As was customary in the 19th century, the trial was very brief, and commenced on Christmas Eve 1828. Both Burke and McDougal pleaded not guilty. There was huge public interest, and people milled around in the streets outside the courtroom, awaiting news.
Both Hare and his wife offered testimony against Burke, and the defence offered no witnesses. The case was wrapped up quickly, with Burke’s advocate arguing that he should be found not guilty, and McDougal’s asking the jury to return a verdict of “not proven” in her case, an option particular to Scottish Law.
The jury took less than an hour to return with a verdict on Christmas Day: guilty in the case of Burke, and not proven for McDougal.
The judge passed a sentence of death by hanging on Burke, after which, ironically, his body was to be given for dissection.