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Mr. Dooley ...

"On criminal trials" (c. 1909 - 1914)

by Finley Peter Dunne
(1867 - 1936)

   "I was r-readin' in th' pa-aper a hard kick again th' delay between th' time a criminal bumps some wan an' th' time he gets th' bump that is comin' to him accordin' to th' law. This iditor feels bad because there's a diff'rence between this country an' England. Th' sentences like th' language ar-re th' same in th' two counthries, but they're pronounced diff'rent. In England a man is presoomed to be innocent till he's proved guilty an' they take it f'r granted he's guilty. In this counthry a man is presoomed to be guilty ontil he's proved guilty an' afther that he's presoomed to be innocent.

   "In th' oldher civilization th' judge reads th' news iv th' crime in th' mornin' pa-aper an' stops in at a hat shop on his way to coort an' buys a black cap to wear at th' approachin' fistivities. Whin he gets up on th' bench he calls th' shuriff to his side an' says he: 'Cap, go out an' grab a jury iv cross-lookin' marrid men to thry th' condimned.' The shuriff dhrags twelve indignant grocers fr'm their stores an' they come into coort protestin' because they will be bankrupted be sarvin' their counthry. But they ar-re soon restored to good humor be th' jovyal remarks iv th' coort, who makes thim laugh heartily at wanst be askin' thim if they ar-re opposed to capital punishmint.

   "Th' pris'ner is thin hauled in in chains, an' th' judge, afther exprissin' his dislike iv his face with a look iv scorn, says: Murdhrer, ye ar-re entitled to a fair thrile. Ar-re ye guilty or not guilty? Not guilty, ye say? I thought ye wud. That's what th' likes iv ye alays say. Well, let's have this disagreeable business over with in a hurry. I'll allow th' prosecution three hours to show ye up an' th' definse can have th' rest iv th' mornin'. Wake me up whin th' ividince is all in.'

   "About noon his honor is woke be a note fr'm th' jury askin' how long they ar-re goin' to be bept fr'm their dinner. He hauls th' black cap out iv th' bandbox an' puttin' it on over his wig, says: 'Pris'ner at th' bar, it is now me awful jooty to lave ye'er fate to a British jury. I will not attimpt to infloonce thim in anny way. I will not take th' time to brush away th' foolish ividince put in in ye'er definse. Ye'er lawyers have done as well as they cud with nawthin' to go on. If anny iv th' jury believe ye innocent let thim retire to their room an' discuss th' matther over a meal iv bread an' wather while th' chops burn on th' kitchen stove an' their clerks ar-re disthributin' groceries free to th' neighborhood.'

   "But it's betther in this home iv th' free, mind ye. Afther th' polis have made up their mind that none iv th' polis foorce did it, they may or may not grab th' criminal. It depinds on th' weather. But supposin' it's a pleasant summer's day an' th' fugitive is in th' saloon nex' dure showin' th' revolver an' thryin' to thrade in a silver candlestick f'r a dhrink, an' th' polis foor'ce ar-re bendin' ivry effort to apprehind him an' ar-re combin' th' whole counthry f'r him, an' he doesn't know where to turn, but goes into th' station an' registhers an' gets his key an' ordhers his breakfast in th' cell an' gives a pair iv sugar tongs, a dimon necklace, a dozen knives an' forks, his autymatic an' other vallyables to th' sergeant to lock up in th' safe, an' laves wurrud not to be called, that's on'y th' beginnin' iv th' exercises.

   "Th' first year or two he passes away delightfully, havin' his pitchers took an' put in th' pa-apers an' bein' intherviewed while th' iditor iv th' Sob section sinds beautiful ladies out to talk with his wife an' describe his pretty little flat full iv keepsakes. But wan mornin' he wakes up an' gets th' pa-apers an' there's har'ly anny more mintion iv him thin if he was a meetin' iv th' Epworth league, or a, debate in congress, or a speech iv th' prisidint, or a war in th' Ph'lipeens, an' that disturbs him. He fires his press agent, sinds f'r his lawyer an' demands a thrile. If th' fish ar-re not bitin' th' lawyer coaxes a judge to come into town, an' wanst, more th' mallyfacther becomes a prom'nint citzen an' can read th' pa-apers without bein' disgusted at th' way they fill their colyums with news about nobodies.

   "Th' first six months iv th' thrile ar-re usually taken in gettin' a jury that will be fair to both sides, but more fair to wan side thin th' other. Th' state's attorney makes an effort to get twelve men who have no prejudices excipt a gin'ral opinyon that th' pris'ner is guilty. Th' lawyer f'r th' definse on'y asks that his client shall be thried be a jury iv his peers or worse, but wud compromise if all twelve were mimbers iv th' same lodge as himsilf. In due time twelve men iv intilligence who have r-read th' pa-apers an' can't remimber what they've r-read, or who can't r-read, or ar-re out iv wurruk, ar-re injooced to sarve, sn' th' awful wheels iv justfce begins to go round.

   "Th' scene in th' coort is very beautifill an' touchin'. Th' pris'ner's wife rents a baby f'r th' winter an' sets where th' jury can see her whin her husband kicks her undher th' table an' she weeps. Th' table in front iv th' culprit is banked with flowers an' he comes into th' coort wearin' a geeranyum in his button-hole. Afther a flashlight iv th' august thribunal iv justice has been exploded an' th' masheen f'r takin' th' movies has been put up, th' dhread proceedure pro-ceeds. On th' first iv August th' prosecution succeeds in gettin' into th' record th' fact that such a person as th' victim iver lived in spite iv th' objictions iv th' defense on th' ground that it is immateeryal. Th' lawyer f'r th' definse objicts to all th' questions an' whin th' coort overrules him he takes an exciption. That is as much as to say to th' judge: 'I'll make a jack iv ye in th' supreem coort.' On th' twintieth iv Decimber afther a severe cross-examination iv th' principal witness th' jury asks th' coort f'r a recess so they can lynch him.

   "On th' fifteenth iv th' followin' April th' tistymony iv th' definse is submitted. It is, first, that th' pris'ner is insane an' five professors fr'm th' infirmary swear that he was looney whin be done th' deed. Besides, he shot in self-definse, to protict his home an' th' honor iv American womanhood, while sthrugglin' with th' victim to keep him fr'm committin' suicide because th' pris'ner wudden't take his watch as a presint, th' gun accidintally wint off, a long an' a short man were seen leavin' th' premises afther th' crime, an' th' pris'ner was in Mitchigan City on that night, an' while on his way to see his sick child was stopped be an old lady who he rescued fr'm drownin' in th' park, who gave him all she had in her purse, a forty-four, a. jimmy, a brace an' bit, an' a quantity iv silverware, clothing, curtains, an' joolry.

   "So th' years roll brightly by an' day by day th' pris'ner sees his face on th' front page, th' f'amly iv deceased is dhrove fr'm town be th' facts that has come out about his private life, an' most iv th' vallyable real estate in th' county is sold f'r taxes to pay th' bills iv th' short-hand writers f'r takin' down th' tistymony an' th' objictions iv th' definse.

   "But though slow American justice, Hinnissy, is sure an' will overtake th' crim'nal if he'll on'y be patient an' not die, an' wan day an th' ividince is in. Th' disthrict atttorney, who's a candydate f'r mayor, makes his closin' argymizn, addhressin' th' jury as fellow Republicans.' Th' lawyer f'r th' pris'ner asks th' jury on'y to consider th' law an' th' ividince an' to sind this innocent man home to his wife an' his starvin' childher. Afther th' judge has insthructed th' jury that he's all up in th' air about th' case an' doesn't know what he ought to say to thim, th' jury retires charges its last meal fo you an' me, an' discusses whether it ought to sind th' pris'ner home or somewhere's else. Afther askin' an' gettin' a description iv his home they decide on temperin' justice with mercy an' find him guilty. Th' pris'ner is brought into coort, smilin' an' cheerful, th' flashlights boom, th' cameras click, th' ladies swoon, an' th' judge says with a pleasant smile: 'It is me dhread jooty to sintince ye to th' Supreem Coort. Long life to ye.'

   "Thin there's a lull in th' proceedin's. Th' seasons go swiftly by. Other things happen an' I can't remimber whether th' pris'ner was th' victim iv th' crime, th' witness f'r th' prosecution, or th' disthrict attorney. Manny times has blithe spring turned to mellow summer. Manny times has autumn reddened th' threes in th' parks. Men that were old durin' th' thrile ar-re dead, men that were young ar-re old. Wan mornin' with decrepit fingers I open th' pa-aper an' r-read: 'Supreem Coort revarses th' Bill Sikes case. The coort yisterdah afthernoon held a long session fr'm two to a quarther to three an' cleared th' calendar up to eighteen sivinty-five be revarsin' th' lower coort f'r errors an' ign'rance iv th' law in all th' cases appealed. In th' Sikes case th' decision is that while th' pris'ner was undoubtedly guilty; th' lower coort made a bone-bead play be allowin' th' disthrict attorney to open th' window an' expose th' pris'ner to a dhraft, be not askin' Juryman Number Two whether he had iver been in th' dhry goods business, an' be omittin' a comma afther th' wurrud "so" on page fifty-three thousan' sivin hundred an' eighty in th' record.'

   "An' th' pris'ner is brought back f'r a new thrile. Th' new thrile is always hurrid. Th' iditors refuse a requist fr'm th' pris'ner to sind around annywan to report it, th' iliventh assistant disthrict attorney appears f'r th' state in spite iv th' law on child labor, th' witnesses ar-re all dead an' burrid, an' th' onforchnit crim'nal is turned out on a wurruld that has f'rgotten him so completely that he can't aven get a job as an actor on th' vodyville stage."

   "What happens to him if he hasn't got anny money?" asked Mr. Hennessy.

   "He might as well be in England," said Mr. Dooley.