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Susan B. Anthony Cast Her Ballot For Ulysses S. Grant
For this crime, she was arrested, held, indicted, and put on trial. Judge Hunt presided.
December 1985 | Volume 37, Issue 1
When the defense attorney John Van Voorhis called one of the supervisors of elections to testify to the advice he had given the inspectors, Hunt ruled the man “incompetent.” He did permit Chief Inspector Beverly Jones to testify to the presence of the supervisors Silas J. Wagner, Republican, and Daniel J. Warner, Democrat. Jones went on to report that while Anthony “was reading the Fourteenth Amendment and discussing different points, Mr. Warner said…”
Prosecutor Crowley jumped in. “I submit to the court that it is entirely immaterial what either Warner or Wagner said.”
Hunt sustained him, stating, “I don’t see that that is competent in any view of the case.”
Later Van Voorhis asked Jones to “state what occurred.” Again Jones began: “Mr. Warner said…,” and again Crowley objected.
Hunt repeated, “I don’t think that is competent what Warner said.”
“The district attorney has gone into what occurred at that time. I ask to be permitted to show all that occurred.” “
I don’t think that is competent.”
Van Voorhis persisted, demanding that the testimony include what the supervisor said.
“I exclude it.”
“Does that exclude all conversations that occurred there with any persons?”
“It excludes anything of that character on the subject of advising them. Your case is just as good without it as with it.”
Jones was followed on the stand by his fellow Republican election board member Edwin F. Marsh and other witnesses. One of them was Susan B. Anthony herself, but with all of Crowley’s objections sustained by Hunt, she was effectively silenced.
Judge Hunt’s apparent compassion in not imprisoning Susan Anthony was misleading. He thereby avoided criticism for “reversible errors” and blocked her chance for appeal.
In his summation Van Voorhis stressed the same theme that Selden had in Anthony’s defense: malice was essential to crime. “Here is a total absence of any pretense of malice. The defendants acted honestly and according to their best judgment. They are not lawyers, nor skilled in law. They had presented to them a legal question which, to say the least, has puzzled some of the ablest legal minds of the nation.”
When he concluded, Crowley rose, but Hunt restrained him. “I don’t think it is necessary for you to spend time in argument, Mr. Crowley,” he said, and then directed the jury: “Under no circumstance is a woman entitled to vote… and by the adjudication which was made this morning upon this subject, there is no discretion…. In that view of the case, is there anything to go to the jury?”
Fearing what would come, Van Voorhis jumped up to demand that the “whole case” go to the jury because trial by jury is inviolate and “the court had no power to take it from the jury.”
“I am going to submit it to the jury,” said Hunt.
“I claim the right to address the jury,” said Van Voorhis.
“I don’t think there is anything upon which you can legitimately address the jury,” Hunt said, and then proceeded to address them himself, stating that the women had no right to offer their votes, nor the inspectors to receive them, but “instead of doing as I did in the case this morning—directing a verdict—I submit the case to you with these instructions, and you can decide it here or go out.”
Van Voorhis tried again. “I ask your honor to instruct the jury that if they find these inspectors acted honestly, in accordance with their best judgments, they should be acquitted.”
“I have expressly ruled to the contrary of that, gentlemen.” Again Hunt charged the jury: “There is sufficient evidence to sustain the indictment upon this point.” Van Voorhis asked sarcastically, “Then why should it go to the jury?”
“As a matter of form.” Again Hunt tried to force the verdict right there in court. The jurors chose to go out. They returned soon afterward hung, eleven to one for the prosecution. An annoyed Hunt threatened the lone juror: “You may retire again, gentlemen,” adding that, unless they agreed within a few minutes, he would adjourn the court until the morning. He did not suggest any food or overnight accommodations for the jurors.
Under this pressure the hesitating juror capitulated, and the panel returned within ten minutes with guilty verdicts for all three defendants. This jury was also quizzed, and again it was clear that it was not the verdict of free choice. Van Voorhis’s plea for retrial was dismissed.