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Herbert Solow

A Sacramento Juror Weeps

CP’s “Vigilante” Is Only Human After All

(April 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 19, 27 April 1935, pp. 3 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Herbert Solow, newspaper correspondent and editor, is one of the founders of the Non-Partisan Labor Defense, and was its special representative in California during the Sacramento trial. – Ed.)

Eight young men and women have been sentenced to San Quentin for one to fourteen years ... because they dared to organize fellow-workers in the rich agricultural valleys of California and to strike for higher wages and better working conditions. The jury required 66 hours to reach a verdict. Little more than 66 hours later, Juror Howard S. Mclntire deposed before a notary that the verdict in the criminal syndicalism case was not based on law or evidence but was the outcome of a horse-trade in the jury room.

Attorney Albert Goldman, Chicago Socialist retained by the Non-Partisan Labor Defense on behalf of Norman Mini, a member of the Workers Party, moved for a new trial for all defendants on the basis of McIntire’s affidavit. Judge Lemmon denied the motion as well as the new trial motion of Grover Johnson and Leon Gallagher, attorneys for the International Labor Defense. The Judge said that the verdict is legal even though a compromise. It seems that about the only illegal way to reach a verdict of guilty in a labor case is to shoot crap for it. Whatever the higher courts may have to say about this, the story of the McIntire affidavit la interesting and illuminating.

McIntire Talks

Half an hour after the verdict was recorded the writer, accompanied by Goldman, walked past a Sacramento hotel. From a lobby window, McIntire and Mrs. Keith, another juror, signalled us to come in. We sat with them for about an hour and a half while they talked, Jack Warnick, one of the six defendants who had just been acquitted, being present during the latter half of the talk.

Believed Defendants Innocent

Both jurors declared that at the outset of the trial in November, they determined to eliminate prejudice, and that when they went to the jury room at the end of March, they desired to acquit all 14 defendants on the two counts remaining in the indictment. Above all, they were convinced of the innocence of Caroline Decker, Norman Mini and Jack Warnick. On the first ballot they voted to acquit Pat Chambers on count one. On the second ballot two other jurors joined them in this stand. Subsequently the vote on some defendants who were eventually convicted, stood six to six.

McIntire went on to relate that the jury majority at first wanted to convict all defendants on both counts. Juror Mrs. Perry, for example, expected that the job would take an hour. When Juror Jackson showed inclinations toward acquittals in some cases, he was called a “Red.” He was reminded that the Southern Pacific Railroad pension, off which he lives, can be revoked. The majority’s slogan, repeatedly dinned into the ears of the minority, was: “The community wants a conviction.” Trading in Lives

McIntire could not refer to the compromise which terminated the 6-hour conflict without shedding copious tears, in which Mrs. Keith joined him.

“They gave up a little of what they wanted,” he told us, “and we gave up some of what we wanted. We made a compromise, trading off people we thought innocent in order to get everybody acquitted on count one and some acquitted on both counts. Nobody voted exactly the way he felt on all cases.”

No crap-shooting seems to have been involved, but who, having heard the evidence, can comprehend on what basis the jury decided to acquit Warnick and convict Lorine Norman? Who can explain how they came to convict Mini and acquit Kirkwood? Of the three defendants McIntire and Keith were “determined” to acquit, Decker and Mini were convicted (Mini being recommended for probation, which he has refused).

Juror Wants Sympathy

When McIntire finished, he looked at us, “I tell you, gentlemen,” he said. “I will never forget what I have done. It will always haunt me. I never faced a harder problem ... and I don’t know that I solved it rightly.” Mrs. Keith echoed Mclntire’s words. Suddenly the irony of our situation became apparent:

Here sat Warnick, whose wife, and I, whose friend, and Goldman whose client had just been condemned to incarceration in San Quentin, being asked for sympathy ... by one of those who had voted to send them there!

Couldn’t Sleep Nights

On the following day Jack Warnick and I, along with Bert Hanman of the Workers Party, were in my hotel room when McIntire came in. For an hour or so we heard the same complaints over again ... no sleep, the pangs of remorse, confusion. I could see that Jack – whose wife, after all, had bean convicted and who might be expecting a little sympathy himself – was growing tense.

“Mr. McIntire,” said Warnick, “what are you going to do?”

“What can I do? I want to undo the damage. I want to set things right. Especially regarding Decker and Mini.”

“Do you want to help these innocent people get a new trial?” I asked.

“Oh, if only I could, I would do anything m the world,” McIntire answered.

Jurors Condemn Statement

He left to attend a Masonic meeting and came back to my room late that night. Goldman, Warnick and Hanman were there again. McInitre dictated a statement. In the morning he signed it before a notary. Goldman read it to the court.

The afternoon paper carried statements by eight jurors condemning McIntire’s action. “His terrible conscience was always getting in the way of a verdict,” said Carter, the youngest and one of the most reactionary of the jurors. F.M Martel, one of the holdout quartet, refused comment. except to say that he was through with the case. Keith and Shannon, the other holdouts, apparently refused to make any statement. Unwilling to come out in support of McIntire, they were too remorseful to attack him.

Who is McIntire? He was in the National Guard seven years. For 27 years he was in the office of the State Adjutant General. He is a Past-Master of the Masons, who recently gave him a diamond-studded watch charm which is his proudest possession. A widower, and accountant by profession, he is indebted to a big Sacramento bank. He loves the American flag, he goes to church, he is utterly ignorant of the meaning of radicalism, he is (or was) a Respected Member of the Community – that middle-class community which, poisoned by the Hearst and McClatchy press, wanted a conviction.

The Jury

Martel is a salesman for a large musical instrument house. Shannon, the smartest dresser in Sacramento, is a businessman. Mrs. Keith is the mother of a policeman. It was these three who stood back of McIntire until McIntire himself, pounded for 66 hours by “the community,” whose influence reached into the jury room in a thousand ways, gave in.

This quartet helped sentence innocent people in violation of its own convictions. They gave in to “the community.” But it was they who held out for 66 hours, who forced 118 ballots, who produced such acquittals as came about, and it was one of them who later, by the affidavit proving the compromise, drove a great breach into the prosecution’s case and took the bloom off reaction’s victory.

Was this a vigilante jury? If there were on it men lacking in learning, lacking in subtlety, lacking even in courage, but not lacking in a desire to find a way out for the defendants, what about the Western Worker, official organ of the Communist Party, which having put the jury down as hopeless vigilantes, proceeded to publish insulting cartoons and wisecracks about them?

What about Gallagher or the I.L.D., who expressed in open court brazen indifference to the jury’s thoughts and feelings?

Pressure Counts Most

The truth is that, even in political cases, the action of the jury can rarely be foretold. A principled, well-reasoned, moving argument by the defense counsel, and still more the activity of the popular masses outside the court (public meetings and other impressive, serious manifestations’ which eventually impinge on the jury’s consciousness and may give to some the courage to vote their convictions rather than what the middle-class community wants) may result in a defeat of the reactionary forces behind the prosecution.

Support the Defendants

As it is, McIntire, who felt that there was little popular pressure for acquittal and who admits he was very antagonistic toward Attorney Gallagher of the I.L.D., gave in. And now he wants sympathy because he can not sleep nights.

Let us be a bit stony-hearted about McIntire. True, he is no vigilante. True, he feels bad: he gave a rotten verdict ... and now the prosecution is hitting him into the bargain. But any spare sympathy can well be reserved for the eight workers he convicted ... and should be expressed in the form of active support of the appeal struggle already under way.

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