Offenders and Defenders.—Two juvenile Jemmy Twitchers were yesterday brought by the Commissary before Recorder Genois for having been found stealing cakes from a coffee stand in the lower market. They answer to the names of James Johnson and Joseph Brown, and seem, from the tenor of their questions, remarks and replies, to have studied to some effect the code criminal.
“What do you say to this charge?” said the Recorder to them.
“Vy, ve says not guilty, of course,” said Johnson—“no one aint bound to criminate hisself.”
“Yes, but you were seen taking the bread by the negro,” said the Recorder.
“A negro aint no witness against a white boy, no how you can fix it,” said Brown.------"And besides,” said Johnson, “cakes aint bread no more nor fleas aint lobsters : so there cant be no indictment found for stealing it.”
Recorder—“But another person than the negro woman saw you take the cakes—the Commissary himself saw you do it.”
Brown—“Vel, vot of it : it warnt no burglary, ‘cause it was done in daylight, and there warnt no lock broken.”
Johnson—“Yes, and I should like to ask the gem’an as how he knows, s’pose we did take them, but that we meant to pay for them. It is not every one what takes things on credit as can be prosecuted for larceny—not by a long shot.”
Recorder—“Both of you seem to have no inconsiderable experience, young as you are, in the rules of court and criminal practice—have you ever been up before a court before?”
Johnson—“We is not bound to answer that question ‘cause our ‘kracters haint been impeached.”
Brown—[aside to Johnson]—“Right Jim, mum’s the word about k’racter—guess we aint quite so green as he takes us to be.”
Recorder—“Well, I shall send both of you to the Work-House for thirty days : you are evidently too idle, too vicious, and I may add too cunning, to be permitted to go at large.”
Johnson—“We calls for a trial by jury, your honor, and a speedy trial at that. The constitution guarantees it to every ‘Merican citizen, and we aint agoin to be chizzled out of it no how.”
Recorder—“At all events I will send you to the Work-House for the present. I wish to see if I cannot learn something more about you.”
Johnson—as the officer took them out of court—“Vel, then, I’m blowed if we don’t get out on a “haby corpy.”
The unanimous opinion of all in court who witnessed this “forensic” display was, that Masters Johnson and Brown are a most promising pair of youths, and most probably destined, in the course of human events, to add to [several words unclear] of the State by a residence for [several words unclear] in Baton Rouge.
Source: New Orleans Daily Picayune no. 295 (3 January 1845). 2nd unnumbered page. University of Virginia Alderman Library.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
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