Introduction to State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life

Document Transcript

State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life
Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio, Justice of the Peace Court, 3 June 1837
Geauga Co., Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, 10 June 1837
 
Historical Introduction
On 13 April 1837, filed a complaint before Edward Flint, a justice of the peace in , Ohio, alleging that JS had threatened to kill him. Newell had acted in opposition to JS and the Latter-day Saints for several years. He also strongly opposed the , in which JS was an officer. Based on Newell’s April 1837 complaint, Flint issued a warrant for JS’s arrest. Newell appears to have used the accusation to rouse public opinion against JS. According to , JS’s “life was so beset & sought for by wicked and ungodly men” that he was forced to leave his home and family for a time. After JS returned to his home in , Ohio, Constable George Lockwood took him into custody and brought him before Flint on 30 May. JS was not ready to proceed, so the case was postponed to early June.
On 3 June 1837, Flint convened a preliminary examination in the town hall to consider the merits of the complaint. James Paine served as counsel for the prosecution; and represented JS. Several witnesses were sworn. Flint’s docket entry for this preliminary examination contains little detail about the testimonies, but a local newspaper, the Painesville Telegraph, published a more detailed account. It is unknown who made these notes or how accurately they captured what the witnesses said at the hearing.
The most revealing testimonies came from and Solomon Denton. According to the Telegraph’s account, Hyde testified that in early 1837 he had conversed with JS and others about the threat of litigation against the officers of the . According to Hyde, JS stated that was the only person who might bring such an action. Hyde further claimed that JS said that “Newell should be put out of the way, or where the crows could not find him.” Hyde claimed that JS declared that such an action would be justified in the sight of God. The Telegraph’s account noted that Denton, a former Latter-day Saint who had been excommunicated from the church around April 1837, testified that in April or May 1835 he and a Mr. Davis—presumably —had discussed assassinating Newell. Denton recounted borrowing pistols and having a conversation with JS in which, he claimed, JS encouraged him to kill Newell. Denton explained that he and Davis decided not to act after considering “the atrocity of the crime.” testified that he had heard of the plot by Denton and Davis in 1835 and informed JS, who had claimed to have no knowledge of the conspiracy. Rigdon indicated that JS subsequently spoke with the two men, apparently to enjoin them to desist “from their evil course.” According to the Telegraph’s account, other witnesses testified they had never heard JS make any threats toward Newell; one witness stated that JS had said Newell might be killed if he were to lead a mob against the Saints.
After hearing testimony, Flint ruled there was sufficient evidence to order JS to enter into a $500 recognizance—the maximum amount allowed by statute—to appear at the next term of the Court of Common Pleas and to keep the peace toward . Flint also ordered , , and Denton to enter into a recognizance binding them to appear as witnesses at the trial. On 10 June 1837, JS appeared before Judge in the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas. After hearing the evidence, Humphrey ruled “that the complainant had no cause to fear,” and JS was discharged. Newell was not pleased with Humphrey’s ruling and pleaded his case in the local press. Another newspaper, the Painesville Republican, took exception to Newell’s attack upon Humphrey’s decision and characterized Newell’s complaint against JS as persecution rather than prosecution.
 
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.

Footnotes

  1. 1

    For instance, in 1835 Newell filed a complaint alleging that JS assaulted Calvin Stoddard, JS’s brother-in-law. (See Introduction to State of Ohio v. JS for Assault and Battery.)  

  2. 2

    A former employee of Newell’s, James Thompson, related how Newell would travel through the region buying up Kirtland Safety Society banknotes and then bring large quantities to the bank to redeem for specie in an effort to drain the reserves held by the Safety Society. Newell may also have organized runs on the bank or incited the mob that threatened to destroy the society in late January 1837. When Samuel Rounds brought a lawsuit against JS, Sidney Rigdon, and other temporary officers of the Kirtland Safety Society in February 1837, Newell also appears to have been involved in the charge. He purchased the judgment in the case from Rounds after the trial and later took credit for initiating the litigation. (“James Thompson’s Statement,” Naked Truths about Mormonism [Oakland, CA], Apr. 1888, 3; Documents, Volume 5, Introduction to Part 5: 5 Oct. 1836–10 Apr. 1837; Henry Holcomb, “Personal Experience’s after the Civil War,” in “Personal and Family History 1865–1903,” p. 52, Henry Holcomb Papers, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH; Introduction to Rounds qui tam v. JS.)  

    Naked Truths about Mormonism: Also a Journal for Important, Newly Apprehended Truths, and Miscellany. Oakland, CA. Jan. and Apr. 1888.

    Holcomb, Henry. Papers, 1864–1919. Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland.

  3. 3

    Although Newell’s complaint against JS is not extant, it likely reflected the language of an Ohio statute that made it “lawful for any person to make complaint on oath or affirmation, before a justice of the peace, stating amongst other things, that the person making such complaint, has just cause to fear, and does fear that another will beat, wound, or kill, him or her.” (An Act Defining the Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace and Constables, in Criminal Cases [27 Mar. 1837], Acts of a General Nature [1836–1837], p. 89, sec. 9; see also Introduction to State of Ohio v. D. P. Hurlbut; Transcript of Proceedings, ca. 10 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life]; and State of Ohio v. Chester Stocking [Geauga Co. C.P. 1837], Geauga Co., OH, Court of Common Pleas, Court Records, 1807–1904, Criminal Record, vol. T, pp. 47–48, microfilm 1,636,848, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  

    Acts of a General Nature, Passed at the First Session of the Thirty-Fifth General Assembly of the State of Ohio; Begun and Held in the City of Columbus, December 5th, 1836. And in the Thirty-Fifth Year of Said State. Columbus: S. R. Dolbee, 1837.

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  4. 4

    Woodruff, Journal, 13 Apr. 1837; see also Historical Introduction to Letter from Newel K. Whitney, 20 Apr. 1837. JS was unable to officiate at Woodruff’s wedding to Phebe Carter on 13 April 1837 because of these threats on his life.  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  5. 5

    JS’s whereabouts while absent from Kirtland in April and May 1837 are largely unknown. He appears to have returned to Kirtland by 19 May. (Historical Introduction to Letter from Newel K. Whitney, 20 Apr. 1837; Bill of Goods from Rigdon, Smith & Co., between 19 and 24 May 1837.)  

  6. 6

    Account of Hearing, between ca. 3 and 9 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life].  

  7. 7

    Flint listed Jared Carter, Quartus Clark, Oliver Cowdery, Solomon Denton, Orson Hyde, Luke Johnson, Warren Parrish, David Whitmer, and Newel K. Whitney as witnesses for the prosecution. Defense witnesses included Elijah Able, Almon Babbitt, Abner Balster, Oliver Granger, Jonathan Herrington, Lory Holmes, Cornelius P. Lott, and Hyrum Smith. Flint identified Sidney Rigdon and Reynolds Cahoon as witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense. Marvel Davis and Vinson Knight “were in attendance as witnesses 1st day,” possibly referring to 30 May 1837, but they apparently were not present on 3 June. (Docket Entry, between 13 Apr. and 3 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life].)  

  8. 8

    Account of Hearing, between ca. 3 and 9 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life].  

  9. 9

    Account of Hearing, between ca. 3 and 9 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life]; see also Documents, Volume 5, Introduction to Part 5: 5 Oct. 1836–10 Apr. 1837; Articles of Agreement for the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company, 2 Jan. 1837.  

  10. 10

    Account of Hearing, between ca. 3 and 9 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life].  

  11. 11

    Docket Entry, between 13 Apr. and 3 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life]; An Act Defining the Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace and Constables, in Criminal Cases [27 Mar. 1837], Acts of a General Nature [1836–1837], p. 89, sec. 12.  

    Acts of a General Nature, Passed at the First Session of the Thirty-Fifth General Assembly of the State of Ohio; Begun and Held in the City of Columbus, December 5th, 1836. And in the Thirty-Fifth Year of Said State. Columbus: S. R. Dolbee, 1837.

  12. 12

    Docket Entry, between 13 Apr. and 3 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life].  

  13. 13

    Transcript of Proceedings, ca. 10 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life].  

  14. 14

    Letter, Grandison Newell to Editor, 30 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life].  

  15. 15

    The newspaper described Newell as “a man who has for years been doing all he could to injure his neighbors, merely because they do not think and act as he does in religious and political matters.” (“The Mormon Persecutor,” Painesville [OH] Republican, 6 July 1837, [2].)  

    Painesville Republican. Painesville, OH. 1836–1841.