A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
Yet, in many instances where
contrary to evidence the jury have found the prisoner
guilty, their verdict hath been mercifully set aside and a
new trial granted by the court of King's Bench; for in such
case, as hath been said, it can not be set right by attaint.
But there hath been yet no instance of granting a new trial
where the prisoner was acquitted upon the first.

In Wilson's Lectures, Vol. II., p. 72, the same doctrine is
declared and illustrated; and he says:

The jury must do their duty and their whole duty. They must
decide the law as well as the fact. This doctrine is
peculiarly applicable to criminal cases, and from them,
indeed, derives its peculiar importance.

In Forsyth's Jury Trials, after an examination of the subject, it
is said, p. 265:

It can not therefore be denied that, in all criminal cases,
the jury do virtually possess the power of deciding
questions of law as well as of fact.

The authorities quoted from conclusively show that at the time
the Constitution was adopted, and for nearly a quarter of a
century afterward, juries were understood and declared to possess
the right to pass upon questions of law as well as fact in all
criminal cases; and this is all that need be shown to bring this
right within the protection of the Constitution.

The first case it is believed in which the contrary doctrine
received favor in any American court was in the case of the
United States _vs._ Battiste, 2 Sum., 240, decided in 1835. Mr.
Justice Story, in that case, said:

My opinion is that the jury are no more judges of the law in
a criminal case upon the plea of not guilty than they are in
every civil case tried upon the general issue. In each of
these cases their verdict, when general, is necessarily
compounded of law and of fact, and includes both. In each
they must necessarily determine the law as well as the fact.
In each they have the physical power to disregard the law as
laid down to them by the court. But I deny that in any case,
civil or criminal, they have the moral right to decide the
law according to their own notions or pleasure.

In Commonwealth _vs._ Porter, 10 Met., decided in 1845, the
Supreme Court of Massachusetts followed the decision in
Battiste's case, and held that the jury are under a moral
obligation to decide the case as instructed by the court, and the
court sum up the subject as follows:

On the whole subject, the views of the court may be
summarily expressed in the following propositions: That in
all criminal cases it is competent for the jury, if they see
fit, to decide upon all questions of fact embraced in the
issue, and to refer the law arising thereon to the court in
the form of a special verdict. But it is optional with the
jury thus to return a special verdict or not, and it is
within their legitimate province and power to return a
general verdict if they see fit. In thus rendering a general
verdict, the jury must necessarily pass upon the whole
issue, compounded of the law and of the fact, and they may
thus incidentally pass on questions of law.

The opinion in this case was delivered by Chief-Justice Shaw, and
is rather a discussion of what is a convenient distribution of
powers between the court and jury than an examination into the
actual state of the law; and he neither cites nor refers to a
single authority from the beginning to the end of the opinion.
Again, the conclusions arrived at by the opinion admit the power
of the jury to decide questions of law; and that, in cases where
the jury acquit the defendant, there is no power to reverse or
even to review the finding of the jury. And this opinion holds
that the defendant, in all criminal cases, is entitled to address
the jury upon the questions of law as well as of fact involved in
the case. To maintain that the defendant has the right to address
the jury upon matters which the jury have no right to determine,
and yet that the jury possess the power--the ultimate and final
power--to decide matters of law, and are nevertheless under moral
obligation never to exercise the power, are palpable
inconsistencies.

The Supreme Court of Vermont in State _vs._ Croteau, 23 Ver., 14,
in a very able opinion, review these two cases and other
subsequent decisions which follow their doctrine, and, after an
able and critical examination of all the English and American
cases, repudiate this new doctrine, and declare that in criminal
prosecutions it is the ancient, common-law right of the jury in
favor of the prisoner to determine the whole matter in issue--the
law as well as the fact.

There are some American cases holding a contrary doctrine, but
the current of American as well as of English authorities is
overwhelmingly in favor of the proposition that juries in
criminal causes are judges of the law as well as of the
facts.[176]

In late years there has been considerable discussion, and some
contrariety of judicial opinion, in regard to the moral right of
juries to find a general verdict of not guilty against the
instructions of the court on matters of law. This subject,
however, need not be further discussed, because it is believed
that no reported case can be found denying to juries the power of
determining the law as well as the fact in all criminal cases.
The utmost extent to which any case goes is, that the jury, in
deciding upon the law, are morally bound to adopt the opinion
expressed by the court; but every case admits their power to do
otherwise if they see fit. But admitting the existence of the
distinction between the legal power and the moral right of
juries, still the decision of the court on the trial of Miss
Anthony was erroneous, because the court did not instruct the
jury in regard to the law, and then leave the jury to perform
their duty in the premises. On the contrary, the court took the
case from the jury altogether and directed their verdict; thus
denying to the jury not only the moral right, but even the power
of rendering a verdict of not guilty; and refused the request of
counsel to have the jury polled in regard to their verdict. No
precedent has been shown for this proceeding, and it is believed
none exists. It is altogether a departure from, and a most
dangerous innovation upon, the well-settled method of jury-trial
in criminal cases. Such a doctrine renders the trial by jury a
farce. The memorialist had no jury-trial within the meaning of
the Constitution, and her conviction was therefore erroneous.

But it may be said that the ruling of the court was correct in
point of law, and, had the court submitted the case to the jury,
it would have been the duty of the jury to find the memorialist
guilty; therefore she is not aggrieved by the judgment which the
court pronounced. Should this reasoning be adopted, it would
follow that the memorialist had been tried by the court and by
Congress; but it would still be true that she had been denied
trial by a jury which the Constitution secures to her.

It is not safe thus to trifle with the rights of citizens. The
trial by jury--the judgment of one's peers--is the shield of real
innocence imperiled by legal presumptions. A Judge would charge a
jury that a child who had stolen bread to escape starvation had
committed the crime of larceny, but all the Judges in Christendom
could not induce a jury to convict in such a case. It is the
humane policy of our law, that, before any citizen shall suffer
punishment, he shall be condemned by the verdict of his peers,
who may be expected to judge as they would be judged. To sustain
the judgment in this case, is to strike a fatal blow at this
sacred right.

But the question remains, What relief can be granted? I concur
with the majority of the Committee that Congress can not remit
the judgment; that would be to exercise the pardoning power.
Congress can not grant a new trial; that would be an exercise of
judicial power. There is no Court of the Government which has
jurisdiction to review the case. In Commonwealth _vs._ Austin, 5
Gray, 226, Chief-Justice Shaw says:

Now, when a new statute is passed, and a question of law is
raised by counsel, it must first come before the court,
charged by law with the conduct and superintendence of a
jury trial; and, in any well-ordered system of
jurisprudence, provision is made that it be re-examinable by
the court of last resort. When this question is definitively
adjudged by the tribunal of last resort--the principles on
which it is adjudged being immutable, and the rule of law
adjudged in any one case being equally applicable to every
other case presenting the same facts--the decision is
necessarily conclusive of the law. I do not say how and
after what consideration it maybe considered as definitively
decided. In the first instance it may be misunderstood or
feebly presented. It may have been misapprehended by the
judges, and not considered in all its bearings, or they may
have wanted time and means for a careful and thorough
investigation, and may therefore consent and desire to
reconsider it one or more times. But I only say that, when
thus definitively adjudged, the decision must be deemed
conclusive and stand as a rule of law.

Unfortunately the United States has no "well-ordered system of
jurisprudence." A citizen may be tried, condemned, and put to
death by the erroneous judgment of a single inferior judge, and
no court can grant him relief or a new trial.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | 78 | | 79 | | 80 | | 81 | | 82 | | 83 | | 84 | | 85 | | 86 | | 87 | | 88 | | 89 | | 90 | | 91 | | 92 | | 93 | | 94 | | 95 | | 96 | | 97 | | 98 | | 99 | | 100 | | 101 | | 102 | | 103 | | 104 | | 105 | | 106 | | 107 | | 108 | | 109 | | 110 | | 111 | | 112 | | 113 | | 114 | | 115 | | 116 | | 117 | | 118 | | 119 | | 120 | | 121 | | 122 | | 123 | | 124 | | 125 | | 126 | | 127 | | 128 | | 129 | | 130 | | 131 | | 132 | | 133 | | 134 | | 135 | | 136 | | 137 | | 138 | | 139 | | 140 | | 141 | | 142 | | 143 | | 144 | | 145 | | 146 | | 147 | | 148 | | 149 | | 150 | | 151 | | 152 | | 153 | | 154 | | 155 | | 156 | | 157 | | 158 | | 159 | | 160 | | 161 | | 162 | | 163 | | 164 | | 165 | | 166 | | 167 | | 168 | | 169 | | 170 | | 171 | | 172 | | 173 | | 174 | | 175 | | 176 | | 177 | | 178 | | 179 | | 180 | | 181 | | 182 | | 183 | | 184 | | 185 | | 186 | | 187 | | 188 | | 189 | | 190 | | 191 | | 192 | | 193 | | 194 | | 195 | | 196 | | 197 | | 198 | | 199 | | 200 | | 201 | | 202 | | 203 | | 204 | | 205 | | 206 | | 207 | | 208 | | 209 | | 210 | | 211 | | 212 | | 213 | | 214 | | 215 | | 216 | | 217 | | 218 | | 219 | | 220 | | 221 | | 222 | | 223 | | 224 | | 225 | | 226 | | 227 | | 228 | | 229 | | 230 | | 231 | | 232 | | 233 | | 234 | | 235 | | 236 | | 237 | | 238 | | 239 | | 240 | | 241 | | 242 | | 243 | | 244 | | 245 | | 246 | | 247 | | 248 | | 249 | | 250 | | 251 | | 252 | | 253 | | 254 | | 255 | | 256 | | 257 | | 258 | | 259 | | 260 | | 261 | | 262 | | 263 | | 264 | | 265 | | 266 | | 267 | | 268 | | 269 | | 270 | | 271 | | 272 | | 273 | | 274 | | 275 | | 276 | | 277 | | 278 | | 279 | | 280 | | 281 | | 282 | | 283 | | 284 | | 285 | | 286 | | 287 | | 288 | | 289 | | 290 | | 291 | | 292 | | 293 | | 294 | | 295 | | 296 | | 297 | | 298 | | 299 | | 300 | | 301 | | 302 | | 303 | | 304 | | 305 | | 306 | | 307 | | 308 | | 309 | | 310 | | 311 | | 312 | | 313 | | 314 | | 315 | | 316 | | 317 | | 318 | | 319 | | 320 | | 321 | | 322 | | 323 | | 324 | | 325 | | 326 | | 327 | | 328 | | 329 | | 330 | | 331 | | 332 | | 333 | | 334 | | 335 | | 336 | | 337 | | 338 | | 339 | | 340 | | 341 | | 342 | | 343 | | 344 | | 345 | | 346 | | 347 | | 348 | | 349 | | 350 | | 351 | | 352 | | 353 | | 354 | | 355 | | 356 | | 357 | | 358 | | 359 | | 360 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.