Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
June 1, 1907
Voir dire, in which lawyers question prospective jurors, is a rough and tumble affair, especially when the case involves prostitution.
The matter at hand involves Tom Savage, boss of the 8th Ward, known as the “Bloody Eighth,” on charges of running a disorderly house, the Arlington Hotel, in the Tenderloin.
Savage’s unidentified defense attorney interrogated prospective panelists closely about their familiarity with bordellos and prostitutes. One man tucked his long, white beard into the waistband of his pants before entering the jury box and when asked about the Red Light district looked at the accused prostitutes in court and said: “Well, young feller, I ain’t much on sparkin’, but them there do sure seem to be likely gals.”
The first question asked of each prospective juror—what church they belonged to—caused The Times to remark: “From the number who answered in the negative there seems to be considerable missionary work yet to be done in Los Angeles.”
One man replied: “I ain’t been to no church for 10 years, but I ain’t missed a chance to vote the Democratic ticket for the past 30 and that oughter qualify me some.”
Several men were accompanied by their wives and became increasingly nervous during questioning about whether they had ever been to a house a prostitution.
“Once,” one man said nervously. “I was showing a friend about the city.”
“I’ll show you about the city when I get you home,” his wife exclaimed from the back of the courtroom.
The jury deadlocked and Savage’s case was dropped. The onetime newspaper pressman, who was elected to the council in 1894, died of a morphine overdose in his room at 111½ Commercial St., in what was then the 8th Ward. The man who once boasted “I’ve got all the votes you need right here in my vest pocket” was 47.