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Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Easton

City of Nauvoo v. Easton
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Mayor’s Court, 1 April 1844
 
Historical Introduction
On 30 March 1844, JS learned that a Black resident of , Illinois—a man known as Chism—had been whipped by white vigilantes in an act that the Nauvoo Neighbor described as “lynch law.” JS, using his authority as mayor and working with other justices of the peace, sought to prosecute the perpetrators. Few mayor’s court documents for this period—and none for this case—are extant, but the details can be reconstructed from other sources.
During the night of 29 March, the Key Stone Store in was robbed of approximately $1,700 in money and property. Upon hearing of the robbery, JS issued a “general search warrant” to seek out the missing goods and money. Concurrently, vigilantes, whom Chism identified as W. S. Townsend, James Easton, and , targeted Chism as the culprit. They dragged him into the woods, where they bound, stripped, and whipped him “with 20 or more lashes,” leaving “his back lacerated from his shoulders to his hips.” JS “fou[n]d the black man” in his office after the attack, and , JS’s clerk, “kept him secreted.” , Illinois, justice of the peace , apparently at JS’s instruction, issued a warrant for Townsend and heard testimony, but the testimony did not “prove the full particulars of the case.” Although subpoenaed, neither Easton nor Marr agreed to testify. Johnson convicted Townsend of but, due to lack of concrete evidence, fined him only five dollars.
Following the trial, city marshal arrested Easton “as being accessory to whipping chism” and scheduled his trial in the mayor’s court on 1 April 1844. Although Greene made the arrest under JS’s orders, the marshal evidently did not do so with a warrant; he may have detained Easton under a Nauvoo city ordinance that authorized city officers to make arrests “with or without process.” JS also issued a subpoena for to testify against Easton, but it was not served. JS’s prosecution of Easton was interrupted by , another justice of the peace. Foster, who later claimed he was unaware of JS’s efforts, issued his own warrant for Easton and acquitted him on 1 April, before JS could hold the scheduled trial in the mayor’s court. At that point, JS “referred the case to .” After reviewing the case, Wells concluded that because Foster had acquitted Easton, the charge could not be revived due to protections against double jeopardy. JS and others publicly condemned the earlier proceedings before Foster as “a sham trial, and a mere mockery of justice.” Because Easton could not be prosecuted for the lynching, noted in JS’s journal, “it was thought best” to bring charges against him in the Hancock County Circuit Court for contempt as a witness, presumably for his refusal to testify before . The circuit court dismissed this charge against Easton in October 1844.
 
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.
City of Nauvoo v. Easton
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Mayor’s Court, 1 April 1844
 
Historical Introduction
On 30 March 1844, JS learned that a Black resident of , Illinois—a man known as Chism—had been whipped by white vigilantes in an act that the Nauvoo Neighbor described as “lynch law.” JS, using his authority as mayor and working with other justices of the peace, sought to prosecute the perpetrators. Few mayor’s court documents for this period—and none for this case—are extant, but the details can be reconstructed from other sources.
During the night of 29 March, the Key Stone Store in was robbed of approximately $1,700 in money and property. Upon hearing of the robbery, JS issued a “general search warrant” to seek out the missing goods and money. Concurrently, vigilantes, whom Chism identified as W. S. Townsend, James Easton, and , targeted Chism as the culprit. They dragged him into the woods, where they bound, stripped, and whipped him “with 20 or more lashes,” leaving “his back lacerated from his shoulders to his hips.” JS “fou[n]d the black man” in his office after the attack, and , JS’s clerk, “kept him secreted.” , Illinois, justice of the peace , apparently at JS’s instruction, issued a warrant for Townsend and heard testimony, but the testimony did not “prove the full particulars of the case.” Although subpoenaed, neither Easton nor Marr agreed to testify. Johnson convicted Townsend of but, due to lack of concrete evidence, fined him only five dollars.
Following the trial, city marshal arrested Easton “as being accessory to whipping chism” and scheduled his trial in the mayor’s court on 1 April 1844. Although Greene made the arrest under JS’s orders, the marshal evidently did not do so with a warrant; he may have detained Easton under a Nauvoo city ordinance that authorized city officers to make arrests “with or without process.” JS also issued a subpoena for to testify against Easton, but it was not served. JS’s prosecution of Easton was interrupted by , another justice of the peace. Foster, who later claimed he was unaware of JS’s efforts, issued his own warrant for Easton and acquitted him on 1 April, before JS could hold the scheduled trial in the mayor’s court. At that point, JS “referred the case to .” After reviewing the case, Wells concluded that because Foster had acquitted Easton, the charge could not be revived due to protections against double jeopardy. JS and others publicly condemned the earlier proceedings before Foster as “a sham trial, and a mere mockery of justice.” Because Easton could not be prosecuted for the lynching, noted in JS’s journal, “it was thought best” to bring charges against him in the Hancock County Circuit Court for contempt as a witness, presumably for his refusal to testify before . The circuit court dismissed this charge against Easton in October 1844.
 
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.