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Amos T. Akerman to Lyman Trumbull, 3 February 1871

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February 3, 1871. Hon. Lyman Trumbull, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, U. S. Senate. Dear Sir: I have seen a copy of a bill passed by the House of Representatives, providing that the laws of the several States shall govern, as to the competency of witnesses, in all criminal trials, in the Courts of The United States. I understand that the real object of this bill is to allow the accused parties to testify in their own favor. The bill will have an unexpected effect in repealing the Civil Rights bill, so far as it relates to the testimony of colored men. In Kentucky the State law excludes people of that race. If the bill should be passed, I suggest that some such provisos as I enclose should be added to it. The propriety of the first proviso arises from this: in Georgia, by a law passed since the war, the accused in a case of felony, is permitted to make his own statement to the jury—not under oath, and without being subject to cross-examination. I think that this last exemption is wrong in principle, and it practically operates to the advantage of white offenders, as compared with colored offenders,—and I think that this consequence should be guarded against. Very respectfully, A. T. Akerman, Attorney General.
certain Bill about witnesses &c.
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