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A CRIMINAL TRIAL IN NÜRNBERG, 1790. No one can forget Nürnberg who Marcus Sterbenk was awakened by has ever, even for a few hours, ram- his maidservant, with the unpleasant bled through its medieval streets. news that the doors of the house, It remains a living type of the and the counting-house, stood open, vanished past. Not a modern build- and that from the latter the iron ing is to be seen ; for even those cash-box had been stolen. As this houses which were erected yester- cash-box contained two thousand day have been fashioned after the gulden in silver (about two hundred sixteenth century model, or earlier. pounds reckoning, by our standard, Hence, although the situation of Saltz- but really a much larger sum in those burg and Prague gives them a cer- days), the agitation of Sterbenk may tain picturesque superiority over all be conceived. He hastened to the other German cities, there is no city counting-house with his clerks and in Europe so interesting, so perfect servants, found that a pane of glass an historical picture, as this Nürn- had been removed from the window, berg, every house of which has a physi- which looked from the counting-house ognomy, of its own, every street of on the staircase, and that the door which is a panorama. The varied was wide open. The maid said that gables, the quaint windows, the high she had bolted the house-door overroofs, the fantastic galleries, towers, night. The reader must remember and doorways, with the endless effects that in Continental houses the houseof colour, make the streets a perpe- door, or porte cochère, is the entrance tual delight to the traveller. Here to all the dwellings contained in one one feels thoroughly at home in the pile of building; and, unlike our past. The lives of our forefathers be- English houses, merely admits to the come intelligible. One only needs a vestibule. The separate doors have change of costume in the busy crowds to be unlocked after entrance has to make the picture complete. been effected through the house-door.
While no change whatever has come In this case the house-door had no over the spirit of the architecture, lock; nothing but a bolt, which the there has, happily, a profound change maid declared she had pushed into come over the spirit of criminal law its staple. She had heard no sound in Nürnberg; and if the lover of whatever during the night, such as medieval institutions wants an illus- the opening of this door would occatration of those times which will sion; but on descending in the mornmake him join with the lover of pro- ing to take in the milk when the gress in blessing the results of the milkwoman rang, she was surprised wiser laws which in our day regulate to find this milkwoman inside the society, imperfect, and in many re- house—the door having yielded to spects still barbarous, as these are, her accidental pressure. Alarmed, let him attend to the narrative of the she looked to the counting-house following Trial, which occurred in door, and found that also open. She Nürnberg at the very close of the last looked in, and found the iron cashcentury.* Among criminal trials it box missing. has an exceptional interest, which is, It was at once evident that the however, more psychological than robbery must have been committed legal, and the mystery is even yet by some one perfectly acquainted not cleared up
with the localities. This very pane On the 30th June 1790, at five in of glass which had been removed was the morning, the merchant Johann the same that, ten days before, Ster
For the details we are indebted to the Neue Pitaral, edited by Hitzig und Häring, vol. xxi. p. 349-410. This voluminous work contains many interesting, and many trivial cases, all recorded with true German tediousness and want of method.
benk bad ordered to be taken out that some days before the robbery, when one of the clerks had lost the Schönleben had twice made his apkey of the counting-house, and it was pearance at the counting-house an pecessary to open the door from hour later than usual, for which he within, which could be effected by a could only give very unsatisfactory man's thrusting his arm through this excuses; and the day after the robopening, and thus reaching to the bery he had affected à forced joculalock. A messenger, named Schön- rity, &c. &c. On such indications leben, remarked that this was very was this man arrested. suspicious.
It was clear that Schönleben could But whom to suspect ?_At pre- not alone have accomplished the sent there was not a clue. The whole crime. His accomplice was town rang with the news; and gos- fixed on. It was Beutner, a poor sips on the door-steps and in beer- spangle - maker. The indications shops freely vented their hypothetical against him were these : he was suspicions, as is usual in such cases. poor; he had assisted Schönleben to A shopkeeper swore that on the night carry a load of wood into the Sterin question about two o'clock he quit- benk house, and in doing so passed ted the tavern zum Reichsadler, where up the stairs leading to the countinghe had been in jovial company, and saw house ; arrived at the top stair, he two suspicious-looking fellows in the was said to have paused there some neighbourhood of the Sterbenk house, minutes, looking intently into the who crossed the Horse-market; a counting-house, fascinated by the barber also swore that he saw two sound of the money he heard chinkmen that night near the house, and ing there. This was asserted by had asked them the time; a maid- more than one witness, although reservant declared that she had seen a solutely denied by him. It could young man the day before standing only be from a desire to make himopposite the house, considering it self familiar with the locality previattentively; But as these witnesses ous to his criminal attempt. He could neither identify the persons also was arrested. they had seen, nor give any other The idea of arresting, imprisoning, clue, their attestations shed little and examining two men on such light over the question.
evidence as this will astound the Suddenly suspicion settled on reader ; but he will be still more Schönleben, the messenger, who had astounded on learning that the posfound the history of the pane of glass sibility of their being innocent was 80 suspicious. It grew and grew, never entertained. They were astill it became very like conviction. sumed to be eriminals ; and all that He happened to say to one of the remained was to extort, or entrap, a shopboys that “if he could only be confession of their guilt. certain the cash-box had been car- While the cumbrous procedure of ried across the Fish-market, as report those days was being carried out said, he would easily trace out the against these men, a new clue seemed rest." This remark, surely not very to have been discovered, of far compromising, seems to have excited greater importance than any yet attention. It was remembered that detected. Á barber, named Kirchhis life had not been blameless; and meier, upon whom let the reader's the busy imaginations of men in- attention be fixed, called on Sterstantly built up a thousand probabili- benk, and, under the seal of secresy, ties to convict him. The very day as regarded bimself, declared that, after the robbery, his brother, a pea- "unless he was mistaken,” he had, sant living in a neighbouring village, on the morning of the 30th June, bad called upon him at the Sterbenk seen a cash-box, very closely resemhouse, had spoken with him in an bling that which was advertised in undertone, and then had quitted the the papers as the one stolen, in the town with his dung-cart-" of course room of the gilder Maunert, who carrying away the cash-box in this lived in the same house with Schöncart,” as quick imaginations readily leben. Kirchmeier called a day or divined. It was further remembered two after the 30th on Maunert, and
the cash-box was no longer visible. Schönleben firmly denied any This Kirchmeier was a citizen of knowledge of the crime or the crimiNürnberg, the father of a large fa- nals; nor could be name any one on mily, well-to-do in the world, bear- whom his suspicions fell, although ing the character of an upright, reli- he would say that Beutner, on the gious man. His testimony was con- occasion of helping him with the sidend urimpeachable: a fatal cre- load of wood, did ask where the dar rits the result. On the un- counting-house was, and whether all sondern ar of this man, the people in the house slept above. La Red not only impri- He knew nothing of Beutner's havmeiten and destroyed. ing stood looking into the counting
dust vased was mar- house, as had been asserted. He IX IT two sons are ten denied everything that was alleged
T. PUT , tot titherto Against him, or explained it away. REN. He was er. There is one point in his evidence ini.
He dead which is noticeable, and was much W 19 Iuresh netix-namely, that he described hi un tèe cash-ber in precisely the same Str. Brems as those employed by Kirch
¥r in reference to the box seen in #* in* 7. Tois par Man's roem. This gave addi
al weight to the barber's testiLV #1.6 TDI mar: for, it was argued, how could
Asar, Kinh meier, who had never been in une exu, Serkenk's house, and consequently it all ride me. as had never seen the cash-box there,
Rum caseret Scrurately describe it, unless he had en suste.: Resumen de actually seen it? He described it o we were oren, preisely as the messenger who saw
**** the it daily ; and what he described was, tre kk he averred, under the table in Mau
vased oak nert's room. Now Maunert and his Line je rug well wife distinctly denied ever having thateve kod He had any cash-box whatever in their
Beutner, the spangle-maker, on be4.Tklr wiss citi
wa game was so ex- ing questioned respecting his diaCon mitä se sisted on by logue with Schönleben, admitted its 1 ss be seemed truth, but said he was in liquor at
de merive in the the time, and knew not much what nii realice to he had talked about. Of the crime, bres dut, on the con- or the criminals, he knew absolutely
pirking as far nothing; and as proof that he was Resu! pxeple, not concerned in the robbery either even in his derlaration as principal or assistant, he offered
leisus vitbe Nurn- to prove an alibi. Unhappily for e croche execu- him, this proof was far from satiswa Wiwert into factory, and the suspicion deepened si do witė into against him. The witnesses he called
did not admit that he was with them wtre xarrhed. drinking till two in the morning; but,
Erde of any on the contrary, declared they had escui, cuid be accompanied him home at eleven. - We thought Now if he reached home by eleven, : Neu ode of there was abundance of time for him having to have committed the robbery.
The examination of the Maunerts to place now occupied the court. tull but determined to put in force the rigour
of the law to extort a confession.
li al mei
Kirchmeier reiterated, and even add- thing but hardened and obstinate ed to his former statements, and sinners; the public shared this condeclared himself ready, if necessary, viction. So high ran the feeling to affirm them on oath. In those against all the accused on account of days the criminal law did not ab- their obstinacy, that the mob smashed solutely require witnesses to be Schönleben's windows, and his youngsworn; only in extreme cases was est child was killed in its mother's the oath administered ; and the arms by a stone. punishment of perjury was very Kirchmeier, the demon of this severe. The oath was a last step, story, after his damnatory oath, when the evidence was otherwise communicated fresh indications of imperfect. Now as the two Maunert Maunert's criminality, which, of boys, on being interrogated, and course, helped to confirm the prejusolemnly warned to speak the truth, dice against the unhappy man. He persisted in unwavering denial of stated that some days after he had having ever seen such a box; and seen the box in Maunert's rooms, he suggested that what the barber saw had called on him and narrated how must have been a painted box filled he had just seen Schönleben's wife with plaster cast medallions, which carried through the crowd by the indeed was under the table, but not police, accused of having with her behind or near the door ; this steady husband stolen Sterbenk's cash-box; denial forced the court to administer whereupon Maunert said, “And what the oath.
compensation will these poor people Kirchmeier again declared his get if they are innocent ?" Surely a readiness to take the oath, which he very natural and humane question : could do with a clear conscience. too humane apparently for general He was solemnly warned to consider appreciation then, since it was interwhat he said, to be quite clear with preted as a sign of guilt by a logical himself as to whether the box seen process not unexampled in public by him was really such a box as the reasonings. A week later, the barone stolen ; the severe punishment ber again called on Maunert, and of perjury was rehearsed to him; and showed him the newspaper in which the oath was slowly read aloud to a reward was offered for the detechim. He remained unshaken. The tion of the criminals. Maunert redespairing Maunerts on their knees marked “How could Sterbenk implored him to have pity; adjured imagine that the robber would be him by all that he held sacred not to discovered merely if poor people ruin them; pointed to their children were observed to have or spend more in hopes of moving him. Kirchmeier money than usual? He, Maunert, was immovable. In calm and so happened to have lately paid some lemn tones he took the oath. No- debts, and was in possession of more thing that was said made him swerve money than usual; but he did not in his statement that he had seen the suppose that suspicion could fall on box. “That which I saw, I saw : the him on that account.” green painted cash-box with green It cannot escape the reader as wooden legs, I saw in the rooms of something peculiarly removed from the man who is now kneeling im- modern jurisprudence, that not only ploringly before me. I cannot help should such implicit reliance have it. I am quite convinced that in this been placed on the barber's asserI am not mistaken. His blood be tions, unsupported as they were, but on my head!”
that no suspicion seems to have been It was done. The oath had been awakened at his remarkable freedom taken. God had heard it, and would from all inculpation of Maunert till avenge it if false. The excitement after Schönleben and Beutner had was not confined to Nürnberg and been examined. He declares that Franconia ; all Germany shared in the very day of the robbery he saw it. Pamphlets, pictures, and discus- the cash-box in Maunert's room. sions made it the talk of the day. But he said nothing. When SchönThe court, after Kirchmeier's solemn leben was arrested, he called on testimony, saw in the accused no- Maunert, in continuance of friendly picion,
relations with the man whom he must influence of such men as Schöner and have suspected to be the thief. A Fuchs would be irresistible, and jusweek afterwards he calls again; and tice would at length be satisfied. although all Nürnberg is discussing Alas! even this failed. The priests the question-Who is the thief!--and reported that the two sons, no less than every one is freely suggesting suspi- Maunert and his wife, repeated that cions, the barber is silent as to Mau- they knew nothing whatever of the nert. Of this no notice seems to cash-box, that Kirchmeier had perhave been taken. Had the accused jured himself, and that God would employed an advocate, it would have even yet make their innocence mani. been duly insisted on.
fest. "And," said Schöner, “when I A contession the court would have; warned Maunert's wife of that judgand as Maunert obstinately refused ment which awaited her in another to confess, he was ordered to be world, which none could escape howflogged. The flogging extorted no- ever they might escape the judgment thing but groans and denials. He in this world ; when I painted in was flogged again; but, as the judi- glowing terms the terrors of eternal cial report mively remarks, "al- damnation, the immovable justice of though he showed an extreme sus- the Lord, and the awful power of ceptibility to the stripes, he was not his deerees, she interrupted me with to be brought to confess; on the con- the exclamation, ‘To Him I appeal !! trary, stontly maintained his inno- When I argued with her on the sad cence, but berged that a full investi- consequences which would ensue ungation of his whole life might be less she confessed, not only that her made, which would show he had imprisonment would continue, but always lived honestly and above sus- that even harder measures would be
Nothing of the kind was adopted towards herself and family, undertakon. In those days -- the she replied : 'And if they flog me close of the "onlightened" eighteenth to death, what is it? I want nothing century it did not oocur to men to more from this world, and care not ank, What compensation will the in- to enter it again !'” nocent receive if their inuocence is In this manner she encountered proved
every exhortation, every argument, After this a second search was every reference to temporal or etermadlo in Maunert's dwelling ; but nal justice. She was innocent; her nothing wng found which in any way husband and children were innocent; bore on the robbery. Schönleben's she could say nothing else. dwelling was also searched with The state of opinion was so inconequally fruitl88 result. What was ceivably fixed against them, that we to be done! It was clear these men doubt whether any presumptive evi. were guilty; but their obstinacy set dence would at that moment have justice at defiance. How extort a had much weight, otherwise it is confession ? Appeals to their terrors probable—but only probable—that had been tried, and failed. Exami- this steadfast reiteration of innocence nation and cross-examination had on the part of the whole family, been tried, and failed. Floggings under such severe trials of their had been tried, and failed. There firmness, would have suggested a remained only two resources : first, doubt in their favour. It was true the Priest, and next-the Rack. that the barber's evidence was ex
The power of the priest in extort. plicit. But there was no other eviing confession, even from the most dence; and against it might fairly hardened criminals, had often suc- be set that of the whole family, cessfully been employed; accordingly, two of them young boys, who never two celebrated Niruberg theologiaus swerved in their statements. There and preachers, Schöner and Fuchs, was one awkward circumstance, it is were commissioned to try their pow- true : the barber swore he saw a ers. The public expectation was cash-box; whereas the whole family raised by the news of this. Every steadily denied that any cash-box one felt assured that, hardened as had been in their room. It was imthese criminals were, the spiritual possible to doubt the barber's state