Source: Medical Dial
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Anarchy and Lynch Law”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 3
Issue number: 10
|“Anarchy and Lynch Law.” Medical Dial Oct. 1901 v3n10: pp. 242-43.|
|Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response); Loran L. Lewis (public statements); lawlessness (mob rule).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Loran L. Lewis.|
Anarchy and Lynch Law
The world has received an object lesson in the dignity, calmness and promtitude
of American criminal justice. Czolgosz perpetrated his dastardly crime on Sept.
6th, he was immediately captured, placed under arrest and protected from the
righteous indignition [sic] of an excited multitude. On Sept. 23rd his
trial in the Supreme Court of Erie County began, an intelligent jury was secured
on the first day, and the trial at once proceeded. On the 24th the case went
to the jury, and that body, after a seclusion of only thirty-nine minutes, brought
in a verdict of murder in the first degree.
Such a murderous attack, without personal cause or motive, might well raise the question of the sanity of the criminal, and he was, therefore, given the benefit of an examination by distinguished medical experts in insanity who pronounced him sane.
Eminent lawyers were appointed by the court to defend the prisoner and these gentlemen from a sense of duty gave the accused the benefit of their able talent; but there was a noteworthy absence of all the vexatious, tedious and undignified proceedings which too often characterize criminal proceedings in this country. Jurymen were not rejected because they had read the newspapers or had formed an opinion as to the guilt of the defendant.
Judge Lewis in addressing the jury very properly said:
“It is charged here that our client is an anarchist—a man who does not believe in any law or in any form of government. And there are, so we are told, other individuals who entertain that opinion. We all feel that such doctrines are dangerous, are criminal; are doctrines that will subvert our government in time if they are allowed to prevail.
“Gentlemen of the jury, while I believe  firmly in that, I do not believe it creates a danger to this country equal to the belief becoming so common that men who are charged with crime shall not be permitted to go through the form of a trial in a court of justice, but that lynch law shall take the place of the calm and dignified administration of the law by our courts of justice.
“When that doctrine becomes sufficiently prevalent in this country, if it ever does, our institutions will be set aside and overthrown and, it we are not misinformed as to the state of mind of some people in some parts of the country, the time is fast approaching when men charged with crime will not be permitted to come into court and submit to a calm and dignified trial, but will be strung up to a tree on the bare suspicion that some one may hold the belief that they have committed some crime.”
While we agree with all the learned counsel says in condemnation of lynch law we are also convinced that a few trials in which the wheels of justice move with as little friction as was the case in the Czolgosz trial would do more to suppress lynching than a century of controversy. The main excuse for lynching is the slowness, the uncertainty of the course of the law and the inevitable resort on the part of the defending counsel to all the technicalities and undignified methods which may be resorted to in order that the ends of justice may be defeated. When weeks are consumed in securing a jury, when it is sought to fill the jury box with men so illiterate that they never read a newspaper or so sordid that they never form an opinion, we need not wonder that an outraged people, losing patience with the uncertainties of the course of justice, should once in a while take the law into their own hands and mete out punishment swift and sure to an offender caught red handed in the act. A few straight, prompt business-like trials like the one just completed at Buffalo would convince the people that the law could be trusted to take its course and would in a large measure put an end to the barbarous custom of lynching.