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Dreyfus's innocence proclaimed

Dreyfus's innocence proclaimed

The dilemma of an appeal before a military court

In 1899, Captain Dreyfus and his family had not wanted Henri Mornard to plead that the judgment be overturned without appeal, because they hoped that the military judges would rule that "their ill-fated comrade in arms had never forsaken the law of honor." The decree of 3 June 1899 influenced Councilor Moras, who decided on an annulment with appeal because he interpreted Article 445 of the code of criminal investigation by considering that in the affair, there remained a criminal act-the act of treason, even though Dreyfus was not the author of it. Any other reading of the article would rule solely on the convicted person and on the observation that there was no criminal act likely to be acknowledged against him. It was in this sense that the public prosecutor and Dreyfus's lawyer would alternately plead. For eight sessions, from 25 June to 5 July, Manuel Baudoin asserted that it was up to the Court "to have done with this deplorable conflict, which can only become worse the longer it continues." He condemned "anti-Semitic prejudice," the communication of the secret dossier, which was "a monstrous violation of the inalienable rights of the defense," the torment suffered by the deportee that was "worthy of a barbarian age," and the espionage of the Court during the investigation of 1899. It being the case that the innocence of Dreyfus was as indisputable as the guilt of Esterhazy, he concluded that the judgment should be overturned without appeal. Although his vehemence was denounced by the nationalists, Baudoin's summing-up eased the task of Henri Mornard; his client found his speech for the defense "as dialectically marvelous as it was impressive in its force." The lawyer linked the crimes to anti-Semitism and decided on annulment without appeal, "equity requires it, logic and reason require it, the law requires it, morality requires it."

The rehabilitation decree

On 9 July, the Court voted unanimously to overturn the judgment; as for the question of an appeal before a third court martial, only eighteen of rapporteur Clément Moras's colleagues went along with his argument. On 11 July, thirty-one judges voted for annulment without appeal, thus definitively clearing Dreyfus, who hailed these "admirable judges of quiet strength and serenity." Vincent Duclert, Dreyfus's biographer, has shown that the decree of 12 July 1906 responded to a situation of absolute injustice "by a greater solution of justice"; judicial reparation was complete. On the 12th of July, the audience opened at noon, and President Ballot-Beaupré read the decree so that not a word was lost, in particular the fundamental grounds for the decision: in the final analysis, "nothing whatever remains of the charges brought against Dreyfus; and that the quashing of the verdict by the court martial leaves nothing that could be called a crime or misdemeanor committed by him."

Thomas Lyon-Caen, the first secretary for the conférence du stage for lawyers at the Conseil d'État and the Court of Cassation for the judicial year 2005-2006, analyzed the common-sense interpretation made by the Court of Cassation in July 1906. The judges refuted the criminality in rem to consider the innocent person; as de facto judges for the review proceedings, they considered that the rehabilitation of the innocent man meant annulment without appeal: "The Court of Cassation did not retreat, either before the truth or before Justice."