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Quotes from People v. Croswell (N.Y. 1804)

Quotes that appear on this page are taken from a New York Supreme Court opinion in People v. Croswell (1804). In this case, Harry Croswell, publisher of a Federalist newspaper called The Wasp, was charged with and convicted of charges of criminal libel and sedition related to publishing unflattering information about President Thomas Jefferson. In the initial trial, Croswell was not permitted to argue to the jury his defense that his statements were true. At this time, truth was still not legally codified as a defense against libel. Moreover, a judge falsely instructed the jury that they must return a special verdict—not deciding whether the accused was not guilty or guilty on each count, but only determining beyond reasonable doubt whether he had published the statements in question. These elements effectively precluded jury nullification as had benefited John Peter Zenger. Because this New York Supreme Court split 2-2 on this case, the convictions were upheld.

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Text versions for copy and paste:
"But it is not only the province of the jury, in all criminal cases, to judge of the intent with which the act was done, as being parcel of the fact; they are also authorized to judge of the law as connected with the fact."
People v. Croswell (N.Y., 1804)

"But in criminal cases, the law and fact are necessarily blended by the general issue, and a general verdict was always final and conclusive, both upon the law and the fact. Nor were the jury ever exposed to an attaint for a verdict in a criminal case; and this is decisive to prove that they had a concurrent jurisdiction with the court on questions of law; for where the law allows an act to be valid or definitive, it presupposes a legal and rightful authority to do it."
—People v. Croswell (N.Y., 1804)

 

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