In which we meet Mr. H. Wilson, Juror From Hell. The "London Standard," January 3, 1838:
Benjamin Dickenson was indicted, charged with having committed an assault on an officer of the County Court.I'm genuinely surprised this court case didn't end with a lynching.
As soon as the jury had been sworn to try the defendant, Mr. H. Wilson, one of the jury, addressing the Court, said, " I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, how I am to be indemnified for my loss of lime, and the trouble and inconvenience I am put to by coming here."
The Chairman (to the Deputy Clerk of the Peace) Go on with the case, let it proceed.
Mr. Wilson. Go on. Ay, ay, it's all very well to say go on, but I won't go on until I know who is to pay me for my loss of time.
The Chairman. You are summoned here, sir, for the purpose of discharging an exceedingly important and essential public duty, and every person who attends here for the same purpose does so at all times without receiving any remuneration for their service thus publicly rendered. All the gentlemen who are now on the bench with myself attend here without any fee or reward.
Mr. Wilson. Yes, yes, that is all very true; but it is very different in my case. Thus gentlemen seek the appointment as a matter of honour, whilst with me my attendance is a matter of compulsion I am forced to come here, and they come by their own inclination.
The Chairman. I believe it is universally admitted that trial by jury is one of the most beautiful parts of our admirable constitution, and it is a part of that constitution that in every criminal case the jury trying the prisoner shall do so without in compensation or remuneration for their services; and deeply indeed should I regret that any alteration of the law in that respect should take place: for if in criminal trials juries were to be paid for their attendance, parties would become candidates for the situation, instead of so great and important a public duty being, as is the fact now, performed by independent men.
Mr. Wilson. Ay, ay, that's all very well, I dare say; but other public servants are paid, ay, and very well paid too, and sometimes for doing little or nothing. I object, therefore, on principle to perform what is termed a public duty, and to being kept here all day without, like those other persons, being paid for my loss of time and trouble.
The Chairman. I must not hear any more of these observations. (To the Deputy Clerk of the Peace.) Let the case proceed.
The trial then went on. The case was one of a trivial nature.
The Chairman having summed up the evidence, The jury proceeded to the consideration thereof. After a short consultation,
The Foreman (addressing the Court said)--Sir, the juryman who has already addressed you says he will not agree to any verdict without he shall have been paid or obtain a promise of being paid for his attendance here to-day.
The Chairman I am sure I trust that that gentleman will not persist in such improper conduct.
Mr. Wilson. I shall though, for I do so with the view of obtaining redress for what I consider to be an extreme grievance, a great hardship upon tradesmen.
The Chairman. Very well, sir. I can only tell you that you and your brother jurymen will be locked up until yon agree in your verdict. Pray, sir, are you aware of the position in which you stand? You have taken a solemn oath on the Gospel that "you will well and truly try the prisoner at the bar, and a true verdict give." Now having heard the evidence in the present case, you are bound by the oath you have taken to give your verdict. Recollect, by your oath you have solemnly sworn to decide on the case.
Mr. Wilson (smiling). Yes, I know that; but you will remember that I did not swear when or at what time I would do so. I did not by my oath say at what time I would agree to a verdict.
The Chairman Let an officer be sworn, and let him take the jury into another room, and let him there lock them up, and keep them, as usual, without fire and candle, until they come to some determination in this case. They must agree as to a verdict.
Nearly the whole of the jury instantly expressed their objection to be locked up, in a case where the fact was so clear. They complained loudly that they should be locked op in consequence of the obstinacy of one only of their body, especially where the case did not admit of a doubt.
The Chairman. I cannot help you. I am very sorry that the conduct of one of your own body should render your being locked up a matter of necessity. However, I will take care that he shall not gain anything by his conduct.
Mr. Wilson. Can you prove, sir, that I am acting illegally, that's all? Only show me the law that says how long a jury is to be allowed to consider their verdict; only point out to me the law which states any particular time a jury are to take in the consideration of their verdict. That is what I want to see.
A Juryman (addressing Mr. Wilson). What is it that you want?
Mr. Wilson. I want nothing of you. I am defending here what I conceive to be a great public principle, and extremely glad am I at having the opportunity to do so. My position is this: I contend that if the performance of one species, one class of the public service is to be paid for, all the other classes, however humble the parties may be who perform the service, have an equal right to payment. The Court tells me I am summoned here to discharge a public duty, and I therefore insist, that that being the case, the public shall pay me. Let the Chairman, if he can, show me a law which proves that the conduct I am at this moment pursuing is illegal.
The Chairman. I can with the greatest truth state that I never witnessed a scene of this description upon any former occasion in a court of justice and I trust that I never shall again. Officer, you must remove the jury to the other room. I will not suffer such a disgraceful scene as this to continue in this court for a moment longer.
A Juryman (with much earnestness, addressing the Chairman). Surely, sir, you will not lock up the whole of us?
Mr. Wilson. No, no, that he won't, for I shall not leave this box.
A Juryman (addressing Mr. Wilson). What demand do you make for your services, pray?
Mr. Wilson. I tell you once more I don't want anything of you. I am merely doing what I regard to be a public duty. I am resolved upon pursuing the matter.
Several of the Jurymen. Oh, let us subscribe and pay him. What charge does he make?
The Chairman (to the officer). Officer, you must do your duty. Take the jury to the other room. Do your duty, sir; take the jury away, as I have told you. Let the other officers assist.
During the whole of this scene the greatest confusion prevailed throughout the court. Not a single party, whether magistrate, counsel, prosecutor. witness, or spectator, but was on his feet watching with the utmost anxiety the progress of the discussion, and the result to which it might chance to lead. As soon as the Chairman had issued his last commands, several of the police made their way towards the jury-box.
Mr. Wilson, who had sat himself down in a manner which induced a supposition that he would not quit the jury-box without the application of force, rose, and again addressing himself to the Chairman, said, "Sir, you have not shown me that I am acting illegally, and I shall not therefore leave this box. I will not quit it until you do."
The Chairman. I tell you, Sir, that you, are behaving not merely disgracefully, but illegally.
Mr. Wilson. Well, then, show me how, show mo the statute. I should wish to see that.
The Chairman. Officers, do your duty; clear that box instantly; I must put an end to this proceeding. The officers of the court now went up to the jury-box, when Mr. Wilson quietly walked out, and accompanied the others of the jury into the adjoining room.
After an absence of rather more than a quarter of an hour, the jury again entered the court, when they said that they had agreed to a verdict, which was that the defendant was Guilty.
The Chairman told the jury that they must remain in court until they were again called upon.
At the rising of the Court they were dismissed.