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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/303

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

JANUARY, 1885.


 

A GLANCE AT THE JURY SYSTEM.
By C. H. STEPHENS.

"Our little systems have their day;
They have their day, and cease to be."

THERE is no one, I fancy, who is in the habit of reading the news-papers, or of witnessing the conduct of jury-trials, but has often had occasion to laugh at the vagaries of juries and their curious verdicts. A volume might be filled with them which would rival in interest Dean Ramsay's "Reminiscences" or Joe Miller's "jokes." "It seems a daring and presumptuous thing," says a learned writer, "to attack as useless an institution on which writers, both lay and legal, have bestowed so much eulogy." And not only does it seem daring and presumptuous, but one can hardly in imagination conceive a time when the jury, with all its record of past services, all its glorious battles for liberty, and all its memories of great pleaders, shall have passed away; when the jury-box, with its "twelve men all arow," shall have disappeared; and when the challenge to the array, and the challenge to the poll, the pathetic addresses of counsel, and the judge's charge, shall be heard of no more forever. Nevertheless, when we see, every month or two, fifty, sixty, or seventy men drafted from the industrial classes to supply what is called a ’petty jury," and a couple of dozen more from, perhaps, a somewhat higher class, to form what is called a "grand jury"; when we see the farmer leave his plow, the builder his building, and the shopkeeper his counter, and come together from places many miles apart; when we see them day after day idling about the courts and taverns; when we see them in the jury-box listening lazily to the proceedings before them; when we hear them delivering