Instructions to the Jury

judge_raulstonFor this month’s series on The Bible and Evolution, I’ve been reading the complete stenographic report of the famous trial held July 10 to 21 1925, the State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes. It’s been a fascinating read—well, to me anyway!

On the first day’s proceedings, Judge John T. Raulston gave the following instructions to the jury, and I would urge you to note the sections I have highlighted—very interesting!

Later today or tomorrow I’ll post the statute that John T. Scopes was accused of violating.

The vital question now involved for your consideration is, has the statute been violated by the said John T. Scopes or any other person by teaching a theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and in Rhea County since the passage of this act and prior to this investigation.

If you find the statute has been thus violated, you should indict the guilty person or persons, as the case may be.

You will bear in mind that in this investigation you are not interested to inquire into the policy or wisdom of this legislation…

The statute involved in the investigation provided that a violation constitutes only a misdemeanor, but there are degrees involved in misdemeanors (not by expressed provision of statue, but in reality), as well as in felonies, and in the very nature of things I regard a violation of this statute as a high misdemeanor, and in making this declaration I make no reference to the policy or constitutionality of the statue, but to the evil example of the teacher disregarding constituted authority in the very presence of the undeveloped mind whose thought and morals he directs and guides.

To teach successfully we must teach both by precept and example.

The school room is not only a place to develop thought, but also a place to develop discipline, power of restraint, and character.

If a teacher openly and flagrantly violates the laws of the land in the exercise of his profession (regardless of the policy of the law) his example cannot be wholesome to the undeveloped mind, and would tend to create and breed a spirit of disregard for good order and the want of respect for the necessary discipline and restraint in our body politic.

Now, gentlemen of the jury, it is your duty to investigate this alleged offense without prejudice or bias and with open minds, and if you find that there has been a violation of the statute you should promptly return a bill, otherwise you should return “no bill.”

From The World’s Most Famous Court Trial: State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, pp. 6-7.

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