In a trial in Becker in 1895, an interesting bit of local law proceedings were reported in the Sherburne County Star News: Thomas Parento accused Fred Specovious of stealing hay valued at eight dollars. After two hours of testimony and five hours of jury deliberation, no conclusion was reached. We had a “hung jury.” The local magistrate, Judge Shephardson suggested that if the two parties could settle on the matter, jury costs would be reduced. At this point, the court costs amounted to $20. A cost of more than twice the value of the missing hay. Parento and Specovious agreed to drop the case and split a $7 fee for court costs.
I am not sure if this reveals the wisdom of the court, or the two farmers saw the economic advantages to a settlement. Regardless of the underlying “moral of the story,” the report does highlight the pragmatic approach often displayed in the court room in small towns in the Midwest.