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Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume IV (1876-1877)

Caverno, Charles
The abolition of the jury system,   pp. 7-18 PDF (3.4 MB)

Page 7

The Abolition of the Jury System.
                      BY CHARLES CAVERNO.
                      Lombard, Da Page County, Ill.
  It may seem a bold project to advocate the abolition of the jury
system. We have been taught to regard the writ of habeas cor-
pus and the trial by jury, as little less than gifts of Divine inspira-
tion. The writ of habeas corpus may still stand. The Time Spirit
has not passed adversely upon that, and is not likely to.
  But candid examination will hardly be able to resist the con-
clusion that, in this country, trial by jury has outlived its use-
  The history of trial by jury will here be treated of only incidental-
ly. Sources of information respecting the history of the jury system
are in the hands of the legal profession, and lie open to all. Few
other institutions have undergone so many changes as this. To
speak of trial by jury is to speak of something whose content of
meaning depends upon time. The institution has taken on a new
phase and parted with an old one, in almost every century since
the Norman conquest.
  Jurors were originally summoned to aid a court in a matter of
dispute, by a declaration of facts within their own knowledge.
Now it is legally a disqualification for a man to know anything
about the case in hand - practically, a disqualification for him to
know anything else. When the court could put men of the vi-
cinage on oath, to help it with a statement of the facts they knew,
there was life and health in the jury system. Later, when this
group of witnesses took on the further function (that out of which
the grand jury grew), of suggesting to the court matters in their
vicinage, connected with the public weal or the public peace, which
they thought the court should look after, there was life and health
in the system.
  But when now the court has to inform the jury of the facts, and

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