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The jury is our refuge, the instrumentality which will preserve our liberties in the last instance in case the necessity arises. The jury is the popular side of the administration of justice in this country. I should be glad, indeed, to see our jury system in any way improved, but sorry to see it ever impaired or its usefulness diminished, because as long as it continues our liberties are safe. Well may we honor those Saxons of old from whom we derived our jury system. It comes to us with the Magna Charta; it comes to us as a part of our organic system of freedom, and it is necessary for the administration of justice in a free country like ours, and is required for the protection and conservation of our rights.
Joseph Hansell Merrill, of Georgia :
Just a word in connection with the first point made by Mr. Shepard, as to restricting the number who may serve upon juries. The law in Georgia has been, for a longer time than I can remember, that a jury commission, appointed by the judge of the Superior Court, takes a list of the voters of the county, and from that list selects “ upright and intelligent” men, and puts their names in the jury box. Therefore, the list of those who may serve upon juries is very much smaller than the list of those who have the right to vote. I do not know that jurors in Georgia are any more righteous or wise than are jurors in other states of the union. I have had a streak of rather bad luck this year before juries, and I am not boasting of the jury system generally, but there has not been any general complaint of the verdicts of juries in Georgia, and I certainly have never heard of any complaint of this method of restricting the number of those who can serve upon juries. This satisfactory experience of the State of Georgia on this line, I think, might encourage other states to restrict the number, and thereby elevate the character of their juries.
Lynde Harrison, of Connecticut:
I live in Connecticut, in the city of New Haven, and I was very much interested in hearing what the gentleman from Massachusetts said concerning the Connecticut jury system.
So a few years
It grew up with us as it did in Massachusetts in the days of our Puritan ancestors, and gradually we have tried from generation to generation to improve the system. One great improvement that we have made within the last few
years is in the method of selecting jurors. Formerly the civil authorities of each town, in the month of January in every year, put into the jury box the names of a dozen or fifteen or twenty men who were thought fit to serve on juries. In the early days it was said that the best men were selected for this service. Finally, however, in some of the towns it was found, when the civil authorities got together and looked over the list of the men in the town who were anxious to hold political office, that they had to fill the ollices of selectmen and grand jurors and jurors and constables, and there were some men who had not arrived at a sufficient grade of reputation to be selected as constables, and so they put their names in the jury box to serve as jurors. The result was not entirely favorable, and the attention of the Bar was called to it. ago a law was passed in Connecticut requiring each town by its civil authorities to put twice the number of names in the jury lists and send them to the county seat and then a commission of three intelligent men of the county was appointed to go over the lists in every town, make inquiries, and strike off at least one-half of the names sent in. Under that plan good men have been selected for the last few years for jurors in Connecticut, and we have been very well satisfied with that law. I mention this because I think it is a step in the right direction in our state. I think it might be followed in some other states, for I know something about the jury system of other states and I think the names in the jury box could be weeded out to advantage by careful men authorized by law for that purpose. We have another system in Connecticut which is not favorably considered in Georgia and Massachusetts, and I have known something of the practice in those states for a good many years. It is this : When a suit is brought by a man who has been injured on the highway, partly by his own
carelessness and negligence, and he thinks he can recover handsome damages, he sues the town and he puts his case before a jury, thinking the jury, out of sympathy for him, will give him substantial damages. When a man has been injured in a factory where he is employed, and thinks he can recover damages, he puts his case before a jury. Where a man is injured upon a railroad bridge, partly by his own negligence, and he cannot settle with the company, he puts his case before a jury. A good many years ago our Connecticut Supreme Court decided that the defendant, in any case where the action is brought against a town or corporation or other defendant, may default the case, and take it away from a jury, and under such circumstances the damages are assessed by a judge. We think that plan is much more satisfactory. There have been a few instances of people injured in railroad accidents in Connecticut, who, knowing the law there, have moved into Massachusetts and brought their suits in that state. Perhaps the gentleman from Massachusetts can tell us whether he thinks that is an improvement on the Connecticut system. It gives the Bar of Massachusetts cases that would otherwise go to us. My friend from Georgia has said something about the jury system that they have in the South. They have a good system there. I spend some time there every winter, and I know it. I saw a case there last winter where a man shot his mother-in-law in a family quarrel and a jury in Thomas County acquitted him.
M. F. Dickinson, of Massachusetts :
I should like to add to the interest of this occasion by relating two or three incidents which occurred in my practice. I will preface what I have to say by stating that, after all, I think what the gentleman from Massachusetts has said, though important, is really summed up and ought to be summed
in the criticism which can be justly made in reference to the selection of jurors. I think the viciousness of our system is that the method of selection of jurymen in most of the states is entirely wrong; if not wrong in principle, it is wrong in its
application. The fact is, and it must be confessed by every intelligent lawyer here, that we do not succeed generally in getting into the jury box and keeping there the men who ought to be there. That is one of the great difficulties we have in the administration of justice everywhere. I have tried quite a number of jury cases in the last five years, and I recall only one juryman from Ward Eleven, in Boston, who has sat
of those cases. And here I must say I do not think our judges quite do their duty when under pressure they excuse men from Ward Eleven from doing what one of my Irish friends called “high service," while they allow men from the shore front and from the north end of the city to sit in their places. I had this experience with a very witty and able member of our Bar. We had three cases to try, which entitled each of us to six challenges. My friend succeeded in getting off the jury all the Americans except one, and, as he told me afterward, when we walked down to the scene of the accident to look at the situation, and I remonstrated with him for excluding those men from the jury, he said, “Well, I looked the jury over and I told my associate, « There's one Yankee left on the jury; take his head off; it sticks up like a sore thumb."" So I had to go to trial with twelve jurors of my friend's selection, and it would not have been possible for that situation to have existed if the judges of our courts had not excused men who ought to have sat upon that panel. There ought to be some way of compelling our business men, our leading citizens, to perform their jury duty. Then I think we would hear a great deal less talk about the unsatisfactory way in which justice is administered under the jury system. A few years ago at one of our meetings I heard a very interesting story told by a gentleman from Alabama. He said there had been a law in his state at one time which required a residence of six months in the state and registration before a man could vote. A colored man had come from Louisiana into the state and voted after a residence of three months. He was indicted and put on trial. The gentleman who told this story said that a friend
of his was the district attorney who conducted the prosecution. The case was opened; the law was stated by the attorney for the state, and witnesses were called. The counsel for the defendant sat mute; he had no questions to ask at all, and was perfectly satisfied to let the prosecuting attorney put in his case. The judge charged the jury that, if the defendant came from Louisiana and voted, not having resided in Alabama for six months and voted without registration, there should be a verdict of guilty. The counsel went off to dinner, and when they were returning to the court house they met the foreman of the jury coming down the steps. The attorney for the government said, “You have agreed pretty quickly.” “Oh, yes," said the foreman. “ We have had a very successful term of court, Mr. Foreman," said the attorney, “I have tried fourteen cases and I have had verdicts in them all.” “But," remarked the foreman, "you mustn't be sure about this last case.''
“Why, you don't mean to say that you have acquitted that nigger ?”
"Of course we have,” said the foreman; “what else could we do ?” “Didn't you hear what the judge said," said the lawyer; “ that if the defendant had not resided in the state six months and been registered he should be convicted ?” “Oh yes," said the foreman, “we took all those points into consideration ; but we knew one thing that you didn't know, and the judge didn't know, and that was that that nigger voted the democratic ticket.”
Amasa M. Eaton, of Rhode Island:
Mr. President, I desire to move that when we adjourn tomorrow it shall be promptly at twelve o'clock. In making this motion, I wish to say on behalf of the Committee of Arrangements of the Rhode Island State Bar Association, that we purpose taking the members of the American Bar Association, and their ladies and the guests who may be here, by trolley cars as far as Saunderstown, which is a ride of about twenty minutes, and there embark upon a steamboat for a trip around Narragansett Bay, and it will be necessary to start on the trip not later than half-past twelve.