Letter from Justin Butterfield, 27 March 1843

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March 27th 1843.
Genl Joseph Smith
My Dear Sir
I have just Received your favor of the 18th instant by . I regret extremely that should have had the imprudence or misfortune to run into the Lions den. It is a case of much difficulty, and will give you and your friends much trouble. I fear that it will not be in my power to render much assistance, in this case. I will however proceed to answer your letter in detail and give you the best advice in my power— I am not acquainted with Mr Blennerhaset [Richard S. Blennerhassett] the Attorney whom has employed, I have no doubt but he is a very Respectable Lawyer, it appears from what you inform me he has written to you, that he has taken very proper steps in demanding of the that be protected from personal violence; and in advising a change of the venue to some County where less excitement will be likely to prevail than in the where the offence was committed— I suppose that it will be difficult if not impossible to procure a fair trial in any of the Adjoining Counties, that great prejudice exist against the Mormons in — in order to combat those prejudices as much as possible it would be adviseable to have able and influential counsel associated with [p. 1] Mr. Blennerhasset, who of course would be pleased to have able and respectable counsel associated with him (it is not with Lawyers as with Doctors, good Lawyers always act together in harmony) I am but very slightly acquainted with the Members of the Bar in — I know Mr Gamble and Mr Beverly Allen, both of whom stand high at the Bar— it would be better to consult with Mr Blennerhasset and others in and employ a good and distinguished Lawyer to assist on the trial:— The venue I presume cannot be changed untill after the Indictment is found by the Grand jury— in the where the offence was committed: now I do not know when the court will sit in that s counsel in will be able to give correct information about all these matters. and your proper way will be to send some competent person to to consult with counsel.— upon making the necessary affidavit of the absence of Material witnesses can get the trial delayed untill he is fully prepared: I do not know what the Nature of the evidence is against . but I should suppose it was a case in which the prosecution, have clearly to establish his guilt before, it will be necessary for him to introduce any evidence. If. is to be a witness on the part of the prosecution, it will be necessary <​for ​> to prove that his General character for Truth and veracity is bad. I suppose a great many who have known [p. 2] him in this would swear to that— and it will be well to trace this out, and prove what his character was in the different places where he Resided before he came to — and before he came to this I have no doubt you can if you take sufficent pains in traceing him out prove that he is a most precious Scoundrel: and entirely prostrate his evidence— he will undoubtedly obtain some Witnesses in to support his character but if you trace him back for several years and peruse what his character has been in the various places where he has resided; the prosecution cannot support his character:— Now whether by the practic[e] of the courts in they allow a commission to issue to take depositions out of the to be read in criminal cases, or whether the witnesses must personally appear in court and testify and question s counsel can answer but I cannot— the practice of criminal courts is different in different States— and I do not know what the practice is in ——
Your testimony that you never employed or instigated to kill will do no good. Your conduct cannot be drawn in question on that trial.— The question to be in issue on his trial will be whether he actually shot , not whether he was instigated to do so by any one. I[f] has been or shall be indicted it will [p. 3] not be difficult for his counsel to ascertain what the evidence was before the grand jury, and then prepare the case for defence accordingly— if he is indicted he will have to stand his trial, and it will do no good to have him brought up on habeas corpus: in this case the Federal court can have no jurisdiction and he will have to submit to a trial in the State court:— You must in the first place ascertain from Mr Blannerhasset whether the depositions of Witnesses can be taken out of in a criminal case to be read in the trial there, and if so have him prepare the necessary papers and instructions for taking them:— have Request Mr. B. also to inform you what facts the Prosecution rely upon to prove the guilt of , and then you will know precisely what you will have to meet, and to prepare the Defence accordingly:—
You ask me whether it will be consistent for me to call at and direct in the taking of affidavits— that will depend much upon the time when the affts are to be taken— and also upon the question whether [p. 4] they can be taken at all:— I do not know what the Laws are in in relation to changing the venue in criminal cases— if the laws will admit of it, it will be best by all means to get the venue changed to a county where the least prejudice & hostility exists against your People. counsel should attend the Term of the court when the indictment is to be found and see that there is no fraud in packing a Grand jury for that purpose and to ascertain as nearly as possible all the evidence that is Lain before the Grand jury— I not being acquanted with the Laws of , and being so remote from the scene of the action can give you but very poor counsel in the Matter— after the Indictment is found and the time and place is fixed for the trial, and after you have learned the nature of the evidence upon which the prosecution rely to convict, and after you have ascertained whether a commission can be issued to take the depositions of Witnesses in this to be read on the trial write to me again and I will give you all the aid and assistance in my power. untill that [p. 5] time you will perceive there is nothing that can be done in this :— At present you must direct your attention to — I would advise that you send them an intelligent and faithfull agent, to see that competent and inf[l]uential counsel are employed, that they attend the court, and see to the getting the venue changed, and the trial postponed long enough to enable you to procure all the testimony necessary for his defence— this is all that can be done at present, I wish you would have a copy of the Indictme[n]t sent to you and also a statement of the facts upon which the prosecution can prove to support the Indictment. and the names of their witnesses— you will then be able to ascertain what facts you can prove on the defence, after having laid out this platform you can be able to make some calculation of what the result of the trial will be— [p. 6] I do not know as I can add any thing further that would be usefull, I shall be happy to hear from you at when you have ascertained the time the trial will take place
I am with Respect your friend
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Genl. Joseph Smith
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