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New evidence and the work of the lawyers

New evidence and the work of the lawyers

Consequences of the revelation of the Henry forgery

Under the terms of Articles 443 and 444 of the Code of Criminal Procedure modified in 1895, when new evidence comes to light or is revealed, or when unknown documents are produced in order to establish the innocence of the condemned person, the Justice Minister may ask for that person's trial to be reviewed. These articles applied when the "proof" mentioned by Godefroy Cavaignac before the Chamber of Deputies on 7 July 1898 turned out, in August of the same year, to be forgeries. Although Colonel Picquart was behind bars, Colonel Henry's suicide meant that the reality of the situation could not be ignored. Despite the anti-Dreyfusards, who spoke of a "patriotic forgery," Lucie Dreyfus brought the matter before the Ministry of Justice on 3 September. The family's three lawyers, Edgar Demange, Fernand Labori and Henri Mornard, had written her letter with the assistance of Mathieu Dreyfus, Ludovic Trarieux and Joseph Reinach.

On 27 September, the minister referred the matter to the Court of Cassation. In his book Les Preuves. Affaire Dreyfus (The Proof. The Dreyfus Affair) - which consisted of articles published between 10 August and 20 September, with a preface written on 29 September - Jean Jaurès spoke of his hope that the Court of Cassation would rise "above all fear, above all false caution" in order to have "complete courage and the complete truth." The book asserted Dreyfus's innocence by denouncing the so-called confessions, by demonstrating the ineptitude of the BertillonBertillon System
Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914), chief of criminal identification for the Paris police (from 1882), perfected an identification system based on physical methods. In the Dreyfus Affair, he developed a concept of "self-forgery" by Dreyfus, in order to wrongly endorse the accusation that Dreyfus was the author of the bordereau; his wild reasoning was denounced by both handwriting and probability experts.
system for analyzing the handwriting on the bordereau, and by stating that Esterhazy was the guilty party. It was based on expert opinion, and showed that the forged documents were created "in the War offices." Jaurès listed eight forgeries without excluding the possibility of others. More importantly, he denounced the "vast cathedral of lies and forgeries in which rogues and criminals are at work." On 27 and 28 October, Councilor Bard gave his report before the Court's Criminal Chamber, which, on 14 November issued a ruling stating that Dreyfus be informed about "the appeal for review submitted to the Court." Two days later, a telegram was handed to Dreyfus; "Finally, the horizon brightens; I foresee and end to this frightful martyrdom for both my family and myself." Nevertheless, the captain still believed that the affair was "limited to a discussion about handwriting," and asked to be put in communication with his lawyer starting in 1894.

The lawyers' strategy

Edgar Demange was the son of an officer and Dreyfus's first lawyer. However, his speech in defense of Dreyfus in 1894 had not swayed the military judges-all the less since, prior to their deliberation, they had been shown secret documents that were unknown to the accused. When the existence of these documents were revealed in L'Eclair, it was Demange who wrote the petition that Lucie Dreyfus would send, on 18 September 1896, to the deputies, "the only power to whom I have recourse." The lawyer also stated at the Zola trial in February 1898 that no appeal was possible without political will. Demange continued on his path "without giving in to either anger or hatred, and without fear of insults or threats." He remained the Dreyfus family lawyer even after the captain's rehabilitation in 1906.

As a lawyer at the Court of Cassation, Henri Mornard played a crucial role in the strategy, in the same way that had allowed him to obtain the annulment of the Zola trial on 2 April 1898. He did so with the support of the Republican attorney-general Jean-Pierre Manau, who was "the honor of the country" to the supporters of a review. Manau's colleagues had to abide by a sacred precept: "when you reach a decision in a trial, thou shalt not decide to follow the majority all the way into corruption of the law." Following the attorney-general's example, Mornard argued for an investigation and obtained, in a ruling dated 29 October 1898, an additional period of investigation before the Court could rule on the merits.