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Friday, July 29, 2011

Portland's "Experimental" Woman Jury -- Editorial Reviews: The Oregon Journal -- "They Have Done No Worse"

In the last of the three Portland newspaper editorial reactions to the December 4, 1912 all-female "experimental" jury, the Oregon Journal weighs in with a bit of equity about the process and the verdict.

"We have had a jury of Oregon women," the editors noted in an editorial titled "The First." Those who read about it will be chiefly impressed that it failed to agree." But it took an hour and forty minutes, "to convince the members that agreement was hopeless. Was it because it was a woman?" they asked? Or (and they could not resist taking a jab) "because of the blandishments of 'Pike' Davis in his tearful appeal with its sprinkling of modest references to his efforts as a pillar of suffrage?"

But then the editors ask some important questions. Was it because the defendant was clearly not alone and was being set up to take the blame. "Perhaps the jurors for acquittal reasoned that the woman was an instrument in the hands of underworld men, and that she was brought to bay while the men escaped."

Perhaps the evidence was not there to prove guilt. And there was, perhaps, an equal argument for both points of view. Lawyers thrive on such things, they said.

"It might have looked better to a waiting world for this first jury of Oregon women if there could have been an agreement. The news has gone to the country, and the disagreement will bring out a chorus of 'I told you so.'"

But, the editors insisted, "juries of men do the same thing. Groups of judges" including those serving on the United States Supreme Court "similarly perform."

"The women of the first Oregon jury have the satisfaction," they wrote, "of knowing that they have done no worse."

"The First," Oregon Journal, December 5, 1912, 8.

And so? The next blog post will explore how the fallout about this "experimental" all-female jury may have influenced the Oregon Attorney General's decision about women and jury service . . .