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The prisoners having been brought up and put to the bar, Mr. Rush addressed the Court upon the embarrassment under which he labored in consequence of his client, Mina's, imperfect knowledge of the English language. Although it was with considerable difficulty the indictment had been explained to the prisoner, he was prepared to waive all objections to the immediate arraignment on that ground, provided that, by pleading to the indictment at once, he did not debar himself from the right, on which it might be his duty to insist, to be tried by a jury of which one-half should be composed of foreigners (de medietate lingua). It was his object therefore to obtain some assurance from the Court, or from the prosecution, that an immediate plea to the indictment should not foreclose that right.
Mr. Ross, so far from taking any advantage of the kind referred to, had concluded, if the application for a jury de medietate should be pressed, to accede to it. Without admitting it to be the law, he was disposed to yield, from a wish to extend to the prisoner any advantage which he might suppose such a privilege would afford.
The prisoners were then arraigned, and severally pleaded Not Guilty to the indictment. Being asked separately how they would be tried, they answered, "By God and my country."
Mr. McDonald asked that the prisoners be tried separately, which, after argument, was granted by the COURT.
Mr. Ross said they would take up the case of Lucretia Chapman first, and the clerk proceeded to call the jurors to the box.
The Clerk. Lucretia Chapman, alias Lucretia Espos y Mina, stand up. These good men who are now to be called are the same which shall pass between the Commonwealth and you. If you have any objections to make to them, you will make them as they are called up to be sworn, and before they are sworn; and you shall be heard. You have a right to twenty peremptory challenges, and as many more as you can show cause for.
John B. Balderson called.
Mr. Ross. We propose to ask this juror the following questions. Whether he has any conscientious scruples on the subject of capital punishment? And if so, whether those scruples would prevent him, under any circumstances, from finding a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree?
The COURT. This is departing from the settled practice in this
1817; Clerk Philadelphia Common Council, 1819-1820; Deputy Attorney General (district attorney); Recorder of Philadelphia and presided in the Mayor's Court, 1838-1841. Died in Philadelphia. See Battle Hist, of Bucks Co., Univ. of Pa. Cat., Scharf & Westcott Hist. of Phila. (1884), Martin Bench and Bar of Phila., Brown (D. P.), Philadelphia Bar (1868).
15 MCDOWELL, ELEAZER T. Admitted to Bar, 1822. Whig in polities and prominent in political campaigns, but declined all official positions save that of member of State Constitutional Convention. See Battle Hist. of Bucks Co., Wright, C. E., "Four Lawyers of the Doylestown Bar," (in Bucks Co. Hist. Coll. I, 627).
Court, and we must therefore have some reason for it. When a juror objects, spontaneously, from conscientious, motives, to serving on a jury, he is excused by our practice.
Mr. Reed, Mr. McCall and Mr. Brown argued the question at length.
The COURT. The Commonwealth's counsel propose to ask the juror the following question, viz: Whether he has any conscientious seruples on the subject of capital punishment, and if so, whether those scruples would prevent him from finding a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree, under any circumstances? Prima facie, every person summoned and returned upon the panel is a competent juror, but his incomptency for various reasons may be shown. If a juror is interested, or a near relation of a party, or infirm from age or sickness, he may be challenged or set aside by the Court for the latter cause without challenge. A challenge for the cause now proposed to be shown by the examination of the juror, was, I believe, first sustained in this Court in Brown's case, in the Presidency of Judge Ross. In that case, upon the juror stating his scruples, the challenge was allowed, but when it was proposed in the same case to ask other jurors the question as to their conscientious scruples, the Court would not permit it to be done. This has since been the rule practiced upon here, particularly in Rousseau's case. There the Court refused to suffer such a question as is now proposed to be put to a juror.
It is said that Lesher's case has extended the rule. It goes a step farther, perhaps, as to the means of showing the incompetency. The Supreme Court there say, "It is not material that the intimation of his (the juror's) unfitness to do justice in the case came first from himself." I agree fully in this-if it be shown to the Court by any evidence that the juror is not fit to do justice in the cause, it would be a good cause of challenge; but that is not the point now in controversy. It is, whether a juror may be compelled, by answers to interrogatories to show that he has scruples of conscience which disqualify him from serving. In the first place, I consider this point as settled in this Court by Brown's case, unless the Supreme Court have determined it differently. This has not been shown.
But, upon principle, I think it would be contrary to the principles of our government to compel a juror to show that by reason of conscientious scruples, he was disqualified from exercising an important. privilege, such as that of serving upon juries. The examination for that purpose would necessarily be inquisitorial in its character, and, the right once admitted, it would be difficult to define its limits. We therefore decide that the question cannot be put.
Mr. Ross. May we prove that the juror is one of a denomination of people who do have such conscientious scruples?
The COURT. If you can show that it is a rule of faith with his society, and he is in full standing, perhaps you may; but it is not a matter of conscience in the society of Friends, as a society. Many of its members have such scruples, others have not.
Mr. Reed. Will the Court instruct the jurors that they have the right to excuse themselves from conscientious motives?
The COURT. We will not interfere. It is an exemption the juror may ask, and we will go further.
Mr. Ross' request that he might be allowed to instruct them was also denied.
The Juror. I have strong doubts of the propriety of capital punishments—but have no scruples of conscience on the subject.
The COURT directed the clerk to proceed in calling jurors until two should be qualified who should act as triers of Mr. Balderson. This was done and Mr. Balderson was found, upon examination, to be indifferent, and therefore qualified. Lewis Smedley stated his conscientious scruples, and was excused.
Two others were tried, and having previously formed or expressed opinions as to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner, were set aside. Twenty persons were challenged peremptorily, and one for cause.
The following named persons were severally sworn or affirmed as jurors: John B. Balderson, Joseph Paul, Henry Licey, John Shutt, Joseph Watson, Jr., Henry Hartzell, John Palmer, John Yardley, Lewis Kinsey, Robert Phillips, Richard Leedom, William M. White.
MR. ROSS, FOR THE PROSECUTION.
Mr. Ross: Gentlemen of the Jury-The Grand Inquest of the County, at the last Court of Oyer and Terminer, returned to this Court a bill of indictment charging the prisoner at the bar with the wilful, deliberate, and premeditated murder of William Chapman, by administering poison. To this indictment she has pleaded not guilty, and has put herself upon her God and her country for trial. You, gentlemen, constitute that country, and you have just been solemnly sworn or affirmed to decide upon her guilt or innocence according to the evidence that may be adduced before you. In fulfilling this duty; so solemn and sacred in its character, you will no doubt be governed solely by a strict regard to the public justice of the country, and the maintenance of those laws, which alone can secure us in the enjoyment of our lives, our liberty, and our property. The crime of murder has occurred so frequently in this county within the last few years, that it is calculated to awaken the fears of the community, and to render it imperiously the duty of jurors to carry into execution the laws of the Commonwealth, without regard to the consequences that may follow a verdict of conviction. Scarcely, indeed, has more than one year passed by since there was placed at this bar, upon his trial,
a brother charged with having imbrued his hands in the blood of a brother. In the same bar, and before a jury of the same county, there is now about to be placed upon her trial, a wife, charged with having been the destroyer and the murderess of her husband.
Incredible as it may appear, that a crime so heinous in its character, and evincing so much profligacy and depravity of heart, should have been perpetrated within the limits of this peaceable and moral community; nevertheless, the evidence which we shall lay before you, will irresistibly lead you to the melancholy truth, that the prisoner at the bar is guilty of the offense with which she stands indicted.
The indictment which you are about to try, contains three counts, and charges Mrs. Chapman, jointly with another, with the perpetration of this murder. She is indicted as a principal in all the counts. A principal in the first degree, is one who is the actor or absolute perpetrator of the crime. I will not now trouble you with the law relative to principals, as it will be fully detailed to you in the future progress of this case; but will proceed to disclose to you the evidence which will be offered in support of this indictment, and to which I now ask your serious and undivided attention. It appears that some time in the month of May last, about twilight, there appeared at the door of Mrs. Chapman's residence a stranger calling himself Mina, and asking permission to stay the night. Representing himself as the son of General Mina, and as being poor and friendless, in a strange land, the permission was not only granted, but he was seated at the family board and partook in other respects of the hospitality extended to him by the unfortunate husband of the prisoner at the bar. He prolonged his stay at Andalusia, where Mrs. Chapman soon contracted that illfated intimacy with him, which alone could have induced her to conspire against the life of her husband, and which is not only about to bring upon her own head the vengeance of the law, but must, in some measure, entail misery and disgrace upon her innocent and helpless children. The evidence will disclose such a scene of profligacy and immorality
as has been seldom witnessed in this, or indeed in any other country. Immediately after this stranger had taken up his residence in the family, Mrs. Chapman virtually divorced herself from her husband. She treated him with the greatest cruelty and indignity, and not only reproached him with the most opprobious epithets, but repeatedly expressed a wish that he was gone. In fact, all that affection and kindness which a wife should entertain for her husband, seemed to have given place to the most deep and bitter hatred. Entertaining this dislike of her husband, it is not surprising that she should have formed an illicit intercourse with this person, who had thus introduced himself into her family. The evidence will leave no doubt upon your minds that such an intimacy had existed between them for some time previous to the death of her husband. So wanton was her conduct, and so openly and shamelessly manifested, that it attracted not only the observation of her neighbors, but of her own children and family. The maid servant left the house in consequence of the gross impropriety which she saw, and Mr. Chapman, the husband, not only ordered Mina from the house, and complained of the ill conduct of his wife, but wept bitterly over the misery and disgrace, which she was almost daily inflicting upon him. Having laid before you this testimony, we think that we shall have assigned a motive for this horrid transaction, and have satisfied you that Mrs. Chapman was possessed of no moral principle sufficient to restrain her from the commission of the dark and nefarious deed with which she stands charged.
We will endeavor to show that a conspiracy existed between these individuals to poison Mr. Chapman. Mina, on the 16th of June, was in the city of Philadelphia, and we shall be able satisfactorily to prove to you that he at that time purchased of a respectable druggist a quantity of arsenic. He stated that he was making a collection of birds, and that he wished the arsenic for the purpose of using it in their preparation; whereas the evidence will be clear and positive that he, at that time, could not have been engaged in collecting birds. The next day after his return to Andalusia, Chapman was