Friday, Sept. 4. I empanelled to-day the first jury ever summoned in California. The plaintiff and defendant are among the principal citizens of the country. The case was one involving property on the one side, and integrity of character on the other. Its merits had been pretty widely discussed, and had called forth unusual interest. Onethird of the jury were Mexicans, one-third Californians, and the other third Americans. This mixture may have the better answered the ends of justice, but I was apprehensive at one time it would embarrass the proceedings; for the plaintiff spoke in English, the defendant in French, the jury, save the Americans, Spanish, and the witnesses all of the languages known to California. But through the silent attention which prevailed, the tact of Mr. Hartnell, who acted as interpreter, and the absence of young lawyers, we got along very well. The examination of the witnesses lasted five or six hours; I then gave the case to the jury, stating the questions of fact upon which they were to render their verdict. They retired for an hour, and then returned, when the foreman handed in their verdict, which was clear and explicit, though the case itself was rather complicated. To this verdict, both parties bowed without a word of dissent. The inhabitants who witnessed the trial, said it was what they liked—that there could be no bribery in it—that the opinion of twelve honest men should set the case forever at rest. And so it did, though neither party completely triumphed in the issue. One recovered his property, which had been taken from him by mistake, the other his character, which had been slandered by design. If there is anything on earth besides religion for which I would die, it is the right of trial by jury.
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Research Article| January 01 2013
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Barry Goode; The American Conquest of Alta California and the Instinct for Justice: The "First" Jury Trial in California. California History 1 January 2013; 90 (2): 4–70. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/41936498
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