100 Years Ago Today: The second Arbuckle trial jury

The second trial jury was finalized on January 16, 1922 and their names published in the newspapers on the following day. Unlike the first trial’s jury, the new jury was composed of more men, eleven altogether, and one woman. Instead of a thirteenth juror, there were two alternates, one man and one woman.

Gavin McNab, the lead defense attorney, rejected several women on the basis of their eagerness to serve on the Arbuckle jury. Although four women on the first trial voted to acquit Arbuckle of the charge of manslaughter for the death of Virginia Rappe, his thinking had likely changed. After all, the men on the first jury voted to acquit, even the lone male juror who didn’t, Thomas Kilkenny, had for the most part sided with the majority.

We think Kilkenny changed his vote not so much because he believed in Arbuckle’s guilt. When it was clear that his vote didn’t matter, for a hung jury was inevitable, Kilkenny sided with the one woman who consistently cast ballots to convict out of—we think—Irish solidarity and, perhaps, chivalry. After all, the woman who voted to convict, Helen Meany Hubbard, was the daughter of Irish immigrants.

Women serving on juries in California was neither new nor could it be attributed to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. California already had suffrage since 1911 and women frequently served on juries. The exceptions, however, were the more “indelicate” cases involving murder and sex. But that exception was also falling by the wayside. Indeed, nine women served on a high-profile murder case in Los Angeles—that of Arthur Burch for the love-triangle murder of J. Belton Kennedy, a wealthy insurance broker—which overlapped the first Arbuckle trial and competed for headlines.

The Burch jury also couldn’t come to a consensus and proved, if anything, that women jurors hardly voted as a bloc. They didn’t for the first Arbuckle trial. Four women voted to acquit, three of whom consistently voted Arbuckle as not guilty. In contrast, the men nearly voted in lockstep save for one and only in the end.

As it turned out, the men on the second trial’s jury, although more “traditional” in makeup, would have its own surprises rather than the expected outcome.

The jury for the second Arbuckle trial, 17 January 1922 (Calisphere)

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