SLATER, OSCAR (1872–1948), British underworld figure wrongly convicted of murder in Scotland. Born Oscar Leschziner in Oppeln, Germany, the son of a baker, Slater immigrated to England, working as a bookmaker and using many aliases. He was twice acquitted on charges of assault. From 1899 he lived in Edinburgh, apparently working as a professional gambler, pimp, and receiver, again under a variety of aliases. In 1908 a rich elderly woman was beaten to death in her Edinburgh apartment. Slater came under suspicion for trying to sell a pawn ticket for a stolen brooch and for immediately fleeing to America, giving false information as to his travels. He was arrested in New York and tried in Edinburgh. His defense was badly handled and he was convicted on a majority vote of the jury. His death sentence was commuted by the Scottish secretary to life imprisonment. Almost immediately a vocal campaign began which argued that he was wrongfully convicted, spearheaded by such notables as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In 1927 Slater was released and given £6000 compensation. There seems no doubt that he was innocent, and the Slater Case became a cause celebre of the miscarriage of justice. Slater died in obscurity in Ayr, Scotland, in 1948. Although Slater liked to describe himself as the "Scottish Dreyfus," historians have debated what role, if any, his Jewish background played in his conviction.
ODNB online; T. Toughill, Oscar Slater: The Mystery Solved (1893); W.D. Rubinstein, Jews in Great Britain, index; B. Braber, "The Trial of Oscar Slater (1909) and Anti-Jewish Prejudice in Edwardian Glasgow," in: History, 88 (2003), 262–79.
[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.