In fin-de-siècle France, jurists became alarmed by the high rate of acquittals in cases of "crimes of passion" tried by jury in the assize courts. The acquittal of so many defendants who readily admitted their crimes seemed to prove that the citizen jurors of the Third Republic were not competent to render justice. Through an investigation of French judicial procedures, together with evidence from 251 cases of intimate violence tried in the assize court of the Seine, this article contends that the high rate of acquittal was due to the transfer of a popular system of retributive justice into the verdict of the court. Surprisingly, judicial procedures worked to privilege the stories, knowledge, and standards of witnesses and defendants—not a strict application of the law. This analysis sheds light on popular attitudes about the use of violence in domestic disputes, as well as the complex interactions among multiple systems of judgment at stake in jury trials.


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pp. 293-315
Launched on MUSE
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