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Introduction to State of Illinois v. Sympson, Sympson v. JS, and State of Illinois v. JS for Perjury

State of Illinois v. Sympson
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Justice of the Peace Court, 17 January 1844
 
Sympson v. JS
Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, 23 May 1844
McDonough Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, circa August 1844
 
State of Illinois v. JS for Perjury
Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, 21 October 1844
 
Historical Introduction
During the first half of 1844, JS was entangled in a series of legal proceedings with , a , Illinois, businessman who was not a member of the church. Sympson’s dispute with JS was rooted in an assault that had occurred months earlier. At about midnight on 10–11 December 1843, the home of and Hannah Nott Badham—Latter-day Saints who lived about five miles east of Nauvoo—was invaded. The intruders demanded money and threatened to kill the Badhams if they did not comply. The Badhams gave them $4.50 as well as a gun and a watch. Just before the burglars left, one of them stabbed Richard in the abdomen with a bowie knife. The intruders’ faces were reportedly “disfigured” and “blackened,” making recognition impossible; however, Hannah believed that the voice of at least one of the men was familiar and that both men had visited the Badham home before the assault. The Badhams further claimed that one intruder was in his early to mid-twenties and the other was an “aged man.” Contrary to initial reports of Richard’s death, he recovered.
The attack on the Badhams occurred amid heightened tensions between Latter-day Saints and their antagonists in and . JS, as mayor of , worked with of , Illinois, to prosecute individuals accused of committing violent crimes against church members living outside of Nauvoo in the county, including the Badhams. In late December 1843, he filed a complaint before Hancock County justice of the peace alleging that Nauvoo resident , who was not a Latter-day Saint, was one of the men who had burglarized the Badham home. Based on JS’s complaint, Johnson issued a warrant for Eagle and he was arrested. Along with fellow Hancock County justice of the peace , Johnson presided at a preliminary hearing on 22 December. After hearing testimony from the Badhams and others, Johnson and Foster discharged Eagle “for want of evidence.”
 
State of Illinois v. Sympson
On 17 January 1844, JS made a complaint identifying as a suspect in the Badham attack. According to ’s docket entry for the resulting hearing, JS “had rec[ei]ved information that one Alexander Simpson was suspected of be[in]g gui[l]ty of and attemp to or inflict great Bodily. injury on the person of one .” Based on JS’s complaint, Johnson issued a warrant for Sympson’s arrest, and he was detained. Johnson and presided jointly at a preliminary examination for Sympson. The Badhams testified that Sympson “did not resemble the man who attemp[t]ed s’d Robery and murder.” Johnson further noted that “it appeared that the s’d Simpson was not the Person that was intended by Badham to have been arrestted.” JS also testified, but Johnson did not report the content of JS’s testimony in the docket entry. At the conclusion of the hearing, Johnson and Foster discharged Sympson “for want of Evidence” and held “that no suspissin [suspicion] aught to rest upon the s’d Simpson.”
 
Sympson v. JS
During the following months, both and JS commented on the events of 17 January 1844. Sympson wrote a letter for the Warsaw Signal in which he claimed that following the Badhams’ exculpatory testimonies, JS admitted in his testimony that he did not believe that Sympson was the assailant. Sympson also asserted that when JS was asked why he had sworn the contrary in the complaint, he responded that “he had not sworn to it; that he had signed it, but the oath was not administered to him.”
In response to ’s allegations, JS provided additional details about the events of 17 January. He reportedly gave the most extensive explanation of the situation in a discourse in on 26 May 1844. In this discourse, JS recounted that he met an unidentified Englishman who accused Sympson of committing the crimes against the Badhams. As JS was about to leave for his , a Nauvoo policeman who had overheard the conversation volunteered to apprehend Sympson. The police subsequently arrested Sympson, and, after JS returned and met with , the justice prepared an unsigned complaint summarizing the Englishman’s allegation. JS claimed that he refused to sign it, stating that he personally did not believe the allegations against Sympson. Johnson evidently confirmed that JS was not under oath for the complaint.
In ’s letter to the Signal, he announced his intention to have “the whole matter . . . investigated in a legal tribunal” in order to show JS “that he is not to swear what he pleases and pass with impunity.” Sympson subsequently hired lawyers Henry Stephens, , and Horace Cooley to represent him in a civil suit against JS in the circuit court of . The suit was filed as a common law action of “,” seeking $10,000 in damages. On 28 March 1844, the circuit court issued a summons for JS to appear for the May 1844 term; the summons was served on 15 April.
’s attorneys initiated the with his , arguing that JS had, under oath, “falsely and maliciously and without any reasonable or probable cause whatsoever” accused Sympson of robbing and attempting to murder . They further claimed that JS’s public remarks on the case left Sympson “greatly injured in his said good name, fame; and credit, and brought into public scandal, infamy and disgrace, with and amongst all his neighbors.” His attorneys filed the declaration with the Circuit Court on 28 March 1844.
The May 1844 term of the circuit court opened on 20 May 1844. JS hired , a prominent Latter-day Saint attorney, as well as law partners and , to represent him in the suit. On 22 May 1844, Babbitt filed the defendant’s , which denied the assertions presented in the counts of the declaration. The plea included a request for a jury trial; ’s attorneys agreed to the request.On 22 May 1844, Sympson’s lawyers submitted an affidavit to the court asserting that their client could not receive a fair trial in and requesting a change of venue. Attorneys for both parties presented their arguments, after which Judge granted the motion, moving the case to , Illinois. It was presumably dismissed following JS’s death.
 
State of Illinois v. JS for Perjury
In addition to the civil suit, prosecuting attorney pro tempore E. A. Thompson of ’s Fifth Judicial Circuit brought a criminal indictment before a during the May 1844 term, charging JS with committing on 17 January 1844. On 23 May 1844, , along with , , and , testified in support of the indictment, which claimed that JS had falsely sworn that Sympson had robbed and attempted to kill . After hearing the testimony, at least twelve of the twenty-one grand jurors accepted the indictment, as attested by the fact that Benjamin Avise, the foreman, wrote “a ” on the document. The trial was scheduled to be heard at the October 1844 term of the court. Following JS’s death, the criminal charge was dismissed at the October 1844 term.
 
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.
State of Illinois v. Sympson
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Justice of the Peace Court, 17 January 1844
 
Sympson v. JS
Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, 23 May 1844
McDonough Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, circa August 1844
 
State of Illinois v. JS for Perjury
Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, 21 October 1844
 
Historical Introduction
During the first half of 1844, JS was entangled in a series of legal proceedings with , a , Illinois, businessman who was not a member of the church. Sympson’s dispute with JS was rooted in an assault that had occurred months earlier. At about midnight on 10–11 December 1843, the home of and Hannah Nott Badham—Latter-day Saints who lived about five miles east of Nauvoo—was invaded. The intruders demanded money and threatened to kill the Badhams if they did not comply. The Badhams gave them $4.50 as well as a gun and a watch. Just before the burglars left, one of them stabbed Richard in the abdomen with a bowie knife. The intruders’ faces were reportedly “disfigured” and “blackened,” making recognition impossible; however, Hannah believed that the voice of at least one of the men was familiar and that both men had visited the Badham home before the assault. The Badhams further claimed that one intruder was in his early to mid-twenties and the other was an “aged man.” Contrary to initial reports of Richard’s death, he recovered.
The attack on the Badhams occurred amid heightened tensions between Latter-day Saints and their antagonists in and . JS, as mayor of , worked with of , Illinois, to prosecute individuals accused of committing violent crimes against church members living outside of Nauvoo in the county, including the Badhams. In late December 1843, he filed a complaint before Hancock County justice of the peace alleging that Nauvoo resident , who was not a Latter-day Saint, was one of the men who had burglarized the Badham home. Based on JS’s complaint, Johnson issued a warrant for Eagle and he was arrested. Along with fellow Hancock County justice of the peace , Johnson presided at a preliminary hearing on 22 December. After hearing testimony from the Badhams and others, Johnson and Foster discharged Eagle “for want of evidence.”
 
State of Illinois v. Sympson
On 17 January 1844, JS made a complaint identifying as a suspect in the Badham attack. According to ’s docket entry for the resulting hearing, JS “had rec[ei]ved information that one Alexander Simpson was suspected of be[in]g gui[l]ty of and attemp to or inflict great Bodily. injury on the person of one .” Based on JS’s complaint, Johnson issued a warrant for Sympson’s arrest, and he was detained. Johnson and presided jointly at a preliminary examination for Sympson. The Badhams testified that Sympson “did not resemble the man who attemp[t]ed s’d Robery and murder.” Johnson further noted that “it appeared that the s’d Simpson was not the Person that was intended by Badham to have been arrestted.” JS also testified, but Johnson did not report the content of JS’s testimony in the docket entry. At the conclusion of the hearing, Johnson and Foster discharged Sympson “for want of Evidence” and held “that no suspissin [suspicion] aught to rest upon the s’d Simpson.”
 
Sympson v. JS
During the following months, both and JS commented on the events of 17 January 1844. Sympson wrote a letter for the Warsaw Signal in which he claimed that following the Badhams’ exculpatory testimonies, JS admitted in his testimony that he did not believe that Sympson was the assailant. Sympson also asserted that when JS was asked why he had sworn the contrary in the complaint, he responded that “he had not sworn to it; that he had signed it, but the oath was not administered to him.”
In response to ’s allegations, JS provided additional details about the events of 17 January. He reportedly gave the most extensive explanation of the situation in a discourse in on 26 May 1844. In this discourse, JS recounted that he met an unidentified Englishman who accused Sympson of committing the crimes against the Badhams. As JS was about to leave for his , a Nauvoo policeman who had overheard the conversation volunteered to apprehend Sympson. The police subsequently arrested Sympson, and, after JS returned and met with , the justice prepared an unsigned complaint summarizing the Englishman’s allegation. JS claimed that he refused to sign it, stating that he personally did not believe the allegations against Sympson. Johnson evidently confirmed that JS was not under oath for the complaint.
In ’s letter to the Signal, he announced his intention to have “the whole matter . . . investigated in a legal tribunal” in order to show JS “that he is not to swear what he pleases and pass with impunity.” Sympson subsequently hired lawyers Henry Stephens, , and Horace Cooley to represent him in a civil suit against JS in the circuit court of . The suit was filed as a common law action of “,” seeking $10,000 in damages. On 28 March 1844, the circuit court issued a summons for JS to appear for the May 1844 term; the summons was served on 15 April.
’s attorneys initiated the with his , arguing that JS had, under oath, “falsely and maliciously and without any reasonable or probable cause whatsoever” accused Sympson of robbing and attempting to murder . They further claimed that JS’s public remarks on the case left Sympson “greatly injured in his said good name, fame; and credit, and brought into public scandal, infamy and disgrace, with and amongst all his neighbors.” His attorneys filed the declaration with the Circuit Court on 28 March 1844.
The May 1844 term of the circuit court opened on 20 May 1844. JS hired , a prominent Latter-day Saint attorney, as well as law partners and , to represent him in the suit. On 22 May 1844, Babbitt filed the defendant’s , which denied the assertions presented in the counts of the declaration. The plea included a request for a jury trial; ’s attorneys agreed to the request.On 22 May 1844, Sympson’s lawyers submitted an affidavit to the court asserting that their client could not receive a fair trial in and requesting a change of venue. Attorneys for both parties presented their arguments, after which Judge granted the motion, moving the case to , Illinois. It was presumably dismissed following JS’s death.
 
State of Illinois v. JS for Perjury
In addition to the civil suit, prosecuting attorney pro tempore E. A. Thompson of ’s Fifth Judicial Circuit brought a criminal indictment before a during the May 1844 term, charging JS with committing on 17 January 1844. On 23 May 1844, , along with , , and , testified in support of the indictment, which claimed that JS had falsely sworn that Sympson had robbed and attempted to kill . After hearing the testimony, at least twelve of the twenty-one grand jurors accepted the indictment, as attested by the fact that Benjamin Avise, the foreman, wrote “a ” on the document. The trial was scheduled to be heard at the October 1844 term of the court. Following JS’s death, the criminal charge was dismissed at the October 1844 term.
 
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.
 
State of Illinois v. Sympson, Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Justice of the Peace Court
 
Sympson v. JS, Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court
  • 1844 (20)
    • March (6)
      27 March 1844

      Henry Stephens and Dixon & Cooley on behalf of Alexander Sympson, Praecipe, to Hancock Co. Circuit Court Clerk, Warsaw, Hancock Co., IL, 27 Mar. 1844–A

      • 27 Mar. 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; unidentified handwriting; docket in unidentified handwriting; notation in handwriting of David E. Head; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      27 March 1844

      Henry Stephens and Dixon & Cooley on behalf of Alexander Sympson, Praecipe, to Hancock Co. Circuit Court Clerk, Warsaw, Hancock Co., IL, 27 Mar. 1844–B

      • 27 Mar. 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; unidentified handwriting; docket in unidentified handwriting; notation in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      Ca. 27 March 1844

      Henry Stephens and Dixon & Cooley on behalf of Alexander Sympson, Declaration, Hancock Co., IL

      • Ca. 27 Mar. 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; unidentified handwriting; docket in unidentified handwriting; notation in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      28 March 1844

      David E. Head on behalf of Jacob B. Backenstos, Summons, to Hancock Co. Sheriff, for JS, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 28 Mar. 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of David E. Head; docket printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of David E. Head; notations printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of William Backenstos; notation in handwriting of David E. Head; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      28 March 1844

      David E. Head on behalf of Jacob B. Backenstos, Subpoena, to Hancock Co. Sheriff, for Aaron Johnson, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 28 Mar. 1844–A

      • 28 Mar. 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; handwriting of David E. Head; docket in handwriting of David E. Head; notations in handwriting of William Backenstos; notation in handwriting of David E. Head; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      28 March 1844

      David E. Head on behalf of Jacob B. Backenstos, Subpoena, to Hancock Co. Sheriff, for Shadrach Roundy and Others, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 28 Mar. 1844–B

      • 28 Mar. 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of David E. Head; docket printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of David E. Head; notations printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of William Backenstos; notation in handwriting of David E. Head; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
    • May (8)
      Ca. 21 May 1844

      Almon Babbitt and Skinner & Bachman on behalf of JS, Plea, Hancock Co., IL

      • Ca. 21 May 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; handwriting of Almon Babbitt and unidentified scribe (presumably Henry Stephens, George Dixon, or Horace Cooley); signatures of Almon Babbitt, Onias Skinner, and George Bachman in handwriting of Almon Babbitt; signatures of Henry Stephens, George Dixon, and Horace Cooley in unidentified handwriting (presumably Henry Stephens, George Dixon, or Horace Cooley); docket in handwriting of Almon Babbitt; notation in unidentified handwriting; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      22 May 1844

      Docket Entry, Plea, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      22 May 1844

      Alexander Sympson, Affidavit, before Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 22 May 1844–A

      • 22 May 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; unidentified handwriting; signature presumably of Alexander Sympson; witnessed by Jacob B. Backenstos; docket and notation in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      22 May 1844

      Richard Badham, Affidavit, before Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 22 May 1844–B

      • 22 May 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; signature presumably of Richard Badham; docket and notation in handwriting of David E. Head.
      23 May 1844

      Docket Entry, Motion and Change of Venue, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      23 May 1844

      Aaron Johnson, Affidavit, before Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 23 May 1844–A

      • 23 May 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; signature of Aaron Johnson; docket and notation in handwriting of David E. Head; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      23 May 1844

      Shadrach Roundy, Affidavit, before Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 23 May 1844–B

      • 23 May 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos and David E. Head; signature of Shadrach Roundy; docket and notation in handwriting of David E. Head.
      24 May 1844

      Robert D. Foster, Affidavit, before Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 24 May 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of Robert D. Foster; signature of Jacob B. Backenstos; docket and notation probably in handwriting of David E. Head.
    • August (5)
      Ca. Early August 1844

      Docket Entry, Fee Bill, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      10 August 1844

      Bill of Costs, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 10 Aug. 1844–A

      10 August 1844

      Bill of Costs, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL, 10 Aug. 1844–B

      10 August 1844

      Transcript of Proceedings, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 10 Aug. 1844; McDonough County Circuit Court Files, Illinois Regional Archives Depository vault, Archives and Special Collections, Leslie F. Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, Macomb; handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; certifications printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; docket in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; notation in handwriting of James M. Campbell.
      16 August 1844

      Fee Bill, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

    • November (1)
      Between 16 August and ca. 14 November 1844

      Docket Entry, Fee Bill, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • Between 16 Aug. and ca. 14 Nov. 1844; Hancock County Circuit Court, Execution Docket, vol. B, p. [157]; Hancock County Courthouse, Carthage, IL; image in Hancock County Papers, 1830–1872, CHL; unidentified handwriting.
 
Sympson v. JS, McDonough Co., Illinois, Circuit Court
 
State of Illinois v. JS for Perjury, Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court
  • 1844 (6)
    • May (3)
      Ca. 23 May 1844

      Indictment, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • Ca. 23 May 1844; Hancock County Courthouse, Carthage, IL; microfilm 4,661,986 at FHL and photocopy at Joseph Smith Papers Project; handwriting of E. A. Thompson; docket in handwriting of E. A. Thompson; notation in unidentified handwriting; notation in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos.
      24 May 1844

      Docket Entry, Indictment, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 24 May 1844; Hancock County Circuit Court Record, vol. D, p. 128, Hancock County Courthouse, Carthage, IL; microfilm at FHL; handwriting of David E. Head.
      24 May 1844

      Docket Entry, Order for Capias, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 24 May 1844; Hancock County Circuit Court Record, vol. D, p. [129], Hancock County Courthouse, Carthage, IL; microfilm at FHL; handwriting of David E. Head.
    • June (2)
      22 June 1844

      Jacob B. Backenstos, Capias, to Hancock Co. Sheriff, for JS, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 22 June 1844; Hancock County Courthouse, Carthage, IL; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; docket and notation printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos; notations printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of Miner R. Deming; notation in handwriting of Jacob B. Backenstos.
      26 June 1844

      David E. Head on behalf of Jacob B. Backenstos, Subpoena, to Hancock Co. Sheriff, for Alexander Sympson and Others, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 26 June 1844; Hancock County Courthouse, Carthage, IL; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of David E. Head; docket printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of David E. Head; notation printed with manuscript additions in handwriting of Miner R. Deming.
    • October (1)
      21 October 1844

      Docket Entry, Abatement, Carthage, Hancock Co., IL

      • 21 Oct. 1844; Hancock County Circuit Court Record, vol. D, p. 166, Hancock County Courthouse, Carthage, IL; microfilm at FHL; handwriting of David E. Head.