex post facto to my conviction, I was not sentenced to death. But I am counting the days until I am out of here. A few more years and 'Goodbye, Newgate!'" [1] .

Yes, Thomas, you will not be executed. Still, because of your actions, mayhem became a capital offense just before the eighteenth century. The English legal scholar William Blackstone writes,

... statutes have put the crime and punishment of mayhem in doubt. The last statute, but far the most severe and effectual of all, is that of 22 & 23 Car. II., ch. I, called the Coventry act; being occasioned by an assault on Sir John Coventry in the street and slitting his nose in revenge (as was supposed) for some obnoxious words uttered by him in parliament. By this statute it is it is enacted, that if any person shall of malice aforethought, and by lying in wait, unlawfully cut out or disable the tongue, put out an eye, slit the nose, cut off a nose or lip, or cut off or disable any limb or member of any other person, with intent to main or disfigure him; such person, his counselors, aiders, and abettors, shall be guilty of a capital felony without the benefit of clergy [2].

As stated, this law was passed to prevent malicious maiming on the streets of London after Sir John Coventry was maimed by Sir Thomas Sandy and others. It is substantially tougher than the previous mayhem laws because it broadens the definition of mayhem to include the maiming of appendages non-essential to battle, and makes mayhem a capital offense. The act will be repealed in 1828 [3].

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