Monday, April 20, 2015

Today -100: April 20, 1915: Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury

The Supreme Court denies Leo Frank’s habeas appeal, ruling 7-2 that his rights were not violated by his not being in court when the verdict was read. It was perfectly valid, the Court says, for Frank to waive his right to be present after being informed that he’d probably be lynched if he were present. They deny that the guilty verdict was in any way influenced by the baying mobs outside the court. Oliver Wendell Holmes dissents, with Charles Evan Hughes concurring: “The argument for the appellee, in substance, is that the trial was in a court of competent jurisdiction, that it retains jurisdiction although, in fact, it may be dominated by a mob, and that the rulings of the state court as to the fact of such domination cannot be reviewed. ... Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury.”  The subtle clue Holmes spots that the jury “responded to the passions of the mob” is, to repeat, that the trial judge thought it prudent that Frank not be in court when the verdict was read, because an acquittal would result in his lynching. “It is our duty... to declare lynch law as little valid when practised by a regularly drawn jury as when administered by one elected by a mob intent on death.”

Frank thinks he won’t be executed, that “Truth and justice will eventually prevail.” Yeah, that’s probably what’ll happen.

A municipal court judge in Chicago dismisses charges against two men who refused to pay for their drinks in a saloon Sunday, because saloons are not allowed to be open on Sunday. Sounds logical to me.

The British government decided not to withhold the passports of the dozens of women who intended to go to the women’s international peace congress at the Hague, because that might look bad. Preventing any ships traveling to the Continent, however... (The article suggests this was just a coincidence. It wasn’t.) Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence will be there only because she’s arriving from the United States.

Theodore Roosevelt tries (and fails) to get William Barnes’s libel suit against him dismissed, saying he didn’t intend any libel against Barnes, just against the boss system of which he and Tammany’s Boss Murphy were the two heads.

Yesterday was “King’s Pledge Sunday,” in which Britishers were encouraged to pledge not to booze it up until the war ends.

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