M. Orfila, in a capital case tor poisoning in France, took ccasion to represent to the court the reason why experts could not reply to the question so often put to them, as to whether a sufficient quantity of poison to cause death had been administered, and the danger, in reference to the suppression of crime, the insisting upon such a question gave rise to. The chemist may only be able to detect the thousandth, or the twenty-thousandth part that has been administered, when the poison has been evacuated, and the discharges have not been preserved. If all the poison has been thus expelled he may not be able to detect even a tiace, and yet, although in the one case what he has detected has been insufficient to cause death, and in the other he has found none at all, so that the jury may pronounce that no poisoning has occurred, yet has the person died of such poisoning. To ascertain the whole amount of poison that remains in the body, the entire frame would have to be submitted to analysis, which is clearly impracticable, w hile calculations of the quantity existing in the- whole body from that which has been obtained from a part, Would give rise to the gieatest errors, inasmuch as the poison is not equally distributed over the whole irame,some . portions of this absorbing and retaining much v moiflof it than others. Different processes also employed by the same hand afford very different quantities, as does the same process performed by chemists of different degrees of experttiess. The French law, too, does not require any decision on this point, as itpunish-es the attempt to poison by any substance that may cause death—this applying not to the proportion employed, but to the substance used.
This article was originally published with the title "Chemical Testimony in Cases of Poisoning"