Sunday, March 13, 2016

Amanuensis Monday - Wrapping Up the Villers Trial, Part 2

This week I'll be continuing with the pages of information on the Villers trial that appeared in the Jamestown Weekly Alert on January 20th 1898. This post will be fairly short and sweet and deals with the jury's deliberations regarding guilt or innocent and sentencing...

The Jamestown Weekly Alert,
20JAN1898, pg1
"How the Jury Reached a Verdict.

Bailiffs S. Hager and G. Masters were sworn in again at 9:30 p.m. Monday and then conducted the jury to their room. The first ballot on the guilt or innocence of the prisoner resulted in seven for and five against conviction. The next vote stood 11 to 1 for conviction and at this it remained for a long time, eleven ballots being necessary to decide this point.

As was expected there was a fight on the question of penalty. Eight of the jurors on the first vote were in favor of hanging; the second ballot showed but four. The value of the circumstantial evidence was discussed at length, other votes taken, but no material change on any ballot secured. Finally toward morning the jurors lay down and slept. At 3 a.m. the vote stood 11 to 1. About 4 o'clock they arose and balloted again, and at 4:30 a.m. decided on imprisonment for life. They were out 12 hours and reached a verdict in seven hours."

I always thought that to find someone guilty it had to be unanimous, at least in a murder trial. Were things different then or is my civics knowledge that rusty? I'm fairly certain that today for the death penalty it must be unanimous, and it would appear that it was also the case back then. And is it just me or did it seem like they just wanted to get the verdict and sentencing over and done with. Also in modern times the sentencing part of the trial is separate in cases like these from the verdict. It doesn't really surprise me that this would be different, but it's interesting to note.

The fact that there was a lot of circumstantial evidence is something else worth noting as is the fact that one person wouldn't budge on his guilt. I'm not saying he was innocent. The juror might just have been holding out due to the circumstantial evidence. Perhaps he felt that there wasn't proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That was always the case...wasn't it? Perhaps it wasn't. Laws change. Maybe I'm taking that part for granted. It's a question I'll have to pester my sister-lawyer about and see what she thinks! Until next week....

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