Jefferson Market Courthouse in New York

A Love Affair with a Landmark in Manhattan: An Arresting Drama in Greenwich Village. [Opinions expressed are the views of OLD JEFF unless attributed to other - - potentially less-reliable - - sources, i.e., newcomers who have not been around since 1832 on Sixth Avenue.]

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Innocent Jailed in Jefferson Market 1931

COURT NEWS. 1931.January
Brooklyn Daily Standard Union
29 January 1931
Girl Jailed Without Trail For Staying Out Late
Freed After Serving 18 Months
400 Similar Cases, Judge DIKE Told In Court

After she had served eighteen months in Bedford Reformatory - although she was only sentenced for a year - Lena BURLATT, 17, of 174 Keap Street, was set free and a charge of being a wayward minor was dismissed by Justice Norman S. DIKE, who sat in Supreme Court, today as a committing magistrate.
Lena was one of forty-nine girls taken to the Jefferson Market Prison
from Bedford recently after it had been found that many of them had been sent there illegally. When the others were taken back her counsel, Bernard AUSTIN, obtained a writ of habeas corpus, keeping her in the city until a decision on the propriety of her detention could be made by the court.


After considering the matter during the night, Justice DIKE decided that he had the power to sit as a committing magistrate. He expressed astonishment at the fact that the girl was not only charged with nothing more serious than being out late at night, but that she was sent to Bedford without a hearing and that no stenographic record of the procedure conducted by Magistrate Leo HEALY, who committed her from Adams Street court, existed.
Lena was just 16 on July 1, 1929, when her mother had her taken to Adams Street court. Lena pleaded guilty, the commitment showed, and on July 20, 1929, she was sentenced for a year.
At the outset, Assistant District Attorney Henry J. WALSH said to the court: ''The District Attorney of King County does not want to do anything to impede justice in this or any similar case and I state now for the record that if it can be shown, and I believe it can, that this girl has a home to go to, we have no objection to sustaining the writ and freeing the girl.''
''I congratulate the District Attorney and you, Mr. WALSH,'' Justice DIKE said. ''You show a broad minded conception of fair play and justice. I feel a grievous error has been made by the magistrate who sent this girl away, so I shall try this case now and attempt, if possible, to right it.''
At that point Mrs. BURLATT, Lena's mother, was called to the stand. She was questioned by Bernard AUSTIN, Lena's counsel.
''Are you the mother of Lena BURLATT?
''I am.''
''Do you wish to press a complaint against her?''
''Have you any grievance or any complaint against this girl or to make against her?'' Justice DIKE interrupted to ask:
''You said she kept late hours, did you not, in the magistrate court?
Mrs BURLATT gave a deprecating shrug of the shoulders, and Justice DIKE asked: ''This girl was attending high school?''
''She was, and she was graduated from Junior High School at fifteen. Then she went to Textile High School.''
''You don't want to prosecute this girl now, do you?'' AUSTIN asked.
''As a matter of fact you never did intend to prosecute her or have her imprisoned, did you?''
''What transpired at the hearing?'' interrupted Justice DIKE.
''There was no hearing, may it please the court,''Austin interjected.
Justice DIKE leaned over the bench. Looking over the top of his glasses, he said: ''Do I understand you properly? There was no hearing?''
''There was none, your honor,'' Austin said. ''I now move for a dismissal of this case. There was no evidence before and your honor, of course, has heard none now, against the girl.''
''It seems to me as though the situation might well be corrected,'' the court replied.
''It is the duty of the State to protect its minors and I can do nothing better than to quote from a recent opinion of my esteemed contemporary and associate on the bench,'' Justice HAGERTY, who said: ''The law is not only just in the protection of civil rights, but has a special regard for the rights of minors. I shall discharge the prisoner and I again congratulate the District Attorney on his attitude. If this decision is right, and I hope it is. I trust that it will have an important bearing on the cases of others who doubtless are illegally detained and who have been illegally and improperly imprisoned.
''Are there many such cases, do you think?'' Justice DIKE asked, turning to AUSTIN.
''There are about four hundred,'' AUSTIN replied.
''Pitiful, pitiful,'' the court said.
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COURT NEWS.1931.January
Brooklyn Daily Standard Union
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Oil painting: artist Sonia Brewin: Jefferson Market Tower 2005
Jefferson Market.