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Name Charge Outcome Punishment Appeal
Isaac White Practising obeah Guilty Imprisonment Appealed View details
Case details   
Date accuracy:
Date of source
Trial Type:
Court or location:
Tunapuna Police Court, Trinidad
Court type:
Magistrates' Court
Trinidad POSG dataset
Title/Headline/Description Publication/Reference Date
Alleged Obeahism at San Juan. Jack Brown's expedient to evade justice. Says he consulted an obeah man to get him off. Parts company with £2, a fowl, and several articles. "A police informant." Paraphernalia of obeahism in court. Port of Spain Gazette 21/10/1907

'A well-dressed individual, Isaac White, was charged --- with having, by the practice of obeah, received from Jack Brown at San Juan between the 3rd and 4th October 1907, £2, a cock, a bottle of rum, three candles, an egg and a bottle of Florida Water, with intent to defraud.'

Jack (Jacob) Brown, of Port-of-Spain, had been introduced to White by Cecilia Morris 'as a man who could do something for people with cases (laughter)'. Brown went to see White on Thursday night, and White had asked him for 5s and an egg so that he could "examine him". White had gone behind a blind with the coin and the egg, and Brown had heard the stirring of water. White had told Brown to say the Lord's Prayer three times. (frequent laughter in the court room as the witness tells his story.)

White then told Brown that he had a serious case, and that it would 'go up to the judges'. 'Magistrate: I wish it had to begin there rather than here.' White told Brown that it would cost him a lot to defend his case. White would charge him 12 dollars. Brown had said that he could not afford that, and White had then asked for £2. He should also bring White a cock, a big bottle of rum, three candles (red, black, and blue), and a bottle of essence and another egg. If Brown could not remember the name of the essence, he could bring Florida Water.

Brown returned to White's house on Friday night between 9.30 and 10 with the paraphernalia mentioned. White was playing a violin. The house ...

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Mr. Gaston Johnston represented defendant.. He did not know what obeah was, only what "is defined in the Ordinance; any pretended assumption of supernatural power or knowledge." Port of Spain Gazette 13/11/1907

Johnston asked Sergeant Major Eversley, the complainant, whether he knew what supernatural power was assumed in this case; he did not. Johnston also asked whether Eversley had ever taken bush medicines, like serio blossoms drawn in tea. 'No. I suppose Mr. Johnston means bush medicines made by this class of people', replied Eversley. Johnston: 'I do not mean that at all. See how prejudiced you are - "this class of people".' Johnston pressed further and made Eversley admit that he would take bush medicine if prescribed by a doctor, and that he also ate watercress, which is cooling and healthy, and good for the kidneys.

Johnston: 'If a man were to advise someone to take water cresses, that it was cooling medicine, you would not say that he was working obeah?'

Eversley: No.

Eversley had not had the pieces of evidence analysed. 'He did not know what leaves were in the canary.'

Defendant here drank some liquid from the canary in court.

Mr. Johnston: Don't drink all! (laughter)

'Complainant continuing said, he would not say that the liquid in the canary was obeah. He did not know what was in the pitch oil tin. The liquid stank. He had not heard of 'Maporit'. He knew the bush called gully root. He knew it was used here as a remedy by some people. He would not call that herb obeah. He knew that 'maporit' stunk. The little tin contained liquid. --- He could not say that it contained obeah. --- He knew that among other t...

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POSG Port of Spain Gazette 29/11/1907

The Magistrate quotes the Obeah ordinance, defining what obeah is: 'Obeah was defined in Ordinance 5 as "the pretended assumption of supernatural power or knowledge for fraudulent or illicit purposes, or for gain, or for injury to any person".' The magistrate condemns the methods of the police. He gives White one month hard labour; White appeals. Bail of £20 signed.

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News snippets Port of Spain Gazette 20/02/1908

'Isaac White, who appealed against a conviction for practicing "obeah", lost his case yesterday and went to jail for a month.'

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  • Cash transaction
  • Clothing, bodily characteristics or age of defendant
  • Letters to defendant
  • Notable case
  • Practice involves harm
  • Ritual description
  • Successful practitioner