Part 4: The Trial of the Haymaker Affair

About the trial of those involoved in the Haymaker affair, the injustices involved and the sentence rendered.

On the Way to the 8-Hour Day--The Haymarket Affair

By David Wallechinsky

Judge Joseph Eaton Gary refused to let the Chicago 8 be tried separately. A special bailiff, Henry L. Ryce, was appointed to find potential jurors. Ryce was blunt about where his sentiments lay: "I am managing this case, and know what I am about. Those fellows are going to be hanged as certain as death. I am calling such men as the defendants will have to challenge peremptorily and [so] waste their time and challenges. Then they will have to take such men as the prosecution wants."

With the help of Judge Gary, Ryce's strategy worked perfectly. Gary refused to disqualify one potential juror who was a friend of one of the dead policemen and another who admitted not only to being prejudiced against all anarchists, but to being a relative of one of the dead policemen. The defense was forced to use up its challenges on these and other unacceptable potential jurors.

The final jury consisted of 12 white males, only one of whom was foreign-born. (Five of the defendants had been born in Germany and one in England.) Seven jurors were white-collar workers, one an employer of labor, one a commercial agent, and 2 were businessmen. There were no industrial workers.

The prosecution case was flimsy, to say the least, particularly since they had no evidence that any of the defendants had actually thrown the bomb. In fact, to this day, it is not known who the bomb-thrower was. The prosecution claimed it was Rudolph Schnaubelt and the labor supporters said it was a police provocateur. There is no substantial evidence to support either theory or any other theory for that matter.

So the prosecution relied on the conspiracy charge, despite the fact that most of the accused hadn't even known each other before the trial. The State felt that their most effective tactic was to attack the political ideals of the anarchists, so they centered on the hypothesis that a "general conspiracy" had existed in Cook County for several years which planned to overthrow the Government and destroy the "legal authorities of the State and county. . . ."

Following the logic of the prosecution, it was necessary only to prove that the defendants supported anarchism to justify convicting them. This was easily done since all of them readily admitted it.

The jury spent 3 hours discussing the case--2/3 of the time devoted to Oscar Neebe against whom no real evidence had been presented.

On the morning of Friday, August 20, the jury gave its verdict--all Guilty. Neebe was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the rest were sentenced to be hanged.

Immediately after the verdict was read, the defendants were led back to jail. Fielden could not walk without support, Neebe was crushed. Outside the courthouse a crowd of over 1,000 was ecstatic and let out 3 cheers for the jury. The citizens of Chicago were relieved, and throughout the nation newspapers gushed with pride that justice had been done.

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