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How many divisions are there of the United States court in Maryland ?
Mr. SOBELOFF. It is the United States Court of Maryland, one district. We have jury commissioners appointed by the district judge. Of course, our court has jurisdiction coextensive with the limits of the State of Maryland. It usually sits at Baltimore, which contributes a great bulk of the business, civil and criminal, that comes before that court. It holds two sessions a year at Cumberland, and two sessions a year at Denton on the Eastern Shore. Of course, the court is not obliged to sit at any particular place to hear any particular case. The court can very readily, if public sentiment at the time in any particular locality would prevent a fair trial, order a session at some other place in the district.
Senator Van Nuys. A criminal case does not have to be tried in the division in which it arose ?
Mr. SOBELOFF. The entire State of Maryland is one district or division, although the court sits in three places, these three places I have enumerated. There have been special sessions of the court, not required by statute, but permitted, at other places in the State. Some years ago Judge Soper, finding the facilities at Denton inadequate to hear a case involving a good many defendants, held a session at Easton. The judge may hold a session anywhere in the State.
Senator Van Nuys. Do you feel that by drawing a jury throughout the entire district you could have a fair and impartial jury to a greater extent than could be done within the confines of a single county?
Mr. SOBELOFF. I think that is absolutely true. Of course, as a practical matter, jurors serving in Baltimore are usually drawn from Baltimore and the neighboring counties. When the court sits in western Maryland, they are drawn from that section of the State. But the court can, in order to exclude the possibility that its process would be unduly affected by local sentiment, meet that problem by deciding to hold the court in a remote part of the State. It could also supervise the selection of the jury. Of course, no man has the right to have a jury selected favorable to his case, but the law guarantees him the right to have a fair and impartial jury, properly selected.
Senator Van Nuys. Thank you very much, indeed.
The committee must recess for a few minutes, to vote to the Senate. We will resume as quickly as possible.
(At 3:20 p.m., a recess was taken until 3:35 p.m.) STATEMENT OF STRICKLAND GILLILAND, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Senator Van Nuys. It is with much pleasure that I introduce at this time Mr. Strickland Gilliland, poet, radio commentator, and known to more public audiences than probably any other public speaker at this time.
Mr. GILLILAND. Thank you, Senator. I am a little bit at a loss to know why I am called in on a matter of lynching in general, and I want to say to the gentlemen of the press that what I am going to say is not very important, either.
I am fully aware that I am taking long chances and much risk in saying anything about lynching, as I depend upon the Eastern Shore of Maryland for most of the fishing that I do. There may be some element of ingratitude in my saying anything whatever against lynching, because I have been speaking in public for many vears and have practically never been lynched.
I have never looked favorably upon lynching. I have a friend who has always been bitter against it for a very peculiar reason. He said that some of his relatives were lynched one time down in Kentucky. The fact that the lynchers came afterward and told the wives of these two men that they had been mistaken, that the joke was on thein, that the boys had not been guilty of the crime for which they were lynched, did not seem to furnish much balm to the widow. But his bitterness came more from the fact that they had used such poor judgment in selecting relatives of his to be lynched. He said he had other relatives he would so much rather have had lynched than the ones they took. He said that while he could not exactly say he had any relatives he would like to have lynched, yet if some of them had to be lynched, he would much rather have been given some choice about it, and he felt that he had some relatives that could have been better spared in a pinch.
One of the principal things against lynching is the lack of intelligence involved in it, which, by the way, is one of the principal things wrong with any human wrongdoing. I think that there is no wrongJoing in the world in which lack of intelligence is not the basis.
There is a good deal of talk in this country at this time about unonployment, but the most serious unemployment situation anywhere in America at any time is that which exists north of the human al's It is common all over the country at all times, and I think it is the basis of all other unemployment.
When a crime is committed in a community, it grows from bestial cupidity. When a lynching comes a little later on, it grows from
at the same root, with a little more widespread bestial stupidity. the basis of both is exactly the same, and you can always say truthFull that where a crime is committed, that community has not impviend any since the crime. The criminal spirit has merely spread
utlu wider, and that is all.
Ivo believe that this law, which I do not understand in detail23 that is not the only thing I do not understand in detail, let Now - but this law seems to me to be well-founded, because it
veces the community by the hand of the Government from its wwal upidity that may run riot and rampant in that community u PN given time. In speaking of stupidity, I mean either the Fall 24 il or the acquired kind. Inte that is all I have to say at this time.
for lux Nuys. Thank you very much, Mr. Gilliland. I am stills under this long, hard, tedious day, the little note of humor you Herted into our proceeding is refreshing. I thank you for Decod por
price here today.
STATEMENT OF LOUIS AZRAEL, ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF THE
Senator Van Nuys. Mr. Louis Azrael, associate editor of the Baltimore Post, is the next witness.
Mr. AZRAEL. Mr. Chairman, I am sorry that after this note of humor I have to send you back to the long, hard tediousness.
I do not know anything about any lynchings except the two in Maryland. Because of my work I had to find out some little bit about those and have some contact with them. I think if the committee wanted to create two sets of conditions as a laboratory experiment to illustrate the need for Federal legislation against İynching, it could not have created two conditions which demonstrate that need more clearly than the two lynchings which have occurred in Maryland within the last 3 years.
Attention has been concentrated here, I notice, on the second lynching, the George Armwood lynching. I think the first one, the lynching of a man named Matthew Williams, in December of 1931, is also worthy of attention. The two situations were entirely different. That represented, it seems to me, one extreme in the reaction of the State to a lynching, and the other represents what I am afraid is a more normal attitude. The other extreme is the one seen in California, which is simply a human abnormality. We do not run across that sort of thing very often. The two lynchings in Maryland represented, in the first instance, pretty much an apathetic attitude. The second demonstrates a situation in which the State governor, with the best of intentions, being just as active and vigorous as he could be, was absolutely helpless to prosecute the lyncher's or punish them adequately.
Now, as to the first one, a man named Matthew Williams, who had shot a white man, was hanged in the court house square in the town of Salisbury, a town of 11,000 people, on December 5, 1931, I believe it was. There were at least 2,500 spectators of that lynching. The man was dragged from a hospital, dragged down the main street of the city, hanged, taken down, and his body was again dragged through the main street of the city. Efforts were made to burn him and he was hanged again. The details are unimportant, for the purpose of this hearing.
The town and county officers took no effective action for some time. The Governor asked Attorney General Lane, who testified here this morning, to assist in the investigation. Although under the Maryland law the legal powers of the Attorney General to assist in any investigation are not well defined, he was asked to investigate. The law does not say how far he may go nor what power he has.
The grand jury did not meet until March 15. He called 128 witnesses. While, of course, I was not in the grand jury room, I know that those 128 witnesses were examined in 2 days. Seventy witnesses were called in 1 day. It could not have been anything but a perfunctory sort of proceeding. No action was taken. The State's attorney of the county said he thought the grand jury had done excellent work. Mr. Lane said he believed no comment from him was necessary. The clergymen and the newspapers in the community either said nothing at all about the lynching, or else attempted to give extenuating circumstances, or mitigating circumstances, for the community.
Now; in my opinion, I think the State government did not do its full duty in that case. It did not make a vigorous effort to prosecute the lynchers. There is ample evidence in the second case of what it could have done. I think it was a kind of apathy, a question of apathy in the first lynching. The answer to a situation like that might very well be that it was the fault of the people of the State; that they ought to elect officers who would be vigorous in the discharge of their duty. That is the State's rights argument carried to what I believe to be an unreasonable extreme. The answer to that argument is very beautifully demonstrated in the second lynching. The second lynching is a perfect answer, it seems to me, to the argument that the State ought to take care of the situation.
George Armwood was lynched on October 18, 1933, in Princess Anne, Somerset County. Princess Anne is a town of about 1,000 people. Over 2,000 attended the ceremony. Some hours previously, in trying to dispel a mob which obviously threatened, Judge Duer, standing in front of the crowd, said: “Ï know all of you people. Why don't you go home?" He said he knew them.
The State government, after the lynching, adopted an attitude entirely different from the one it had shown a year and a half or so previously. This may have been due to a high sense of responsibility. It may have been due to the fact that in the second case the man was taken from State policemen, or rather, State policemen were guarding the jail where he was imprisoned. It may also have been due to the fact that some blame rested directly upon the Governor of our State for the situation which made the lynching possible. I mean that George Armwood, after his arrest, was removed to Baltimore for safekeeping. Subsequently he was taken out of the Baltimore jail and taken back to the Eastern Shore. There was ample warning that some trouble might be expected.
Just to illustrate that, the last edition of the paper on which I am employed comes out on the streets at 6 o'clock in the afternoon. It must be written, of course, some time before that. The last edition of that paper carried an 8-column headline saying that “ Mobs are forming on the Eastern Shore and there is grave danger that a lynching will occur tonight." That must have been written before 5:30. The lynching occurred at 9:30. There was plenty of time in which to remove that man from that jail. It was not done. I have no doubt that the officers who did not remove him thought it was perfectly safe not to do so. Certainly, although the Governor had the legal power to order him removed, I have no doubt that he thought he was absolutely safe. It happened that he was wrong about that. I think if there was any possibility at all of a lynching the man should have immediately been removed. However, that point was raised, and it may have been due to that that the State government was so extremely vigorous.
Immediately after the lynching Governor Ritchie demanded that the judges and the State's attorney act. He ordered Mr. Lane to go into the situation actively. State police and city police were sent down. Mr. Lane obtained the evidence that he presented to you this morning and asked an indictment. The State administration did everything it possibly could do after the lynching. The State's attorney of the county, Mr. Robins, refused to ask for indictments. He said that he was willing to present the testimony to the grand jury. If they wished to indict, very well.
Well, of course, it is not necessary for me to point out to you gentlemen the difference involved in those two proceedings. The testimony would have been presented to the grand jury in secret. The grand jury could very well have done what the previous grand jury did in regard to the Williams case. At any rate, the Governor, for the first time I know of, in Maryland, invoked the full power of the State. He sent the militia down. Four men were arrested. The entire section went into almost a literal revolt. They attacked the building where the men were held prisoners. They made the militia retreat with their prisoners. The four men were taken to Baltimore, and immediately a judge on the Eastern Shore issued a writ of habeas corpus, and the men were brought back there and released. Just a few weeks ago the county went through the formality of a grand jury investigation and found no evidence.
Now, the eloquent thing about this, it seems to me, is that Maryland has a population of approximately 1,600,000 people. The two counties in which the action occurred, the one county in which the lynching occurred and the other county in which the men were held for safekeeping when the militia came, have a total population of something like 55,000 people. In other words, those two counties represent something like 312 percent of the population of Maryland, and yet Maryland" was helpless to do anything about it, because Maryland could not interfere in the jurisdiction of those two counties. There could be no indictment except an indictment issued by the grand juries of those counties. That had to be the starting point of any legal action toward punishing those men.
Now, the difficulty in that is perfectly obvious. A mob action, such as lynching ordinarily involves, especially in a small rural community, must in some measure express the psychology of the vicinity at the moment. A public official who acts very vigorously in that county to prosecute and punish the people would be in danger of becoming unpopular, at least with a considerable group of his constituents. And there also arises another factor, another psycho-logical factor. A good many people in the vicinity who may be opposed to lynching in general, and opposed to this particular lynching, after it occurred got a sort of defensive loyalty toward their neighbors. They regretted the event, but because of that defensive loyalty it is very difficult to get any prosecution in that community. : I have talked to any number of people down there who said, “Well, we are sorry it happened, but it happened. Now why carry it any further? Nothing can be done about it now."
Now, I might say that the answer to that is State-wide legislation. The legislature could theoretically very easily pass an act which would permit prosecutions to originate in some other jurisdiction than the one in which the crime occurred. For instance, there might have been legislation which would have permitted the issuance of warrants or indictments in Baltimore or on the western shore of the State, in order to remove it from that psychological condition which existed in the place where the lynching occurred. That is a good theory. We need to carry that out in Maryland. We don't do it. Legislation very much like the legislation you gentleman have under