On the next day a motion for a new trial was made by Judge Selden, as follows:
May it please the Court:
The trial of this case commenced with a question of very great magnitude-whether
by the constitution of the United States the
right of suffrage was secured to female equally with made citizens. It is likely to close with a question of much greater
magnitude-whether the right of trial by jury is absolutely secured by the federal constitution to persons charged with crime
before the federal courts.
I assume, without attempting to produce any authority on the subject,
that this Court has power to grant to the defendant a new
trial in case it should appear that in the haste and in the lack of opportunity for examination which necessarily attend a jury trial,
any material error should have been committed prejudicial to the defendant, as otherwise no means whatever are provided by
the law for the correction of such errors.
The defendant was indicted, under the nineteenth section of the act
of Congress of May 31st, 1870, entitled, "An act to enforce
the right of citizens of the United States to vote in the several states of this Union, and for other purposes," and was charged
with having knowingly voted, without having a lawful right to vote, at the congressional election in the eight ward of the City of
Rochester, in November last; the only ground of illegality being that the defendant was a woman.
The provisions of the act of Congress, so far as they bear upon the present case, are as follows:
Section 19. If at any election for representative or delegate in the
Congress of the United States, any person shall knowingly
personate and vote, or attempt to vote, in the name of any other person, whether living, dead or fictitious or vote more than
once at the same election for any candidate for the same office, or vote at a place where he may not be lawfully entitled to vote,
or vote without having a lawful right to vote, every such person shall be deemed guilty of a crime, and shall for such crime be
liable to prosecution in any court of the United States, of competent jurisdiction, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished
by a fine not exceeding $500 or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both, in the discretion of the Court,
and shall pay the costs of prosecution."
It appeared on the trial that before voting the defendant called upon a respectable lawyer, and asked his opinion whether she had a right to vote, and he advised her that she had such right, and the lawyer was examined as a witness in her behalf, and testified that he gave her such advice, and that he gave it in good faith, believing that she had such right.
It also appeared that when she offered to vote, the question whether
as a woman she had a right to vote, was raised by the
inspectors, and considered by them in her presence, and they decided that she had a right to vote, and received her vote
It was also shown on the part of the government, that on the examination
of the defendant before the commissioner, on whose
warrant she was arrested, she stated that she should have voted, if allowed to vote, without reference to the advice she had
received from the attorney whose opinion she had asked; that she was not influenced to vote by that opinion; that she had
before determined to offer her vote, and had no doubt about her right to vote.
At the close of the testimony the defendant's counsel proceeded to address
the jury, and stated that he desired to present for
consideration three propositions, two of law and one of fact:
First-That the defendant had a lawful right to vote.
Second-That whether she had a lawful right to vote or not, if she honestly
belleved that she had that right and voted in good
faith in that belief, she was guilty of no crime.
Third-That when she gave her vote she gave it in good faith, believing that it was her right to do so.
That the two first propositions presented questions for the Court to decide, and the last for the jury.
When the counsel had proceeded thus far, the Court suggested that the counsel had better discuss in the first place the questions of law; which the counsel proceeded to do, and having discussed the two legal questions at length, asked leave then to say a few words to the jury on the question of fact. The Court then said to the counsel that he thought that had better be left until the views of the Court upon the legal questions should be made known.
The District Attorney thereupon addressed the Court at length upon the
legal questions, and at the close of his argument the
Court delivered an opinion adverse to the positions of the defendant's counsel upon both of the legal questions presented,
holding that the defendant was not entitled to vote; and that if she voted in good faith in the belief in fact that she had a right to
vote, it would constitute no defense-the grounds of the decision on the last point that she was bound to know that by law she
was not a legal voter, and that even if she voted in good faith in the contrary belief, it constituted no defense to the crime with
which she was charged. The decision of the Court upon these questions was read from a written document.
At the close of the reading, the Court said that the decision of these
questions disposed of the case and left no question of fact
for the jury, and that he should therefore direct the jury to find a verdict of guilty, and proceeded to say to the jury that the
decision of the Court had disposed of all there was in the case, and that he directed them to find a verdict of guilty, and he
instructed the clerk to enter a verdict of guilty.
At this point, before any entry had been made by the clerk, the defendant's
counsel asked the Court to submit the case to the
jury, and to give to the jury the following several instructions:
First-That if the defendant, at the time of voting, believed that she
had a right to vote, and voted in good faith in that belief, she
is not guilty of the offence charged.
Second-In determining the question whether she did or did not believe
that she had a right to vote, the jury may take into
consideration, as bearing upon that question, the advice which she received from the counsel to whom she applied.
Third-That they may also be take into consideration as bearing upon
the same question, the fact that the inspectors considered
the question, and came to the conclusion that she had a right to vote.
Fourth-That the jury have a right to find a general verdict of guilty
or not guilty, as they shall believe that she has or has not been
guilty of the offense described in the statute.
The Court declined to submit the case to the jury upon any question
whatever, and directed them to render a verdict of guilty
against the defendant.
The defendant's counsel excepted to the decision of the Court upon the
legal questions to its refusal to submit the case to the
jury; to its refusal to give the instructions asked; and to its direction to the jury to find a verdict of guilty against the
defendant-the counsel insisting that it was a direction which no Court had a right to give in a criminal case.
The Court then instructed the clerk to take the verdict, and the clerk
said, "Gentlemen of the jury, hearken to the verdict as the
Court hath recorded it. You say you find the defendant guilty of the offense charged. So say you all."
No response whatever was made by the jury, either by word or sign. They
had not consulted together in their seats or
otherwise. Neither of them had spoken a word. Nor had they been asked whether they had or had not agreed upon a verdict.
The defendant's counsel then asked that the clerk be requested to poll the jury. The Court said, "that cannot be allowed. Gentlemen of the jury, you are discharged," and the jurors left the box. No juror spoke a word during the trial, from the time they were impanelled to the time of their discharge.
Now I respectfully submit, that in these proceedings the defendant has
been substantially denied her constitutional right of trial
by jury. The jurors composing the panel have been merely silent spectators of the conviction of the defendant by the Court.
They have had no more share in her trial and conviction than any other twelve members of the jury summoned to attend this
Court, or any twelve spectators who have sat by during the trial. If such course is allowable in this case, it must be equally
allowable in all criminal cases, whether the charge be for treason, murder or any minor grade of offence which can come under
the jurisdiction of a United States court; and as I understand it, if correct, substantially abolishes the right of trial by jury.
It certainly does so in all those cases, where the judge shall be of
the opinion that the facts which he may regard as clearly
proved, lead necessarily to the guilt of the defendant. Of course by refusing to submit any question to the jury, the judge refuses
to allow counsel to address the jury in the defendant's behalf.
The constitutional provisions which I insist are violated by this proceeding are the following:
Constitution of the United States, article 3, section 2. "The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury."
Amendments to Constitution, article 6. "In all criminal prosecutions,
the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public
trial, by an impartial jury of the State and District wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been
previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."
In accordance with these provisions, I insist that in every criminal
case, where the party has pleaded not guilty, whether upon
the trial the guilt of such party appears to the Judge to be clear or not, the response to the question, guilty or not guilty, must
come from the jury, must be their voluntary act, and cannot be imposed upon them by the Court.
No opportunity has been given me to consult precedents on this subject,
but a friend has referred me to an authority strongly
supporting my position, from which I will quote, though I deem a reference to precedents unnecessary to sustain the plain
declarations of the Constitution: I refer to the case of the State vs. Shule, (10 Iredell, 153) the substance of which is stated in
2 Graham Waterman on New Trials, page 363. Before stating that case I quote from the text of G. W.
"The verdict is to be the result of the deliberation of the jury upon
all the evidence in the case. The Court has no right to
anticipate the verdict by an expression of opinion calculated so to influence the jury as to take from them their independence of
In the State vs. Shule, two defendants were indicated for an affray.
"The jury remaining out a considerable time, at the request
of the prosecuting attorney they were sent for by the Court. The Court then charged them that although Jones, (the other
defendant,) had first commenced a battery upon Shule, yet, it the jury believed the evidence, the defendant, Shule, was also
guilty. Thereupon, one of the jurors remarked that they had agreed to convict Jones, but were about to acquit Shule. The Court
then charged the jury again, and told them that they could retire if they thought proper to do so. The jury consulted together a few minutes in the Court room. The prosecuting attorney directed the clerk to enter a verdict of guilty as to both defendants. When the clerk had entered the verdict, the jury were asked to attend to it, as it was about to be read by the clerk. The clerk then read the verdict in the hearing of the jury. The jury, upon being requested, if any of them disagreed to the verdict to make, it known by a nod, seemed to express their unanimous assent; and no juror expressed his dissent." In reviewing the case of the Court say: "The error complained of is, that before the jury had announced their verdict, and in fact after they had intimated an intention to acquit the defendant, Shule, the Court allowed the clerk to be directed to enter a verdict finding him guilty, and after the verdict was so entered, allowed the jury to be asked if any of them disagreed to the verdict which had been recorded by the clerk. No juror expressed his dissent; but by a nod which appeared to be made by each juror, expressed their unanimous assent. The innovation is, that instead of permitting the jury to give their verdict, the Court allows a verdict to be entered for them, such as it is to be presumed the Court thinks they ought to render, and then they are asked if any of them disagree to it; thus making a verdict for them, unless they are bold enough to stand out against a plain intimation of the opinion of the Court." A venire de novo was ordered. The principal difference this case and the one under consideration is, that in the latter the Court directed the clerk to enter the verdict, and in the former he was allowed to do so, and in the latter the Court denied liberty to the jurors to dissent from the verdict, and in the former the Court allowed such dissent.
With what jealous care the right of trial by jury in criminal cases
has been guarded by every English speaking people from the
days of King John, indeed from the days of King Alfred, is known to every lawyer and to every intelligent layman, and it does not seem to me that such a limitation of that right as is presented by the proceedings in this case, can be reconciled either with constitutional provisions, with the practice of courts, with public sentiment on the subject, or with safety in the administration of justice. How the question would be regarded by the highest Court of this State may fairly be gathered from its decision in the case of Cancemi, 18 N. Y., 128, where, on a trial for murder, one juror, some time after the trial commenced, being necessarily withdrawn, a stipulation was entered into, signed by the District-Attorney, and by the defendant and his counsel, to the effect that the trial should proceed before the remaining eleven jurors, and that their verdict should have the same effect as the verdict of a full panel would have. A verdict of guilty having been rendered by the eleven juror, was set aside and a new trial ordered by the Court of Appeals, on the ground that the defendant could not, even by his own consent, be lawfully tried, by a less number of jurors than twelve. It would seem to follow that he could not waive the entire panel, and effectually consent to be tried by the Court alone, and still less could the Court, against his protest, assume the duties of the jury, and effectually pronounce the verdict of guilty or not guilty in their stead.
It will doubtless be insisted that there was no disputed question of
fact upon which the jury were required to pass. In regard to
that, I insist that however clear and conclusive the proof of the facts might appear to be, the response to the question, guilty or
not guilty, must under the Constitution come from the jury and could not be supplied by the judgment of the Court, unless,
indeed, the jury should see fit to render a special verdict, which they always may, but can never be required, to do.
It was the province of the Court to instruct the jury as to the law, and to point out to them how clearly the law, on its view of the established facts, made out the offence; but it has no authority to instruct them positively on any question of fact, or to order them to find any particular verdict. That must be their spontaneous work.
But there was a question of fact, which constituted the very essence
of the offence, and one on which the jury were not only
entitled to exercise, but were in duty bound to exercise, their independent judgment. That question of fact was, whether the
defendant, at the time when she voted, knew that she had not a right to vote. The statute makes this knowledge the very gist of
the offence, without the existence of which, in the mind of the voter, at the time of voting, there is no crime. There is none by the
statute and none in morals. The existence of this knowledge, in the mind of the voter, at the time of voting, is under the statute,
necessarily a fact and nothing but a fact, and one which the jury was bound to find as a fact, before they could, without violating
the statute, find the defendant guilty. The ruling which took that question away from the jury, on the ground that it was a
question of law and not of fact, and which declared that as a question of law, the knowledge existed, was, I respectfully submit,
a most palpable error, both in law and justice. It was an error in law, because its effect was to deny any force whatever to the
most important word which the statute uses in defining the offense-the word "knowingly." It was also unjust, because it makes
the law declare a known falsehood as a truth, and then by force of that judicial falsehood condemns the defendant to such
punishment as she could only lawfully be subject to, if the falsehood were a truth.
I admit that it is an established legal maxim that every person (judicial
officers excepted) is bound, and must be presumed, to
know the law. The soundness of this maxim, in all the cases to which it can properly be applied, I have no desire to question;
but it has no applicability whatever to this case. It applies in every case where a party does an act which the law pronounces criminal, whether the party knows or does not know that the law has made the act a crime. That maxim would have applied to this case, if the defendant had voted, knowing that she had no legal right to vote; without knowing that the law had made the act of knowingly voting without a right, a crime. In that case she would have done the act which the law made a crime, and could not have shielded herself from the penalty by pleading ignorance of the law. But in the present case the defendant has not done the act which the law pronounces a crime. The law has not made the act of voting without a lawful right to vote, a crime, where it is done by mistake, and in the belief by the party voting that he has the lawful right to vote. The crime consists in voting "knowingly," without lawful right. Unless the knowledge exists in fact, is the very gist of the offence is wanting. To hold that the
law presumes conclusively that such knowledge exists in all cases where the legal right is wanting, and to reject all evidence to
the contrary, or to deny to such evidence any effect, as has been done on this trial, is to strike the word "knowingly" out of the
statue-and to condemn the defendant on the legal fiction that she was acting in bad faith, it being all the while conceeded that
she was acting in good faith. I admit that there are precedents to sustain such ruling, but they cannot be reconciled with the
fundamental principles of criminal law, nor with the most ordinary rules of justice. Such a ruling cannot but shock the moral
sense of all right-minded, unprejudiced men.
No doubt the assumption by the defendant of a belief of her right to
vote might be made use of by her as a mere cover to
secure the privilege of giving a known illegal vote and of course that false assumption would constitute no defence to the charge
of illegal voting. If the defendant had dressed herself in male attire, and had voted as John Anthony, instead of Susan, she would not be able to protect herself against a charge of voting with a knowledge that she had no right to vote, by asserting her belief that she had a right to vote as a woman. The artifice would no doubt effectually overthrow the assertion of good faith. No such question, however, is made here. The decision of which I complain concedes that the defendant voted in good faith, in the most implicit belief that she had a right to vote, and condemns her on the strength of the legal fiction, conceded to be in fact a mere fiction, that she knew the contrary.
But if the facts admitted of a doubt of the defendant's good faith,
that was a question for the jury, and it was clear error for the
court to assume the decision of it.
Again. The denial of the right to poll the jury was most clearly an
error. Under the provisions of the constitution which have
been cited, the defendant could only be convicted on the verdict of a jury. The case of Cancemi shows that such jury must
consist of twelve men; and it will not be claimed that anything less than the unanimous voice of the jury can be received as their
verdict. How then could the defendant be lawfully deprived of the right to ask every juror if the verdict had his assent? I believe
this is a right which was never before denied to a party against whom a verdict was rendered in any case, either civil or criminal.
The following cases show, and many others might be cited to the same effect, that the right to poll the jury is an absolute right in
all cases, civil and criminal. (The People vs. Perkins, 1 Wend. 91, Jackson vs. Hawks, 2 Wend. 619. Fox vs. Smith, 3 Cowen,] 23.)
The ground on which the right of the defendant to vote has been denied,
is, as I understand the decision of the court, "that the
rights of the citizens of the state as such were not under consideration in the fourteenth amendment; that they stand as they did
before that amendment.
The right of voting or the privilege of voting is a right or privilege
arising under the constitution of the state, and not of the United
States. If the right belongs to any particular person, it is because such person is entitled to it as a citizen of the state where he
offers to exercise it, and not because of citizenship of the United States. * * * The regulation of the suffrage is conceded to the
states as a state right."
If this position be correct, which I am not now disposed to question,
I respectfully insist that the congress of the United States
had no power to pass the act in question, that by doing so it has attempted to usurp the rights of the states, and that all
proceedings under the act are void.
I claim therefore that the defendant is entitled to a new trial.
First-Because she has been denied her right of trial by jury.
Second-Because she has been denied the right to ask the jury severally
whether they assented to the verdict which the court
had recorded for them.
Third-Because the court erroneously held, that the defendant had not a lawful right to vote.
Fourth-Because the court erroneously held, that if the defendant, when
she voted, did so in good faith, believing that she had a
right to vote, that fact constituted no defence.
Fifth.-Because the court erroneously held that the question, whether
the defendant at the time of voting knew that she had not a
right to vote, was a question of law to be decided by the court, and not a question of fact to be decided by the jury.
Sixth-Because the court erred in holding that it was a presumption of
law that the defendant knew that she was not a legal
voter, although in fact she had not that knowledge.
Seventh-Because congress had no constitutional right to pass the act
under which the defendant was indicted, and the act and
all proceedings under it are void.
Sir, so far as my information in regard to legal proceedings extends,
this is the only court in any country where trial by jury
exists, in which the decisions that are made in the haste and sometimes confusion of such trials, are not subject to review before
any other tribunal. I believe that to the decisions of this court, in criminal cases, no review is allowed, except in the same court
in the informal way in which I now ask your honor to review the decisions made on this trial. This is therefore the court of last
resort, and I hope your honor will give to these, as they appear to me, grave questions, such careful and deliberate
consideration as is due to them from such final tribunal.
If a new trial shall be denied to the defendant, it will be no consolation
to her to be dismissed with a sight penalty, leaving the
stigma resting upon her name, of conviction for an offence, of which she claims to be, and I believe is, as innocent as the purest
of the millions of male voters who voted at the same election, are innocent of crime in so voting. If she is in fact guilty of the
crime with which she stands charged, and of which she has been convicted by the court, she deserves the utmost penalty which
the court under the law has power to impose; if she is not guilty she should be acquitted, and not declared upon the records of
this high court guilty of a crime she never committed.
The court after hearing the district attorney, denied the motion.
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