Oh, Lords. That’s what we’re on today: ten lords a-leaping, but when you look at Wikipedia’s list of peers who’ve faced charges in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, you’ll see WAY more than ten. Each one of these guys has a story, I’m sure, but as I am a child, I first looked at the one executed for sodomy: Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven.
Mervyn did not disappoint! According to gay history essayist Rictor Norton, Tuchet — a multiply married man with seven kids — was accused by his son of raping his wife and of relations with two of his male servants. At his trial, in 1630, Castlehaven said that his wife and son had conspired against him so they could have his property for themselves. A jury convicted him, and he was beheaded three weeks after his trial.
Here’s a snip from Norton’s account:
On Monday, the twenty-ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord 1631, about the hour of ten in the morning, the Lord Keeper Coventry, being by special commission duly appointed Lord High Steward of England, with twenty-six members of the Nobility, proceeded into Westminster Hall, attended by a Herald and six Sergeants at Arms. The Lord High Steward being seated in a Chair of State, and the Peers of the Realm being seated round a table covered by a cloth of green velvet, proclamation was made for Silence! Thus began — amidst all the dread-inspiring pomp and circumstance of a solemn rite of degradation — the trial and condemnation of Mervyn Touchet, the trial which would remain the legal precedent for all homosexual court cases for the next two hundred years. It was a sensation, and pamphlets describing it were reprinted every time there was a gay scandal during the next two centuries.
Actually, it was only partially a homosexual trial, for the indictments against Castlehaven included one count of rape as well as two counts of sodomy. The evidence (which we have little reason to doubt, for even Castlehaven admitted to much of it) illustrates a quasi-subculture within the highly circumscribed boundaries of a private estate, where Castlehaven endeavored to collect a group of lusty Irish lads to fulfill his fantasies, even going so far as to recruit vagabonds and out of work sailors from the ports.
It’s…a lot, right? The full story is even wilder, you can read it all here. — EB
Do you read Substacks besides Best Evidence? Now that everyone seems to have one, I’ll bet your inbox gets more Substack-y each day. My friends and colleagues at the Verge reported Wednesday that there’s a new tool called Substack Reader that will let you organize and consume your subscriptions in one place. It’s just in beta now, and feels very much like a beta product — but it also has an RSS reader vibe that fits my era of web use. I’m trying it out, and just wanted to pass it along in case you might find it useful, too. — EB
Should the crime beat be thrown out in 2021? That’s what journalists Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli argue in the pages of journalism trade pub Nieman Lab. Here’s how their piece begins: “Let’s be honest: Crime coverage is terrible. It’s racist, classist, fear-based clickbait masking as journalism.” So, blam, right out of the gate.
This is part of Nieman’s annual year-end coverage, where they ask industry leaders what they expect/hope for in the year following. And in 2021, Chappell and Rispoli say, “this should be the year where we finally abolish the crime beat,” as “study after study shows how the media’s overemphasis on crime makes people feel less safe than they really are and negatively shapes public policy around the criminal–legal system.”
You can find their whole argument here. So, now, what do you think? Are they on the right track? — EB
Speaking of, Nancy Grace’s whole family has COVID-19. The Daily Mail reports that Grace, her husband, her mom (who lives with them), and her 13-year-old twins are all ill with coronavirus and are suffering from symptoms of the virus.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t link to the Daily Mail, but they’re the ones who spoke with Grace: she’s a contributor to DailyMailTV, which doesn’t do much to raise her value. But I suppose I should be nice, as Grace tells the tabloid that she “has an ongoing cough and flu-like symptoms” and has lost her sense of smell. “Covid is no joke,” she said, and “we thought we had done everything right…Please keep wearing masks, social distancing and stay safe – no family should go through this.” It might help if she said that directly to her audience at Fox Nation, an outlet that’s denied the severity of the pandemic and — per the Washington Post — “kept millions from taking the coronavirus threat seriously.” — EB
I predict that the Twitter killer case will be adapted in 3…2…1 Tokyo prosecutors say that Takahiro Shiraishi would target people who expressed depressive thoughts on Twitter, inviting them to his apartment where he’d sexually assault and kill them.
According to his defense team, eight of the nine people he’d killed were folks who’d agreed to have Shiraishi “help” them end their lives, but according to the AP, “presiding Judge Naokuni Yano said none of the victims agreed to be killed and that Shiraishi was fully responsible for their deaths.” NPR reports that the case has prompted Twitter to “to roll out new rules against promoting or encouraging suicide and social harm on the site” and also prompted “Japan's government to expand telephone and online suicide support channels.”
Shiraishi was sentenced to death, and he’s already said that he will not appeal the ruling. According to NPR, in Japan, “the date of the execution is kept a secret from both the prisoner and their family. The offender is only notified on the morning of his execution.” — EB
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
You know John McAfee. He’s the guy behind the anti-virus software company, a famous tech tycoon who — at some point along the way — seemed to lose the plot a bit, fleeing officials over tax-evasion allegations and the murder of one of his neighbors in Belize. The fuzz caught up with him in Spain, and in October he was arrested. He’s still in jail there now, waiting to be extradited to the U.S.
And while he waits, he tweets. You don’t need a longread to tell you that — here he is on Twitter, where he maybe thinks he is Tony Stark? (Don’t all those tech guys think they are Tony Stark, seemingly unaware that Stark is an intentional portrait of a toxic man so hollow he had to create a man-shaped suit to vill the void?) Anyway, his Twitter bio is “Lover of women, adventure and mystery.” Brother, please.
Here’s one of his most recent pearls of wisdom:
Writing for Air Mail, Joseph Bullmore reports that:
His Twitter output is a combination of prison-yard stand-up (“I am surrounded by murderers, muggers and thieves. Not as bad as our government of course.”); state-of-the-nation almost-haikus (“What remains in America / is the last landscape / of a disappearing world.”); and ominous tone shifts (“The food is good. All is well. Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine.”).
It’s hard to know whose fingers are tapping the keys—it seems unlikely that even a proclaimed hacker-savant such as McAfee could secure a 24-hour smartphone in a Spanish prison. But a glowing tweet in praise of his wife, Janice (“She has been my inspiration, my muse, my friend, my confidante and my lover”), might furnish a clue.
If so, that’s even odder — if one of my loved ones was in jail, I’d be encouraging him to stay quiet and keep his head down, not (shudder) tweet. What’s going on there? Bullmore’s report has some ideas, all of which suggest that the McAfees believe John is the victim of a larger conspiracy, one about which they cannot remain silent. Me, I’m not so sure. Take a look, and tell us what you think. — EB
Friday on Best Evidence: Too soon to say!