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The first review

The first review

The case is taken away from the Criminal Chamber

The Criminal Chamber decided to not send Dreyfus before another court martial without directly conducting an investigation, in compliance with the report by Councilor Bard, which stated that "there have been enough failures in this long series of appalling accidents." Alfred Dreyfus himself was heard on 5 January by the president of the Court of Appeals in Cayenne, on Devil's Island; he repeated that, on the day of his demotion, he had not made a confession but, on the contrary, had reasserted his innocence and his desire that complete light be shed on the matter. From 1 November 1898 to 8 February 1899, more than 150 sworn statements were collected, despite a slanderous campaign that was supported by no less than one of the most highly-placed judges in the Court of Cassation, the president of the Civil Chamber Quesnay de Beaurepaire, who resigned on 8 January 1899.

On 3 March, the possibility of trying Picquart before a court martial was ruled out, due to the assertion of the ascendancy of civil law in the case of related affairs. However, the application of the loi de dessaisissement, which had been promulgated on 1 March, meant that the reopening of the case and its examination on the merits (pouvoir de révision) would be carried out not by the Criminal Chamber, but by the combined chambers of the Court of Cassation. President Loew felt that his colleagues had been "abandoned for having served Truth and the Law, and for not having wanted to serve only themselves," but the Prime Minister wanted "a decree that is made clear to all by the very conditions under which it is handed down." Although the members of Parliament had been in favor of this law in order to block review of the case, some thought that the government favored it, knowing that the review would take place in any case, and would be strengthened by a decision handed down by a larger number of senior magistrates.

The annulment of the verdict of 1894

The investigation carried out by Bard and Loew was published in Le Figaro between late March and late April, despite fines imposed on the newspaper. The combined chambers validated the investigation, after hearing ten additional witnesses. They also heard a summing-up for the prosecution that rejected the idea of overturning the previous verdict, denouncing those who favored review of the case, and stating that "by their criminal attacks on the Army, [they] have deeply wounded and irritated to the point of exasperation the feelings of the nation."

The republican leanings of many of the members of the Court were thus confirmed. According to Vincent Duclert, the majority of the Court of Cassation displayed a civic-minded resistance linked to the general democratization of the magistracy, as well as a ethics of law based on the professionalism of its judges. On 3 June 1899, the decision of 22 December 1894 was overturned and annulled, to the "immense happiness" of the Dreyfus family.

Captain Dreyfus received the news on Monday, 5 June 1899; he was no longer subject to the regime of deportation, became a simple defendant, was restored to his rank and was allowed to wear his uniform. He felt an immense, inexpressible joy, but his return to France on the night of 30 June evoked feelings of surprise, stupefaction, sadness and pain. He had been injured during the storm-tossed landing at Port-Haliguen in Quiberon, and was taken by night train to the military prison at Rennes, where he arrived in the early hours of the morning on 1 July. There he would wait for more than a month before appearing before the new court martial-never imagining that he would be convicted a second time.