A few weeks ago my mother asked me to research a bit of family lore. Like a good daughter sometimes does, I forgot. But then! Then I saw the exact same question in our “Ask A Librarian” service! (For background, patrons may send a question through the Library of Congress “Ask A Librarian” service. These questions then are compiled into a database where reference librarians can claim questions to answer, which is usually within within 5 days.)
This particular question was from a woman wondering if her grandfather had served on Al Capone’s jury. In my family, my grandmother had always maintained her father was foreman of the jury that indicted Al Capone. She had tales of going on dates with the Secret Service agents following her to make sure she stayed safe and of Al Capone’s gang threatening her nephew. The details were outrageous enough to be believable, but the fact that her family lived in Atlanta during that time made my mother suspicious.
A group portrait of the twelve jurors is available from the Library of Congress and is listed in the catalog. While the jurors can be seen, unfortunately the names of the jurors are not listed on the photograph.
Luckily, the National Archives and Records Administration has an exhibit called American Originals. Included in that exhibit is the document where the U.S. district court renders its verdict against gangster Al Capone on October 17, 1931, with a list and signatures of the jurors. NARA also has more information on Capone in that exhibit.
In the end, neither my great-grandfather’s name nor the patron’s grandfather’s name were listed on the jury list. It seems that saying you were on Al Capone’s jury was a very popular boast to make!
Update: Over on our Facebook page, someone asked why the jury was all men. The jury is all male because women were not serving on juries in 1931. “As late as 1942 only twenty-eight state laws allowed women to serve as jurors, but these also gave them the right to claim exemption based on their sex. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave women the right to serve on federal juries, but not until 1973 could women serve on juries in all fifty states” as seen on an American Women page from the Library.