A spectator may in the course of a morning hear thirty or forty cases 노원오피 actually tried in which the charges cover almost every conceivable kind of sin, wrong, or prohibition. One prisoner is being prosecuted for assaulting a non-union workman, another for maintaining a public nuisance, another for a[Pg 65] violation of the Liquor Tax Law, another for practising medicine without a license; a dozen cases will be rapidly disposed of wherein the defendants are charged with shoplifting or "illegal entry" (a charge frequently lodged against a suspected burglar who has made an entry without a "break" and has been caught before he has accomplished his purpose); others still will be tried for carrying concealed weapons, publishing or possessing indecent literature, violating trade-mark laws, breaking speed ordinances, or "malicious mischief"; while, if the student of institutions be patient, he may be rewarded by the exciting spectacle of one who is defending himself against the charge of selling skimmed milk, holding a mock auction, driving a spavined horse, writing a threatening letter, making a fraudulent assignment, pawning borrowed property, using a false weight, opening another's letter, keeping a cow in an unhealthy place, running a cock-fight, misrepresenting the circulation of a newspaper, divulging the contents of a telegram, impersonating a policeman, adulterating food; or, provided he be exceptionally fortunate, may hear the trial of a celebrated actress for her impersonation of "Sappho," or of a manager for producing "Mrs. Warren's Profession."

He will see every conceivable type of man, woman, and child, either as defendant or witness, and he may also study every variety of human failing or weakness. No mock defence or prepared lie can deceive these argus-eyed judges; short shrift is made of the guilty, while the "reasonable doubt" is recognized the instant it puts in the most furtive appearance. In fact defendants are often found guilty[Pg 66] or acquitted almost before they are aware they are on trial,—and this with no detriment to them or to their cause.

The advocates of the abandonment of the jury system point to this court as their strongest argument. No time is lost in the selection of a jury,—a matter often of hours in the General Sessions in cases of no greater importance. There is no opening address on the part of the district attorney or counsel for the defendant,—the written statement or information sworn to by the complainant being entirely sufficient for the court. Cross-examination is cut down to its essentials and tests of "credibility" are almost unnecessary. At the conclusion of the case there are no harangues from either side, and the judges almost immediately announce their decision and generally impose sentence on the spot.

Of course in nine cases out of ten the evidence is conclusive and the merest glance at the complainant and his or her witnesses is enough to satisfy the onlooker that their claim is honest and the charge substantial. In such cases the trials proceed with lightning-like celerity. The owner of the stolen property is sworn while the defendant and his lawyer are pushing their way through the crowd to the bar.

"Mr. Blickendecker, are you a grocer, fifty-five years of age, residing at 1000-A-rear, First Avenue, and having a store at 666½ Catharine Street?" rapidly articulates the deputy assistant district attorney.

"Ya; I vas," answers Blickendecker heavily, trying helplessly to catch up.

[Pg 67]

"Did you, about 4:49 P.M., on Tuesday, the 17th of April, observe the defendant near your place of business?"

"Ya; I vas—I mean, ya, I did."

"What did you see him do?"

Blickendecker wipes his forehead and turns towards the court:

"Your honors, gentlemens, I see dot feller dere——"

"The defendant?" interrupts the presiding judge, patiently.

"Ya—the defender, I see dot defender mit a leetle vagon on two wheels, py mein store mit anoder feller, unt dey catch up ein crate of eggs unt put him in de vagon unt skip mit him, unt I hollers 'Tief!' unt runs, unt de officer——"

"That's enough. Any cross-examination? No? Call the 노원오피 officer."

The officer is sworn.

"Are you a member of the Municipal Police force of the city and county of New York, attached to the —— Precinct, and were you so attached on the 17th of April last, and did you see the defendant on that day near the premises 666½ Catharine Street?"

"Shure I seen him. Him and another feller. They were makin' off wid old 'Delicatessen's' eggs. I catched this young feller——"

"That's enough. Any cross-examination? No? Leave the stand."

"The People rest," announces the assistant.

"Take the stand," directs the lawyer, and his client shambles into the chair.

"Did you steal Mr. Blickendecker's eggs?"

[Pg 68]

"No, your honor; Cully Fagan asked me to go round and help him deliver some eggs. He said he'd gimme a drink. So I went along wid him. All of a sudden out comes this old guy and yells 'thief.' I gets scared and runs. I didn't mean no harm."

"That is our case," says the lawyer.

"No cross-examination," says the assistant.

The judges consult for a moment.

"We find the defendant guilty," announces the presiding judge, dipping his pen into the ink.

"Now, young man, have you ever been convicted?"

"No, your honor."

"I advise you not to steal any more eggs. One month in the penitentiary. Next case!"

Now here is a defendant given a perfectly fair, if not a very full, trial in less than three minutes. Of course it is in such a case practically a mere formality. Two witnesses who have had no previous acquaintance with the prisoner, whose eyesight is perfect, and who have no motive to swear falsely, identify him as caught in flagrante delicto. The defendant has merely put in his defence "on the chance." His sentence would be about the same in either case. The only disadvantage of so active a court is the fact that the multitude of the defendants render it almost impossible to make any very exhaustive study of the majority of them before sentence. However, as the sentences are all light, the defendant always gets the benefit of the doubt, and the court resolves all doubts in his favor.

Sometimes in such a case a criminal conspiracy between the complainant and the officer is disclosed to "do" a mischievous, but not criminal, youth who[Pg 69] has fallen into their disfavor. Then the witnesses are subjected to such a fire of questions that they wilt and wither in the blast, the defendant is acquitted and the prosecution's witnesses sometimes held for the action of the grand jury on a charge of perjury. Many a cause célèbre has originated in the Special Sessions through the perspicacity of some member of that bench during a petty trial, and defendants there convicted often divulge in their confessions evidence which for a time sets the newspaper world by the ears. This is especially true of cases where some civil officer is accused of taking a bribe to influence his action or to make an appointment. He may be convicted, confess, and for a day or two the papers are full of the unearthing of a far-reaching conspiracy to debauch the city government, barter offices at wholesale, and deliver the city to a coterie of criminals. The next step in the proceeding is the unfortunate discovery that the defendant's confession, since it cannot be corroborated, is entirely worthless. Yet, as he has apparently done all he could to atone for his offence, he receives a mitigated sentence, while the uproar occasioned by his sensational disclosures subsides as suddenly as it began.

The bane of the Court of Special Sessions in New York County and very likely the bane of all similar courts, are the so-called "Liquor Tax cases." As one of the officers of this court recently said: "In this class of cases the court knows that it is being 'flim-flammed,' and, in addition, that it is helpless. We convict in about sixty per cent of the cases, but the judges know perfectly well that a considerable number of those convicted are men who, while not[Pg 70] honest enough not to violate the law, are too honest to pay corruption money."

The possibilities for blackmail and the arbitrary and unequal way in which the law is enforced in different parts of the city (one section being allowed to be "wide open" while an adjacent district is "dry") render the judges loath to convict even in "straight" cases. When Liquor Tax cases are transferred, by order of the judge presiding in Part I, for trial in the General Sessions, the juries before which they are prosecuted will not convict at all.[23]

In the same way the court looks with grave suspicion on most cases where a defendant is arraigned charged with "assault" on an officer. They expect to see arraigned at the bar (and are usually not disappointed) a small man covered with bandages, while a burly officer without a scratch upon his rosy countenance takes the stand and swears that the defendant assaulted him. The policeman always has plenty of corroboration—the defendant none at all. The chances are that the relative sizes of the two men are such that if the officer coughed the defendant would drop dead. The proper charge in such a case would be, not attempted assault on an officer, but attempted suicide. The truth of the matter probably is that the small man, having done or said something to irritate the officer, has been pounded to a pulp and then ignominiously haled away to the station house, while his terrified companions, knowing full well that if they interfered theirs would be a similar fate, have retired to their homes privately to execrate a state of civilization where humble citizens can be subjected to such persecution.

[Pg 71]

Practically the Special Sessions is the final court of disposition for 노원오피 most misdemeanors. Except in automobile, theatrical, health, copyright, and trade-mark cases and a few others, a majority of the defendants do not have enough money even to hire a lawyer, to say nothing of taking an appeal. They are disposed of then and there just as in certain cases they are disposed of in the magistrates' courts. For them a sentence once imposed is final.

Occasionally the Special Sessions is the scene of a great trial, as celebrated as those fought out in the "Parts" upstairs or in the criminal trial term of the Supreme Court across the hall. A prominent druggist may have been accused of refilling bottles with spurious or diluted contents. He is being prosecuted by the owners of the trade-mark or label. They retain distinguished counsel to prepare the case for the prosecution. The accused engages equally able lawyers to defend him. The crime is highly technical and the evidence almost entirely a matter of chemical analysis and expert opinion. The battle goes on for weeks or even months. A jury would have become hopelessly confused and the issue successfully obscured, but the three judges are expert jurymen, and in due course, if he be guilty, the defendant is inevitably convicted. Such a trial may cost the parties tens of thousands of dollars for expert testimony alone, while the sentence of the defendant will very likely be not more than a two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar fine. Even so, the integrity of the trade-mark has been sustained and the swindler stamped as a criminal.