A Trial on Trial: The Great Sedition Trial of 1944

A Trial on Trial: The Great Sedition Trial of 1944

A Trial on Trial: The Great Sedition Trial of 1944

A Trial on Trial: The Great Sedition Trial of 1944


"I'll tell you what ought to be done with those seditionists: half of them ought to be taken out and shot and the other half ought to be locked up in a lunatic asylum. They turned that trial into a farce, killed the trial judge and made a mockery of justice."

Thus pronounced himself a prominent Washington attorney and a former high official in the Department of Justice, discussing the celebrated Sedition Trial with one of the defense attorneys. Thereupon ensued a conversation somewhat as follows:

"You are familiar with the charges in the indictment and the record of the trial, I suppose?" queried this defense attorney.

"Oh, no. I don't know anything about the case except what little I read about it from time to time in the newspapers during the trial and, of course, what I heard around town."

"Well, let me ask you this: do you believe that one of the chief purposes of criminal trial by jury is to determine whether the charges are true or is it your idea of a criminal trial that its function is merely to ratify a popular verdict against the accused who have already been tried and convicted in the newspapers?"

"Certainly, I believe in due process of law. That's just why I say that those blankety-blank seditionists should not have been allowed to turn that trial into a joke. Why, if they had had a tough judge, as they deserved, he would have thrown the lot of them into jail for contempt of court."

"You will admit, won't you, that if the judge had sent all or most of the defendants and their counsel to jail for contempt while the trial was in progress it would have been a rather sorry performance from the point of view of upholding the majesty of the law?"

"Look here, I believe in 100% Americanism and the maintenance of the dignity of our courts. As I see it, these damn crackpots and their lawyers were un-American and made a joke of a criminal trial!"

"Knowing you as well as I do, I am prepared to take your word for it that you are a 100% American and against all subversive elements. But I am going to ask you a simple question: Do you believe in lynching? . . ."

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