Vivien Miller


The crime passionnel is not formally recognized in North American law. Nevertheless, any reading of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century southern court records and pardon files reveal that, as acts of interpersonal violence, crimes of passion "generated by thwarted love, jealousy, [and] hatred that rise to the level of obsession" were not uncommon. One such crime was perptrated by Alexander Campbell. This was the unusual case of a middle-class white man who was convicted of first-degree murder in a Florida court in 1891 and sent to the convict lease system where he remained for a considerable length of time. This partiular Florida crime pasionnel suggests way in which culturally contructed notions of southern manhood and womanhood shaped the attitude of attorneys judges, and jurors, the way in which they evaluated criminal reponsibility, their determination of the appropriate punishment, and subequent appeal for clemency. Contrary to popular stereotypes factors such as money and class didn't alway guarantee leniency in southern courts where, in certain contexts, privileged defendants could expect little sympathetic treatment. Neither education nor social position diminished moral and legal responibility and an act of violence by a socially advantaged defendant often received greater scrutiny than one committted by someone of limited education and means.