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The second conviction

The second conviction

The personal beliefs of the witnesses and judges

Even though, in 1904, Colonel Picquart still defended the idea that the court martial "had the right and even the duty to expand, as it saw fit, the field of its investigations," the limits set by the Court of Cassation's decree should not have been forgotten. But they were, and all the more so when Colonel Jouaust, president of the court martial, stated on 28 August: "We need not concern ourselves with the report by Monsieur Ballot-Beaupré, nor with what a judge in another establishment might say."

As of 12 August, General Mercier's sworn statement, which lasted more than four hours, proved nothing, and he was questioned in vain by Captain Dreyfus. Supporting testimony by President Casimir-Périer, who stated that his minister had never spoken of a confession by Dreyfus, and that he had assured him that the documents of the bordereau were of no importance, did not shake the certainties of the majority of the judges. Witnesses for the prosecution-which outnumbered those of the defense three to one-impressed the military judges.

The closing statement by the prosecution developed the idea of the two groups of witnesses, one asking for acquittal, the other calling for conviction: "It is up to you to give each group the moral importance that you should assign it. In this affair, the proof does not reside in this or that point. It is everywhere. It is in the whole." Alphonse Bard, the rapporteur for the initial appeal, thought that Carrière was not in a state to refute the speeches made by Dreyfus's lawyers. Later, Bard would denounce the way in which the court martial was manipulated and the dangers of personal belief, saying it "left the door open to every sort of influence and prejudice, to all of the herd-like force of public opinion, to flights of fancy, to dialectical whims, and sometimes to unintentional accommodation and compromises of one's conscience."

A monument to infamy

Zola evoked the "senile and stubborn cruelty" of the summing-up, writing that the minutes of the Rennes hearings would be "the most atrocious monument to human infamy." The lawyer of Zola's own trial, Fernand Labori, advocated a disruptive strategy. But Alfred Dreyfus later noted that his flashes of genius were spoiled by the manner in which he asked his questions, and how a witness could rebel "instead of being crushed by a reasoning that ought to have been without violence but merciless."

Edgar Demange, Dreyfus's first lawyer, argued on the side of doubt, driven by a humane feeling that, according to his client, "did not correspond to the situation, to the magnitude of the trial that was taking place." Despite an assassination attempt that earned him a great deal of sympathy, Labori was asked not to plead so as not to irritate the court martial; however, his silence did not keep the court from sentencing the captain to ten years' detention. The verdict was announced after a lengthy deliberation, during which, according to Victor Basch, "a thick fog of desperation" hung over the room. On 9 September, Alfred Dreyfus was declared guilty by five votes to two, in compliance with Carrière's summing-up, although the court admitted that there were extenuating circumstances-incomprehensible for an officer who was supposed to have committed high treason.