Selecting a Special Jury - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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then sent to the Sheriff's Office, to be placed on his book. Counsel were employed before the Recorder to oppose by every means the admission of every Catholic gentleman against whom any colour of objection could be thought of; yet, with all this care, a large number of Catholics were placed on the list. As the names were transferred to the Sheriff's office, it happened that the slip which contained the largest proportion of Catholic names missed its way, or was mislaid; and the sixty-seven names it contained never appeared on the Sheriff's book. This became immediately notorious, and excited what one of the Judges called "grave suspicion."

In striking a special jury in Ireland, forty-eight names are taken by ballot out of the jurors' book in the Crown Office. Then each party, the Crown and the traverser, has the privilege of striking off twelve, leaving twenty-four names. On the day of trial, the first twelve, out of these twenty-four, who answer when called, are sworn as jurors. Now, so well had the Sheriff discharged his duty in this case, that of the forty-eight names there were eleven Catholics. They were all struck off by the Crown, and a "Jury" was secured on whose patriotic vote her Majesty could fully rely.

Of course the "Conspirators," through their counsel, challenged the array on the express ground of fraud in the matter of the list of names which missed its way as aforesaid; and of the four judges, one, Perrin, gave his voice for quashing the whole proceeding and letting the Crown begin anew;—but the other three held the jury panel to be good enough; and the drama was to proceed.

The indictment covered, with close print, the skins of a flock of sheep; the parchment monster measured thirty-three yards in length, and gave a history of the whole agitation, including speeches at monster meetings and ballads from the Nation. The most eminent counsel in Ireland were employed at either side, with hosts of juniors; and the ingenuity of every one of them was exerted for many weeks to devise motions, affidavits, demurrers, pleas in abatement, and the other incidents of a highly-developed and full-blown State Prosecution. The trial proceeded; and both inside and outside the courts, there was a strange mixture of jest and earnest. The Attorney-General was T. B. C. Smith (afterwards Master of the Rolls), a very small, withered gentlemen, of great legal learning, but most peevish temper, and very sensitive to taunt and ridicule. Of taunt and ridicule, therefore, he had plenty, both in the court and the newspapers. Stung to madness, he at last slipped ...continue reading »

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