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Cockburn, Sir Alexander James Edmund

COCKBURN, SIR ALEXANDER JAMES EDMUND

Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn was an eminent British jurist. He was born December 24, 1802. He graduated in 1829 from Trinity Hall, Cambridge, England. In 1847, Cockburn began his career in Parliament as a liberal. He served in the British government as attorney general from 1851 to February 1852; he resumed these duties in December of 1852 and continued until 1856. In that same year, he presided as chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1859 he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England.

The 19th century British jurist is known for successfully defending Daniel M'Naghten, who killed British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel's secretary (thought by M'Naghten to be the prime minister himself). In the M'Naghten case of 1843, Cockburn established the customary test of insanity in Anglo-American criminal proceedings, which states the defendant is so mentally disturbed that he is unable to fully realize that what he did was actually wrong

Cockburn died November 21, 1880, in London.

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Cockburn, Sir Alexander James Edmund

Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn, 1802–80, British jurist. He was called to the bar in 1829, and a volume of reports on election cases (1832) brought him into national prominence as a trial lawyer. He was made recorder for Southampton (1841) and was elected to Parliament from there (1847). He was noted particularly for his defense advocacy, one of his most famous successes being the acquittal (1843) of Daniel McNaghten, who had killed Sir Robert Peel's secretary, on grounds of insanity; the "McNaghten rules" became the basic definition of criminal responsibility in most English-speaking jurisdictions. In Parliament, Cockburn successfully defended Lord Palmerston's handling of the "Don Pacifico" dispute (1850). He served as attorney general (1851–56) and was chief justice of common pleas (1856–59) and lord chief justice (1859–80), presiding over the famous Tichborne case.

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