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Farrell Dobbs

Judge Bars ‘Confidential’ Jury-Packing Evidence

(9 February 1949)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 7, 14 February 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

FROM THE FEDERAL COURTROOM, NEW YORK, Feb. 9 – Official records of methods used to pack federal jury panel with representatives of the rich have been barred from evidence in the defense challenge of the jury system in the trial of the 11 Stalinists.

 Henry P. Chandler, director of the U.S. Courts Administrative Office, stated from the witness stand that such “confidential” material might be “misused” if made public. Judge Medina upheld Chandler’s position. Involved were the “working materials” used by Leland L. Tolman of Chandler’s office in preparing an official study of the jury system.

The Tolman report describes the “high type of citizens” serving on juries, thanks to the use of Who’s Who, the Social Register and similar directories, in drawing the jury panels, and thanks also to a “pleasing young man” engaged in drawing the panels who knows about geographic distribution of the population by occupation, race, income level, etc.

Mountains of evidence showing systematic exclusion from jury panels of workers, Negroes and other minorities by the invidious method of token representation have been submitted by the defense. This evidence was introduced mainly through the testimony of Doxey A. Wilkerson, director of the Stalinist Jefferson School.

The government prosecutor, John F.X. McGohey, made a big fuss about one missing pin among the hundreds of pins on the score of maps showing how jurors are cohcentrated in the wealthy neighborhoods.

Prosecution’s Line

Wilkerson has sought to avoid compliance with the prosecutor’s demand that he be given the names of all persons who helped prepare the maps and charts showing the composition of the jury panels. McGohey is obviously preparing to use this development as a pretext to demand that all testimony by Wilkerson be thrown out.

Characterizing defense procedure in the jury challenge as “subversion of the administration of justice,” Judge. Medina has declared he will resort to every means at his disposal to end the challenge proceedings and go ahead with the trial under the indictment.

As the trial nears the end of the fourth week, there is a striking absence of a broad protest movement against the jury-packing scheme and the even more sinister thought-control indictment of the Stalinists under the Smith Act.

In part this lack of mass protest is due to the hysterical red-baiting propaganda. President Truman, the Congress and the judiciary have spearheaded the public denunciation of the Stalinists. The capitalist press and radio have played the red-baiting theme in every key. The Mindszenty trial has been used by the Catholic church in an effort to whip the population into a frenzy of hatred against the Stalinists.

This terrific propaganda barrage has had its effect, primarily because the Stalinists have betrayed the workers so many times; and because they ihave always defended the gang of cutthroats in the Kremlin in their vile slander campaign’s, cold-blooded assassinations and ruthless purges.

To this day Stalin’s lackeys in the Communist Party in this country defend the infamous Moscow Trials of 1936-38. They are tarred with the brush of that mockery of justice in which Lenin’s Central Committee and the leaders of the Red Army were lynched by Stalin. Their hands are stained with the martyr’s blood of Leon Trotsky, who was brutally murdered in Mexico by Stalin’s secret police.

Compare the police-state methods of Stalinism with the exemplary administration of justice under Lenin and Trotsky. In 1922, twelve leaders of the Social Revolutionaries were brought to trial on the charge of attempting arms in hand to overthrow the Soviet government in alliance with the foreign capitalist powers then attacking the Soviet Union They were also accused of directing the assassination of the Bolshevik leader Volodarsky and the attempt on Lenin’s life by Dora Kaplan.

The defendants were permitted to have as their counsel the Belgian socialist lawyer, Emil Vandervelde, and two other socialist lawyers, Theodor Liebknecht and Kurt Rosenfeld.

Speaking for the defendants, Vandervelde stated that the Social Revolutionaries proudly admitted they had conducted armed struggle against the Soviet government and were only sorry they did not succeed. The entire world knew this admission to be the truth, because the Social Revolutionaries were notoriously anti-Bolshevik and had always advocated and practiced individual terrorism.

Bolshevik Justice

They were sentenced to death. However, when a considerable protest movement Was aroused among the world working class, the Soviet government, commuted the death sentence to imprisonment. It did so at a time when the young Soviet Union had not yet entirely won its life and death struggle against the military intervention of the hostile capitalist powers.

If Stalinism had maintained that scrupulously fair administration of justice, if Stalinism had maintained that careful regard for world working class opinion demonstrated by Lenin and Trotsky, then the Stalinists in this country would have a strong basis to appeal for support against their prosecution under a thought-control indictment.

But the Stalinists have discredited themselves by their own acts of treachery and by their attempts to justify the Kremlin’s brutalities, thereby alienating support they would otherwise win in defense of their civil rights.

Effect of Convictions

All the more ominous, therefore, is the present trial of the Stalinists, because their conviction would be used as a cloak of udicial approval for every sinister device invented by the witchhunters.

Legalization would be claimed by the Truman administration for its blacklist of organizations alleged to be “subversive.” Many others like the legless war veteran James Kutcher, would be fired from their jobs because they disagree with the policies of the political party in power.

The purging of teachers whose ideas the capitalists dislike, already begun at the University of Washington, would be rapidly extended throughout the whole school system. Police investigations, denouncing of people by stool pigeons and all the companion evils would spread like a cancer.

The average person would be ip.ut in the state of mind described by Dr. Robert E. Cushman of Cornell University in speaking of government employees. He would feel he had better “read the right Looks, newspapers and magazines, say the right things, and, considering all the risks, had probably better not join any organization or society at all, since a Communist might also join it, and then he would become a fellow-traveler and be damned forever.”

These are the dangers clearly present in the government prosecution of the Stalinists under the Smith Act. From the point of view of the civil rights of the American people, the Stalinists are correct when they say that not IT but 140 million people are in the prisoners dock here in Foley Square.

All who cherish liberty and the right to think as they please have a vital stake in the fight to repeal the Smith Act, to defend its latest victims and to defeat on every front the government-inspired witch-hunt now going on in this country.

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