Thursday, September 12, 2013

Please Pass the Evidence

by Pa Rock
History Snoop

While doing some research on a dark era of American history called "Prohibition," I came across an amusing anecdote and thought it worth sharing.

According to a New York Times article on January 7th, 1928, a jury had been empaneled in Los Angeles to hear a bootlegging case.  That case soon evolved into a second one after the jurors were charged with drinking the evidence in the original case.  According to those fine citizens serving on the jury, they had been doing their job by sampling the evidence in order to determine whether it contained alcohol or not.  The careful jurors eventually determined that the evidence did indeed contain alcohol, but by the time they reached that decision, all of the booze had been consumed - leaving the defendant to be acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

Jury duty has never paid well, but it's comforting to know that occasionally it comes with a benefit package!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

The principal early American learned treatise on the law of evidence, Greenleaf's "A Treatise on the Law of Evidence" was published in 1899. In that book, § 269 - "Things Judicially Taken Notice of and Presumed" Greenleaf speaks to the issue of expert testimony. Later on at § 328 Greenleaf writes on the topic of "Inspection in Aid of Proof", which appears to be exactly what the Court permitted and the jury did. While that mode of trial had even then fallen into disuse , it was permitted to EXHIBIT things to the "Court and the Jury models, and things not cumbrous, whenever the inspection of them may tend to the discovery of the truth of the matter of the controversy. In Courts of Law," [a criminal proceeding] "however, this is only permitted, or at farthest, sometimes suggested by the Judge; it being seldom, if ever, ordered..."

It seems beyond imagination that the jurors could have laid hands on the evidence without a willing judge and prosecutor in the mix. Likewise, in those days jury panels were typically filled by rounding up the men around the vicinity of the court house. That's where many of the local watering holes, or the speakeasy environs, may have been located. All in all it is an interesting case and I doubt the jurors could have been convicted for having followed the Court's suggestion.