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On September 17, 1884, Judge Allen disposes of the 13 criminal cases on his Oakland, California, docket in only six minutes. Although he set a new record for speed, defendants in Oakland's criminal court did not stand much of a chance of gaining an acquittal.
In a 40-year period at the turn of the century, only 1 defendant in 100 was acquitted. Although Judge Allen was notoriously speedy, the quick disposition of criminal cases was not necessarily commonplace in early American courts. In the early 1800s, criminal courts were often held up by those who used them to settle personal problems. For instance, in Philadelphia, a man named Henry Blake was prosecuted by his wife in criminal court "for refusing to come to bed and making too much noise, preventing her from sleeping." Today, the courts would immediately dismiss such a domestic squabble.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: