I SERVED ON A MURDER JURY
With eleven other citizens I surrendered my freedom and entered the strange isolation of the jury’s world while we decided whether a woman would live or die
“It happened to me”
This Ls another of the series of personal-experience stories that will appear from time to time in Maclean's . . . stories told by its readers about some interesting dramatic event in their lives.
HAVE YOU SUCH A STORY? If so, send it to the articles editor, Maclean's Magazine, 481 University Ave., Toronto. For stories accepted Maclean's will pay the regular rates it offers for articles.
A notice by registered mail instructed me to report on Monday, Sept. 22, 1958, to courtroom number one in Toronto city hall for jury duty. It was my first call in the twenty years or so I had been eligible. My reaction was a mild blend of curiosity about a new experience and annoyance at having my personal life upset by an unfamiliar and probably unpleasant task.
When I left home 1 promised my wife I'd be back early to change. It was her birthday,, a baby sitter was taking over the three children and we were going out to dinner.
That was the last time I was allowed to speak to her—or to anyone else but a handful of "authorized” strangers—until three days later. During that time I tried an ex-Sunday school teacher for her life, and in the process spent three of the most extraordinary days of my existence.
What happens to a murder juror, emotionally and physically, in court and out, is far outside the normal range of experience of an average Canadian. It soon became apparent that I was
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"A man chosen for a murder jury is deprived of more of his freedom and civil rights than the prisoner he’s trying"
caught up in a strange paradox: jury trial is a cornerstone of democracy, hard-won by Magna Charta. But a man chosen for a murder jury (women never are in Canada) is immediately deprived of freedom and civil rights — to an extent even greater than the prisoner he is trying.
When it was over 1 felt impelled to take a closer look behind the events of those three days. Much of what I learned was merely interestingly instructive because it was so unknown to me as a layman. Some was more startling. I discovered that part of the treatment imposed on murder jurors, at least in some Ontario courts, is unauthorized by any law or regulation, and even unknown to the top officials who administer the jury system.
My notice to appear arrived a good two weeks before the specified date and warned of penalties for non-attendance. The courtroom to which 1 was directed was a hot. high-ceilinged chamber with poor acoustics, furnished with solid Edwardian chairs, tables and benches. The spectator section was filled with men who had received notices like mine. Some sat reading the morning paper, others made the tentative conversation of men thrown together by circumstance. The man next to me said gloomily:
“I hope 1 don't get stuck with a murder as I was a couple of years ago. They locked us up in a cheap hotel in small rooms with shared bathrooms. When they took us to a restaurant the steaks mysteriously disappeared from the menu.”
A court functionary handed out income-tax
forms for us to fill in. He explained that the six dollars a day we would be paid wfas taxable and we’d better remember to report it next April. Then he called the roll.
It w'as like a gathering of the clans. Most of the names began with "M” and it seemed that two out of three were “Macs.” When the jury was finally chosen, there were seven of us with the Scottish prefix. 1 learned later that this was no coincidence. Juries are drawn from voters’ and tax lists and in Metropolitan Toronto it was the turn of the “M’s.”
The inner part of the court was filling up as the clock moved past ten. An attendant called out “Ann Ritchie!” and a police matron led a small dark woman to the prisoner’s dock. Her face showed neither fear nor hope, sadness nor defiance. One felt that her expression of resignation had been there long before the event that brought her to the dock.
Her lawyer. William Whiteacre. an athletically built young man, spoke briefly to his client. Henry Bull, crown counsel, a brisk man with a close-clipped mustache, unloaded brief case and law books on the long table.
"He’s one of the toughest crowns,” commented my experienced neighbor. A court stenographer and a couple of newspaper reporters came in. Suddenly an attendant startled us by calling loudly: "Order in court!" and everybody stood up. Mr. Justice Dalton Wells, a stocky man with a kindly face, mounted the dais.
Ann Ritchie alone remained standing while the
court clerk read the charge. She was alleged to have murdered one Sta.v.cy Mitchell on the afternoon of June 6 in a rooming house on George Street. I knew the area, a midtown district known as Cabbagetown. not far from the CBC’s Jarvis Street headquarters.
The selection of the jury began. A clerk wearing tab collar and morning coat put ninety cards, each marked with one name, into a drum for all the world like miniature Irish Sweepstakes equipment, spun it. and started drawing out cards and calling names. The "winners” lined up against the wall behind the jury box. Mine was the twentieth and last name called.
What happened next was a rather grim ritual. Potential jurors stepped forward one at a time and the clerk intoned: "Prisoner, look on the juror: juror, look on the prisoner.” The juror and the woman in the box stared bleakly at each other while defense and crown decided whether to accept or reject the candidate.
A few men were challenged by Whiteacre or told by Bull to stand aside. More were unchallenged, sworn in and took their places in the jury box. I tried to compute whether twelve men would be accepted before it came to my turn. My neighbor's description didn’t make jury duty sound attractive and I felt a general distaste for the whole thing, anyway. But there was a sense of being in a lottery, of being acceptable or unacceptable to those opposing lawyers, and I half wanted to win out. There were eleven men in the jury box when the last name was called—
mine. I looked into Ann Ritchie's unresponsive eyes and waited. “No objection,” said Whiteacre. “No objection,” said Bull. I took my place as juror number twelve.
Bull briefly outlined the crown's case. During a wine-drinking party at the George Street house. Stanley Mitchell, a stranger to the accused woman, had entered her room. There had been a scuttle, and later Mitchell was found lying in the hallway with a mortal stab from a kitchen knife. After police questioned the woman she had been charged with murder.
After Bull finished his presentation. Judge Wells adjourned court until two o'clock.
A slight, grey-haired man who had been standing behind the jury box motioned us to follow him. He led us along a corridor into a small room furnished wúth a long table and tw'elvc chairs. A washroom was attached. The man introduced himself as William MacFarlane, sherilf’s officer.
Mr. Mac—as he immediately became to al’ of us—wore a stern expression that was belied by a twinkle in his eye. He was to be our constant companion, guide, jailer and indoctrinator in court etiquette for the three days during which we were to be a “separated” jury—a jury isolated from communication from anyone or anything that might influence our verdict one way or the other. A judge may (but seldom does) isolate a jury in any criminal case. Isolation of a murder jury is mandatory.
Mr. Mac handed out sheets of paper and told
us to list everything we needed from home, in the way of clothing and toilet articles. “Don’t worry about that,” said one of the jurors, ’’I’ll just phone my wife.”
Mr. Mac answered, wearing his firm expression: “You won’t be phoning anybody for the rest of the trial.” It was at that moment, I think, that we jurors realized for the first time the complications and frustrations that can come with the sudden, complete withdrawal of communication with family, friends and colleagues. We broke into a chorus of protests:
“But I've got an important business meeting . . . My wife's in the hospital having a baby . . . What about my car? Who’s going to pay the parking?"
Four jurors, it turned out, had cars on parking lots around city hall. None of us, apparently, had made business or domestic arrangements for a period incommunicado. Even when the full extent of our separation from the rest of the world dawned on us. we had no idea how long the trial would last. Three days was Mr. Mac’s cautious guess. He said if we gave him the names of relatives and friends he would try to straighten out our assorted problems.
Someone said: “I can tell my wife to pack me a bottle of liquor, of course?” “No,” answered Mr. Mac. I wrote on my list, between toothbrush and handkerchiefs, “Cough medicine," and fervently hoped my wife would divine my meaning.
Mr. Mac and three assistant sheriff’s officers paraded us to lunch.
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“Marching off to lunch in pairs, we felt like convent girls being given their daily airing”
Since the city hall elevators would not hold sixteen persons, we descended from the third floor in two batches of six jurors plus two sheriffs officers each. No other passengers were allowed to ride with us.
We walked at a brisk pace over to Yonge Street, lined up in pairs with two sheriffs officers ahead and two behind, through the lunchtime crowds. 1 felt embarrassingly conspicuous, being part of this eight-pair column, even though the officers were not in uniform and looked no different from the rest of us. It was rather like a class of convent girls being taken out for their daily airing.
We entered Childs Restaurant through a side door and found ourselves in a screened-off section with tables laid for sixteen. Behind the screen we could hear the babble and clatter of men and women of the outside world having their lunch. A little self-consciously, we sat in our isolation booth. A pair of waitresses came to take our orders. Waitresses, Mr. Mac and our fellow jurors were the only human beings with whom we exchanged a single word during the trial. I don't remember hearing any of the assistant officers say a word. They were our silent shadows. When a couple of jurors wanted to use the restaurant washroom, one of the officers accompanied them.
Someone asked if we could have a drink with lunch. Mr. Mac shook his head. One juror ordered a cocktail anyway. The waitress did not seem to hear him. But we could order anything else on the menu, even steaks—in spite of the gloomy recollection of my neighbor in court. But some of us who ordered lavishly because the government was picking up the tab wished we hadn’t. We spent the afternoon in the overheated courtroom struggling to stay awake and listen to evidence.
After lunch we waited in the jury room for the call to return to court. When it came we straggled toward the door. Mr. Mac stopped us. "Not that way,” he said. “Please line up in pairs.” We did so. "No. no,” said Mr. Mac patiently, “in pairs according to your jury numbers.”
We re-formed ranks by numbers. Mr. Mac looked us over with a practiced eye. One juror had opened the top button of his shirt and loosened his tie. Mr. Mac diplomatically asked him to spruce up. It all reminded me of a sergeant-major with a squad of rookie recruits. When he was satisfied he led us into court to try Ann Ritchie for murder.
The case must have been one of the simplest in the annals of Canadian murder trials—and among the most sordid. Apart from routine evidence of the cause of death and the arrest, the case hinged on the testimony of just two witnesses: Florence Laballister, the crown's star witness, friend and fellow roomer of the prisoner, and the prisoner herself.
When Henry Bull led Florence Laballister through her testimony that afternoon, his methods came as a surprise to me and. 1 discovered later, to other jurymen. I had heard him called “tough.” My own conception of prosecutors in action came from U. S. movies and television programs in which the district at-
torney goes to great lengths to present the most damning case possible against the prisoner, fairly or unfairly.
Yet Henry Bull simply elicited the facts —very much in the same manner as William Whiteacre did the next day with his client in the witness box. Later, in their addresses to the jury, the two counsel were to make it quite clear that they interpreted the facts differently, that Bull believed a conviction would be the just finding, that Whiteacre was for a verdict of not guilty.
This, I thought as the trial proceeded, is one of the benefits of serving on a jury, in spite of other unpleasant aspects —to be reminded that in Canada the crown counsel is not a prosecutor but an officer of the court whose duty it is to bring out all the facts of a case, for and against the accused; that he is not elected, as in the United States, and does not have to build up a record of convictions to use as a platform for re-election.
Florence Laballister, a handsome woman with flashing eyes, testified that she and Ann Ritchie had met in beer parlors and had become acquainted because both were of Indian blood. A year before, she and her husband had moved into the rooming house where Ann lived.
“She'd fix him”
On June 6, said Florence, she met Stanley Mitchell, another roomer in the George Street house, on a downtown street. Mitchell was drunk and she sent him home to sleep it off. Late in the afternoon she returned to the house and sent Ann out to buy wine.
They drank, first in the Laballisters' third-floor room until George Laballister fell asleep, then in Ann's second-floor room. Mitchell came to the door, calling for Florence to come out and swearing at the two women. Then Mitchell entered the room. Florence said. There was a scuffle. Mitchell tore her dress, grabbed a frying pan and hit both women on the head. He left the room but returned in a few minutes and again called the women names.
“I was at the dresser fixing my clothing and looking at my head,” said Florence Laballister. "I heard the silverware drawer open. Then Ann went out. She said she would fix him. When she came back into the room in a couple of minutes she said she had fixed him. I didn't see anything in her hand.”
The witness said she went out into the hall and found Mitchell lying there with a wound in the right side of his chest. She called Ann and put a towel on Mitchell’s head while Ann felt his pulse. He was still breathing but died before police arrived.
That ended our first day’s hearing. Mr. Mac and his three assistants chivvied us into two orderly groups again (because of the city hall's small elevators) and we reassembled in a side lobby, strode down to Queen Street, west to York Street (eyes left, but without a pause, for the Casino Theatre's intriguing posters) and down Vork Street.
Our destination wasn’t the modest mid-
town hotel I had been warned to expect, but the luxurious new L.ord Simcoe. So far my informative neighbor had been one hundred percent wrong. But there was a story to the change of accommodation, f was to learn.
For years the hotel accommodation given York County murder juries was more economical than munificent. Murder juries for the past year and into the foreseeable future can thank a young man named Frank McGee for their present comfort. McGee, then a buyer with Sfmpsons-Sears, was called on murder juries two years in succession and chafed at the poor accommodation. The second time, his jury was given as a “common room” for evening relaxation a chamber in which the hotel charladies hung their working clothes. “The atmosphere,” McGee recalled later, “was one of honest toil.”
Indignant, McGee gave Kelso Roberts, provincial attorney-general, a vivid description of the conditions under which juries were confined. Quietly the change was made a year ago. McGee, incidentally, entered politics soon after his protest, ran as a Conservative in York-Scarborough in the last two federal elections— and received the largest majorities in Canada's political history.
We dozen beneficiaries of McGee's campaign entered the Lord Simcoe through a side door and were whisked up to the sixteenth floor without registering. Once more there was the business of waiting for an empty elevator. It was amusing, during the next three days, to watch the look of bewilderment on the faces of guests. One or two would be on an elevator that stopped at our floor. There would be plenty of room for all sixteen of us, but Mr. Mac would wave the operator on and ask for an empty elevator.
We had the sixteenth floor to ourselves. Each juror had his own room, and the four sheriff’s officers shared the two rooms nearest the elevators. As long as we were in residence—after court, all night and in the morning—one of Mr. Mac’s assistants occupied a chair in the corridor between our rooms and the elevators.
Mr. Mac handed out keys. We now had our third number, our sole identification as jurors: our number on the whole panel, our number on the jury, and our room number.
"Dinner at 6.30,” said Mr. Mac. “Your bags should be here when we get back."
I opened my door and looked around the luxurious cell assigned to me. I noted a couple of peculiarities. The l ord Simcoe boasts "TV in every room” but there was none in mine, just the marks on the rug where one had stood. The hotel has built-in radios in every room, but the control knobs had been removed. (Next day a fellow juror confided that the controls could be manipulated by an old-fashioned house key.)
Then I noted a strange oversight in the security measures: the telephone had not been removed. 1 lifted the receiver, more out of curiosity than intention to make a call. The line was dead.
Before claustrophobia could engulf me completely, we were called to assemble for dinner. Once more we went through the manoeuvre of waiting for an empty elevator and proceeding in closed ranks to the dining room. In the Lord Simcoe’s big restaurant we weren’t screened off. but were seated in the back of the room at a table laid for sixteen. We could see the curious glances of other diners.
We were handed resplendent menus— incorporating an excellent wine list. Once more we jurors, at any rate some of us. took up with Mr. Mac the question of our right to order a drink. Once more we were turned down.
What are your chances of serving on a murder jury?
What are the chances that any average Canadian will be called? Theoretically, it’s twenty thousand to one against, since there are an average of thirty-three murder cases tried each year in this country, with fewer than four hundred jurors, and there are more than eight million Canadians between twenty-one and seventy, the age of eligibility.
But a number of factors juggle those odds. By unwritten law, women are not chosen for murder trials (they don’t serve on any juries in Quebec and Prince Edward Island). This means that the average Canadian male has a mere ten thousand chances against one of having to try a prisoner for his life. But tens of thousands are exempted by occupation, lawyers, doctors, dentists, editors, court and government officials among them.
Chances of challenge
Even after a man has reached the point of being included on the jury panel of a court session which includes a murder trial, the chance is still high that (a) his name won’t he selected in the “lottery" by which the actual jury is chosen, or that (b) he will be challenged by crown or defense counsel if he is chosen.
In Canada the defense can challenge twenty jurors in a murder trial without reason, the crown can challenge four and make fortyeight “stand aside” until all the waiting jurors have been called. Seldom are twelve jurors accepted from the first twenty called, as in the trial of Ann Ritchie, described on these pages.
They look for open minds
When William Whiteacre. Ann Ritchie’s defense counsel, was asked his reasons for challenging five jurors, he said: “That’s something they don’t teach you in law school, and this was my first murder case. An older lawyer once advised me to try for a jury composed of men who have seen a lot of life but have not been soured by it, men who look as if they have open minds: by occupation, preferably salesmen, skilled craftsmen or ex-
ecutives in the middle brackets.”
Henry Bull for the crown “stood aside" three jurors. He was seeking the opposite verdict from Whiteacre, but his basis for arriving at a good jury was essentially the same as the defense counsel’s —men able and willing to pay close and intelligent attention to the case. But Bull is a veteran of more than forty murder trials and countless criminal cases, and has developed a sharp philosophy about the process of selecting members of a jury.
Expectant fathers are out
“None of it is a personal reflection on anyone.” he says, “but it is arbitrarily aimed at getting the best jury.” He often challenges men in the upper age brackets, because the thinking of such men might get woolly in the course of a long and complex hearing. He usually challenges physically handicapped jurors or those who appear in poor health, not only from humanitarian motives but because they may pay less attention to the evidence than to their own discomfort. One of the jurors in the Ann Ritchie case had a wife in hospital expecting a baby. “1 didn't know that or 1 wouldn't have accepted him.” said Bull.
No joiners need apply
A man with two or three club badges on his lapel is not likely to get onto Bull's juries, because the crown counsel tabs him as “a joiner, a poor risk as an independent thinker.” Bull pays close attention to clothes. A man who turns up in tartan jacket and sports shirt shows himself not attuned to the dignity of the court and the seriousness of jury duty. A man in work clothes carrying a lunch pail is hoping to be allowed to go on to his job after a brief interruption, and hasn't got his mind on the proceedings.
Bull, one of whose own hobbies is sketching, likes artistic people as acquaintances but not as jurymen.
“1 don't think they can do much cold, hard thinking." he says. “They're likely to draw illogical, artistic-type conclusions and indulge in flights of fancy.”
"Not even if we pay for it ourselves?" someone asked. Mr. Mac shook his head.
Reading the menu, I noticed "fruit compote, brandy sauce” among the desserts. "Maybe we can't have any of that,”
I said with what I hoped was fine irony.
"All you can eat," answered Mr. Mac blandly.
After dinner Mr. Mac told us that we could buy some magazines and such books as the hotel newsstand afforded —at least, we could pay for them, and his men would get them. We would not be allowed to ask for newspapers or news magazines. Our choice of reading perhaps would interest a psychologist: faced with a stretch of lonely confinement, we asked for magazines that, perhaps, not all of us would normally read—“girlie" and "for men only" types of periodical.
Back in our rooms. Mr. Mac asked us in turn if we would like to communicate with our homes. Not directly, of course, hut through him. I went to his room and sat meekly while he got my wife on the telephone. The conversation went like this:
"Hello, Mrs. McIIroy? This is a sheriff's officer speaking. I have Mr. McIIroy with me and he would like to know how everything is at home. I see. Sue has a cough but there's nothing to worry about. The other children are fine . . . Oh. he's fine. He wants to know if there's anything you need. Nothing? Well, thank you and good-by."
The scene—kindly, cautious Mr. Mac sitting on his bed conducting a proxy personal conversation for me — suddenly reminded me of a time in my boyhood when I had traveled, bravely alone, to visit an aunt and uncle, and my aunt had telephoned home to report my safe arrival.
When I had thanked Mr. Mac and was about to return to my room, I noticed the jurors' baggage had arrived and was stacked in his room. I reached toward my suitcase and said. “I’ll take this now and save you the trouble."
“No trouble." said Mr. Mac. "Well send it down to you."
1 walked back to my room wondering whether my wife had understood my requirement of "cough medicine." I also wondered if our baggage would be examined—I had definitely got the impression that it would—-and if so what would happen when a contraband bottle of whisky was discovered.
When ihe bag arrived, there was a bottle of whisky in it. l ater Mr. Mac knocked on our doors to see if there was anything we needed. I had the distinct sense of being "tucked in for the night"—and also that Mr. Mac was well aware of the contents of my bag. He wore a slightly quizzical expression when
he said, "Are you sure you have everything you need?”
If this narrative seems to stress the subject of liquor, it is because of what I learned later. At the time it did not occur to me that the prohibition imposed on us was quite unsanctioned by any law, an arbitrary piece of tyranny by an authority which happened to be in charge of our physical destiny for a short time.
The reason why 1 and my fellow jurors —like countless juries for several years past—accepted the denial of our right to buy so much as a glass of beer when we were off duty with little more than a good-natured grumble is simple: we had suddenly found ourselves surrounded by prohibitions and restrictions of various kinds, and we submitted to this one as part of what we thought must be the preordained treatment of a “separated" jury. But it slowly dawned on me—one has a lot of time for unelevated thinking as an isolated juryman—that the denial of the right to order a drink when off duty was not part of the procedure necessary to prevent jurors from being exposed to outside influences.
Later when I investigated the source of the prohibition. Judge Wells said he was unaware of the practice and saw no reason for it. especially in the evenings. When Kelso Roberts. Ontario's attorneygeneral. was asked about the rule his answer was a blunt “It's news to me." The jury system is administered by his department, and he made enquiries among his officials, who investigated and reported that the ban on drinks was “a practice rather than a rule" imposed by Ontario sheriffs, who gave a variety of reasons:
"It dates back to prohibition when drinks weren't legal and we've never got around to changing it." said one.
"If the public saw jurymen having a drink with dinner they'd think the taxpayers were paying for it." said another sheriff.
"Jurymen have an important duty and shouldn't he allowed to take a drink." was the decision of a third, who did not add that judges, lawyers and other court officials play important parts in a trial, too, but can conduct their personal lives outside the court.
The fact that my bottle was left in m\ hag at the hotel gave me the impression that sheriffs' officers know they have no real power to impose prohibition on jurymen and won t face a showdown on the question.
Other petty tyrannies are imposed on jurymen. We were due in court, four blocks from the hotel, at ten o clock. But the man on the early-morning shift in the chair at the end of the corridor pounded on our doors at 6.30. As a result. we were dressed, breakfasted and assembled before eight thirty. We suggest-
ed to Mr. Mac that since we had lots of time he might take us for a walk. He declined.
“Well at least let's go by way of University Avenue,” said one juryman. That would be only two blocks longer than the direct route, but in pleasanter surroundings than bleak York Street. Mr. Mac didn't refuse—but led us directly up York Street. We spent more than an hour of confinement in the forlorn jury room waiting our summons to court.
On the second day we heard Ann Ritchie's story. She said she was a fullblooded Ojibway Indian, born on the Southampton Reservation near Owen Sound. She had been a devout churchwoman, organist and Sunday school teacher at the Southampton United Church.
"I was very religious,” she said. “1 was against drinking and smoking and going to shows."
She married a man on the reservation and had children, but the marriage did not work out. She separated from her husband and took him back again several times before she decided to come to Toronto eight years ago. She supported herself by doing domestic work.
In Toronto she met another man with whom she became friendly. ”1 thought lie needed somebody and I needed somebody too.”
Her friend was a heavy drinker, Ann said. She tried to reform him. She took him to church regularly, and he stopped drinking. But he started again and presently they stopped going to church and Ann started drinking too.
Ann's story of the events of the terrible night of June 6 was almost identical with the testimony of Florence Laballister. But there was one significant différence. Florence had told of hearing the silverware compartment open before Ann followed Stanley Mitchell into the hall. The implication w'as that Ann had deliberately searched for and obtained the knife with which Mitchell was killed.
Ann said that her son had visited her earlier that day, had fried himself an egg and used the knife to break the yolk, as was his habit, and had left the knife on the stove.
Later that night Mitchell, whom she did not know although he lived three doors from her in the rooming house, forced his way into her room, struck Florence and herself with a frying pan, tore Florence's dress, then struck Ann in the eye with his fist.
“That was when 1 grabbed something on the stove,” Ann said. “1 hit him with whatever it was. He walked away as if nothing had happened. In a few minutes Florence went out. I sat down at the table and I noticed I had a knife in my hand. I didn't notice any blood on it."
There were two strangely patheticlittle touches to Ann's testimony. She said that when Florence called her out into the hall and she saw Mitchell lying there, she thought he had had an epileptic attack.
So she felt his weak pulse, fetched a wet towel for his head, then noticed a little bloodstain on his shirt. She dabbed iodine on the wound that was to cause the man's death within minutes. Then a terrible realization began to dawn on her. She had struck Mitchell with "something” that later turned out to be a knife, and now Mitchell was dying with a wound in his chest.
"1 was the one that had the knife.” she told the court. “I figured it must have been me.”
Ann Ritchie told of being taken to Regent Street police station, where she related as best she could recollect the blurred events of the evening. Then they
escorted her to Belmont Street station: “I walked in and the matron handed me blankets and I walked into the cell. They didn't lock the door. 1 lay down.” "What happened then?” asked William Whiteacre.
"I fell asleep," she said.
Ann Ritchie did not finish her testimony before court was adjourned on the second day. We went through the now familiar drill of assembly, close-order descent by elevator, and the march to outhotel. There had been a slight deviation from routine that day. At lunch, the
screen that separated us from the public in Childs Restaurant had fallen with a resounding crash. So instead of being concealed, we were suddenly and spectacularly revealed to the other patrons of the crowded restaurant. Even after Mr. Mac’s assistants had hurriedly replaced the screen we sensed the curious interest of the people in the restaurant. I suspected that one of the jurymen slyly nudged the screen to cause a little excitement.
I do not want to give the impression that boredom was the only feeling of the
jurymen. As the case progressed we took an increasing interest in it. The judge had told us we could discuss the evidence among ourselves, but warned us not to form any conclusion until we had heard the whole case. In the evenings wc got together in one of the jurors' rooms. We tried a few hands of poker, but soon found we were more interested in debating the day's testimony than in playing cards.
The case was completed, hut for the judge's direction, at 4.30 in the afternoon. “If the jury wishes, I will adjourn until
tomorrow,” offered Mr. Justice Wells.
We didn’t have to take a vote. Every juryman was willing to work overtime rather than spend another night of isolation. The judge told us it was up to us to decide on the evidence whether Ann Ritchie was acting in self-defense when she struck out at Mitchell. He said that if he were on the jury he would be inclined to bring in a verdict of manslaughter.
And that verdict seemed to be the one we would have brought in, to judge by the opinions expressed around the big table in the jury room. But before we could vote, Mr. Mac came in and told us we were wanted in court again. Both crown and defense had asked the judge to clarify the law on self-defense.
“If you are satisfied that Ann Ritchie was defending herself, or if some other doubt arises in your mind, then you must give her the benefit of that doubt and acquit her,” said the judge. “You are only entitled to convict if you do not accept the evidence of the accused. If you have any doubts then those doubts must be resolved in favor of the accused.”
That statement, standing out from the mass of words we had listened to for
three days, had a decisive effect. When we returned to the jury room, ten of the jurors were for acquittal. Two still thought manslaughter was the right verdict.
We argued, but the ten were adamant. The two did not give in easily, and it was ten o’clock when our foreman stood up in court and announced: “Not guilty.”
I looked at the four persons most concerned. Henry Bull seemed quite surprised at our verdict. To a lesser degree, so did the judge and William Whiteacre. No emotion showed on the face of Ann Ritchie. She did not appear to understand when the judge told her she was free to go. Even when Whiteacre repeated the good news to her she just sat there.
We bade Mr. Mac a cordial farewell. The elderly ex-policeman had been doing his duty as he saw it. and we did not blame him personally for our frustrations. As we made our way toward the only door of the city hall that remained open at that late hour, we saw a woman walking ahead of us, alone.
It was Ann Ritchie. Without a word she passed through the door. We watched her walk slowly along Queen Street toward the house where she lived. ★