Introduction to State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery

Document Transcript

State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery
Painesville Township, Geauga Co., Ohio, Justice of the Peace Court, 22 April 1835
Geauga Co., Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, 20 June 1835
 
Historical Introduction
On 21 April 1835, Justice of the Peace Lewis Miller of , Ohio, issued a warrant for JS’s arrest for the assault and battery of his brother-in-law in , Ohio. The incident allegedly occurred earlier that day, during an argument between JS and Stoddard over whether a parcel of land contained water. Eyewitnesses gave differing accounts of the altercation, with some asserting that Stoddard threatened JS with a cane, a claim Stoddard denied. Witnesses agreed that JS knocked Stoddard to the ground with the flat of his hand, although they differed as to the number of times he hit him. JS subsequently asked for Stoddard’s forgiveness, which Stoddard granted. However, , an opponent of the church living in Painesville, filed a complaint before Miller, apparently claiming to have witnessed the fight.
After Miller issued the warrant on 21 April, it was served the same day by Constable , who then brought JS before Miller for a preliminary hearing. Attorneys and represented the state, while and represented the defense. Miller subpoenaed five witnesses. For an unknown reason, he then adjourned until the following day and granted JS bail rather than holding him in custody overnight. On 22 April, Miller heard testimony from four members of the Smith family—JS’s parents, and , and his brothers and . was evidently not available to testify. The justice held that there was sufficient evidence to send the case to the Court of Common Pleas and ordered JS to enter into a recognizance for $200 on the condition that he appear at the court’s next session.
The next term of the Court of Common Pleas began on 16 June 1835. was the prosecuting attorney; it is unknown who represented JS. A grand jury indicted JS for unlawfully striking “with force and arms.” JS pleaded “guilty, unless the Court on hearing the evidence adduced shall be of opinion that he is not guilty.” According to the Painesville Telegraph, “by consent of the parties, the case was submitted to the Court without Jury.” JS may have believed that presiding judge Matthew Birchard would be less biased against him than a jury. On 20 June, Birchard heard testimony from Stoddard, , , and a man named Burgess. The judge held that JS was “not guilty as he Stands charged” and “ordered that he be discharged from said Indictment.” The Telegraph, reporting that Stoddard had testified that he forgave JS, indicated that Birchard made his decision because “the injured party was satisfied” and because “the assault might perhaps be justified on the principle of self-defence.”
 
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Footnotes

  1. 1

    See Historical Introduction to Letter to Editor, 22 June 1835.  

  2. 2

    Docket Entry, 21–22 Apr. 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]; Indictment, between 16 and 20 June 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]; Account of Trial, ca. 20 June 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery].  

  3. 3

    Docket Entry, 21–22 Apr. 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]. As early as 1833, Newell had associated with individuals who were antagonistic toward the church in Geauga County, Ohio. (Winchester, Origin of the Spaulding Story, 9; Eber D. Howe, Statement, 8 Apr. 1885, Collection of Manuscripts about Mormons, 1832–1954, Chicago History Museum.)  

    Winchester, B[enjamin]. The Origin of the Spaulding Story, concerning the Manuscript Found; with a Short Biography of Dr. P. Hulbert, the Originator of the Same; and Some Testimony Adduced, Showing It to Be a Sheer Fabrication, So Far as Its Connection with the Book of Mormon Is Concerned. Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking, and Guilbert, 1840.

    Collection of Manuscripts about Mormons, 1832–1954. Chicago History Museum.

  4. 4

    Docket Entry, 21–22 Apr. 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]. Ohio law authorized justices of the peace to hold preliminary hearings on assault and battery. If the defendant pleaded guilty, the justice could assess a fine “not exceeding one hundred dollars, nor less than five dollars,” plus costs. If the defendant declined to plead guilty, the justice would hear testimony to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to send the case to a full trial before the court of common pleas. Upon conviction, “the person so offending” would “be fined in any sum not exceeding one hundred and fifty dollars.” (An Act Defining the Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace and Constables, in Criminal Cases [11 Mar. 1831], Acts of a General Nature, pp. 194–195, secs. 1–7; An Act for the Punishment of Certain Offences Therein Named [8 Mar. 1831], Acts of a General Nature, p. 146, sec. 10.)  

    Acts of a General Nature, Enacted, Revised and Ordered to Be Reprinted, at the First Session of the Twenty-Ninth General Assembly of the State of Ohio. Columbus: Olmsted and Bailhache, 1831.

  5. 5

    See Docket Entry, 21–22 Apr. 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]; and Editorial, 26 June 1843 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery].  

  6. 6

    Transcript of Proceedings, ca. 20 June 1843 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]; Indictment, between 16 and 20 June 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]; Account of Trial, ca. 20 June 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]. During the early nineteenth century, Ohio law specified “that all general issues and issues in fact, shall be tried by a jury, unless where both parties agree otherwise; in which case such issues may be tried by the court before whom they are pending.” However, this provision was not included in the 1831 judiciary act, the statute in force in 1835. Even without explicit statutory authorization, Birchard nevertheless allowed JS to waive his right to a jury in this case. (An Act Organizing the Judicial Courts [15 Apr. 1803], Statutes of Ohio, vol. 1, p. 357, sec. 15; An Act to Regulate the Practice of the Judicial Courts [8 Mar. 1831], Acts of a General Nature, pp. 58–81.)  

    The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory, Adopted or Enacted from 1788 to 1833 Inclusive: Together with the Ordinance of 1787; the Constitutions of Ohio and of the United States, and Various Public Instruments and Acts of Congress: Illustrated by a Preliminary Sketch of the History of Ohio; Numerous References and Notes, and Copious Indexes. 3 vols. Edited by Salmon P. Chase. Cincinnati: Corey and Fairbank, 1833–1835.

    Acts of a General Nature, Enacted, Revised and Ordered to Be Reprinted, at the First Session of the Twenty-Ninth General Assembly of the State of Ohio. Columbus: Olmsted and Bailhache, 1831.

  7. 7

    This may have been Latter-day Saint William Burgess or one of his sons, Harrison or Horace. (Transcript of Proceedings, ca. 20 June 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery]; Account of Trial, ca. 20 June 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery].)  

  8. 8

    Account of Trial, ca. 20 June 1835 [State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery].