Introduction to State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot

Document Transcript

State of Missouri v. JS and Wight for Riot
Fifth Judicial Circuit of Missouri, 7 September 1838
 
State of Missouri v. Ripley, G. A. Smith, Daley, Aldrich, Sentchfield, Tubs, P. Durfee, Bingham, Younger, Owen, Lemmon, Whitaker, and Brown for Riot
Daviess Co., Missouri, Justice of the Peace Court, 18 September 1838
 
State of Missouri v. JS, Wight, Daley, Younger, P. Durfee, Owen, Lemmon, Whitaker, Brown, Bingham, Tubs, Sentchfield, Aldrich, G. A. Smith, and Baldwin for Riot
Daviess Co., Missouri, Circuit Court, 10 December 1839
 
State of Missouri v. JS, Wight, Daley, Younger, P. Durfee, Owen, Lemmon, Whitaker, Brown, Bingham, Tubs, Sentchfield, Aldrich, G. A. Smith, and Baldwin for Riot
Boone Co., Missouri, Circuit Court, 5 August 1840
 
Historical Introduction
Around 10 April 1839, a , Missouri, grand jury indicted JS and fourteen other Latter-day Saint men, charging them with participating in a riot at the house of Justice of the Peace on 8 August 1838. The confrontation with Black occurred two days after a violent altercation on 6 August, when anti-Mormons attempted to stop Latter-day Saint men from voting in , the seat of Daviess County. Rumors quickly reached the Latter-day Saint settlement of , Missouri, that a mob had killed three Saints, leading JS and dozens of other Mormon men to march to , Missouri. There they learned that while no one had been killed in the fight, Black intended to form a vigilante force to expel the Saints from the county. On 8 August, JS and more than one hundred armed Latter-day Saints—including leaders of the Saints’ private militia, the Danites—confronted Black at his home. During a heated exchange, the men demanded that Black sign a statement promising that he would uphold the law and not harass the Mormons. Black ultimately wrote his own statement and signed it. The Saints left Black’s home believing that they had reached a peaceful solution to the crisis.
On 10 August 1838, ’s ally and fellow resident filed a complaint before Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in , Missouri, alleging that five hundred armed Mormon men “whose movements and, conduct are of a highly insurrectionary and unlawful character” had collected in Daviess County, and that about one hundred and twenty of these men assembled at Black’s home on 8 August and threatened his life. The complaint identified JS and as the leaders of the group that surrounded Black’s home. Based on this complaint, King issued a warrant for the arrest of the two men. Following some delay in serving the warrant, on 7 September King presided at a preliminary hearing in Daviess County. After examining witnesses for the prosecution and defense, King held that there was probable cause to believe that JS and Wight had committed a misdemeanor and ordered them to appear at the next session of the Daviess County grand jury for indictment.
Meanwhile, on 28 August filed a second complaint identifying sixteen Latter-day Saint men as part of the group led by JS and . Acting on the complaint, William Dryden, a justice of the peace, issued a warrant for their arrest, but the arresting officer returned it unserved, claiming that the Mormons in had resisted being taken into custody. On 12 September, Black filed a parallel complaint before another Daviess County justice of the peace, Philip Covington, identifying twelve of the sixteen men named in the late August complaint and adding two names. The resulting warrant was also returned unserved, with the deputy claiming he was “resisted by Rifles presnted at my breast.” However, after Brigadier General and his state militia troops intervened in Daviess County and promised to uphold the law, thirteen Latter-day Saint men agreed to appear on 18 September at a preliminary hearing before Daviess County justices of the peace Elijah Foley and John Wright. The defendants voluntarily entered into a recognizance to appear before a grand jury to answer an unspecified charge at the next session of the circuit court.
By the time the Circuit Court convened in April 1839, the Latter-day Saints and their neighbors had engaged in months of violent conflict, the Saints had been expelled from the state on orders by Governor , and JS and other church leaders had been imprisoned on several charges related to the Missouri Mormon War. On 8 April 1839, a session of the Daviess County Circuit Court opened at the home of Elisha Creekmore, just south of . Judge of the recently formed eleventh judicial circuit presided, while James A. Clark acted as the prosecuting attorney. Sheriff William Morgan impaneled twenty county residents as a grand jury, whose duty was to review evidence for the riot charge as well as other charges against JS and dozens of other Mormon men for crimes allegedly committed during the 1838 conflict. From 8 to 10 April 1839, the grand jury interviewed witnesses, two of whom— and —testified specifically regarding the 8 August 1838 confrontation. Around 10 April, circuit attorney Clark prepared an indictment that named fifteen Latter-day Saints, including JS, for participating in the purported riot. The grand jury submitted the indictment to the circuit court on 11 April 1839. Of the fifteen defendants named in the riot indictment, only five—JS, , , , and , all of whom had been imprisoned at the end of the 1838 conflict—were present in the circuit court on 11 April; the remaining ten defendants had already departed Missouri, having been forced to comply with the governor’s expulsion order. Citing his previous service as the prosecuting attorney in the case, Judge Burch essentially recused himself by issuing an order that changed the venue of the riot case for JS and his fellow prisoners to in Missouri’s second judicial circuit. The prisoners, along with Sheriff William Morgan and four guards, left on 12 April 1839. While en route to Boone County on 16 April, the prisoners escaped with the guards’ complicity.
Notwithstanding the escape, in the ensuing months Circuit Court clerk made certified copies of the indictment and the other records in his docket for the riot case and forwarded them to the Circuit Court, thereby officially transferring jurisdiction. However, perhaps due to the escape of the prisoners, Wilson was evidently confused as to whether maintained jurisdiction in the case. On 30 May 1839, after he had already sent the certified copy of the indictment to Boone County, Wilson issued a capias ordering the Daviess County sheriff to arrest JS and the other defendants named in the indictment. On motion of the prosecuting attorney, the case was continued on the Daviess County Circuit Court docket during the August 1839 term, but only for the defendants who were not named in the change of venue. When it became apparent that the defendants were not going to appear, the case was dismissed at the December 1839 term. In contrast, Roger N. Todd, clerk of the Boone County Circuit Court, interpreted the change of venue order to apply to all the defendants named in the indictment, regardless of whether they were specifically named in the change of venue order. On motion of the prosecuting attorney, the riot case was continued on the court’s docket until the August 1840 term, when it was dismissed.
 
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

    Missouri law defined riot as the assemblage of three or more people, “with the intent . . . to do any unlawful act, with force or violence, against the person or property of another, or against the peace, or to the terror of the people.” (An Act concerning Crimes and Their Punishments [20 Mar. 1835], Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri [1834–1835], p. 202, art. 7, sec. 6.)  

    The Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri, Revised and Digested by the Eighth General Assembly, During the Years One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Four, and One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Five. Together with the Constitutions of Missouri and of the United States. 3rd ed. St. Louis: Chambers and Knapp, 1841.

  2. 2

    JS, Journal, 7–9 Aug. 1838; Historical Introduction to Affidavit, 5 Sept. 1838, in JSP, D6:219–222.  

    JSP, D5 / Rogers, Brent M., Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Christian K. Heimburger, Max H Parkin, Alexander L. Baugh, and Steven C. Harper, eds. Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838. Vol. 5 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2017.

  3. 3

    Complaint, 10 Aug. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  4. 4

    Warrant, 10 Aug. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  5. 5

    JS, Journal, 7 Sept. 1838; Recognizance, 7 Sept. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]; An Act concerning Crimes and Their Punishments [20 Mar. 1835], Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri [1834–1835], p. 202, art. 7, sec. 6.  

    The Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri, Revised and Digested by the Eighth General Assembly, During the Years One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Four, and One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Five. Together with the Constitutions of Missouri and of the United States. 3rd ed. St. Louis: Chambers and Knapp, 1841.

  6. 6

    Complaint, 28 Aug. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  7. 7

    Petition, ca. 11 Sept. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  8. 8

    Complaint, 12 Sept. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  9. 9

    Warrant, 12 Sept. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]. Evaluating the veracity of these claims presents a challenge. From the time the Mormons left Black’s property on 8 August, he and his allies had claimed that the Saints were defying the law, that the regularly constituted authorities could not maintain order, and that only vigilante action could bring the Mormons to justice. Church members and interested outsiders perceived these claims to be thinly veiled rhetoric actually intended to convince men from neighboring counties to aid Black and his allies in expelling the Mormons from Daviess County. By early September, a multi-county anti-Mormon force was gathering near Adam-ondi-Ahman. In this context, the Saints presumably would have seen men appearing with arrest warrants as instruments of the mob and therefore may have resisted what they would have considered illegitimate authority. (JS, Journal, 8–9 Sept. 1838; Historical Introduction to Letter from Austin A. King, 10 Sept. 1838, in JSP, D6:237–239.)  

    JSP, D6 / Ashurst-McGee, Mark, David W. Grua, Elizabeth Kuehn, Alexander L. Baugh, and Brenden W. Rensink, eds. Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839. Vol. 6 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2017.

  10. 10

    Alexander Doniphan, “Camp on Grand River,” Daviess Co., MO, to David R. Atchison, Richmond, MO, 15 Sept. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA. Prosecuting attorney Thomas Burch made a transcript of the proceedings. Only seven of the thirteen defendants who appeared had been named in one of the previous extant complaints: Alanson Brown, Ephraim Owen, Alanson Ripley, George A. Smith, Amos Tubs, James Whitaker, and Joseph W. Younger. It is unclear how the other five men—William Aldrich, James Bingham, Moses Daley, Perry Durfee, John Lemmon, and Absalom Sentchfield—came to be in custody at the hearing. (Transcript of Proceedings, ca. 18 Sept. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].)  

    Mormon War Papers, 1838–1841. MSA.

  11. 11

    Recognizance, 18 Sept. 1838 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  12. 12

    Daviess Co., MO, Circuit Court Record, bk. A, 43–44, Daviess County Courthouse, Gallatin, MO.  

    Daviess County, Missouri. Circuit Court Record, vol. A, July 1837–Oct. 1843. Daviess County Courthouse, Gallatin, MO.

  13. 13

    Indictment, ca. 10 Apr. 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]. As grand jury proceedings are kept secret by law, no transcript of the witness testimonies has survived. (See “Grand Jury,” in Bouvier, Law Dictionary, 1:449.)  

    Bouvier, John. A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America, and of the Several States of the American Union; with References to the Civil and Other Systems of Foreign Law. 2 vols. Philadelphia: T. and J. W. Johnson, 1839.

  14. 14

    Indictment, ca. 10 Apr. 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]. With the exception of Caleb Baldwin, whose name did not appear in any previous documents associated with the riot case, each of the defendants had been bound over at either the 7 September or 18 September preliminary hearings. Alanson Ripley was the only individual bound over at the 18 September 1838 hearing who was not named in the indictment.  

  15. 15

    Docket Entry, Indictment, 11 Apr. 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  16. 16

    Lilburn W. Boggs, Jefferson City, MO, to John B. Clark, Fayette, MO, 27 Oct. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA.  

    Mormon War Papers, 1838–1841. MSA.

  17. 17

    Docket Entry, Removal Orders, 11 Apr. 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  18. 18

    See Historical Introduction to Promissory Note to John Brassfield, 16 Apr. 1839, in JSP, D6:422–426.  

    JSP, D6 / Ashurst-McGee, Mark, David W. Grua, Elizabeth Kuehn, Alexander L. Baugh, and Brenden W. Rensink, eds. Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839. Vol. 6 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2017.

  19. 19

    Indictment, ca. 10 Apr. 1839, Copy [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]; Docket Entry, Indictment, 11 Apr. 1839, Copy [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]; Docket Entry, Removal Orders, 11 Apr. 1839, Copy [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  20. 20

    Writ of Capias, 30 May 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].  

  21. 21

    In the docket entries noting the continuance and then the dismissal, Wilson listed Moses Daley first among the defendants, rather than JS, likely because Daley was the first named defendant who was not named in the change of venue order. (Docket Entry, Continuance, 14 Aug. 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]; Docket Entry, Nolle Prosequi, 10 Dec. 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot].)  

  22. 22

    Docket Entry, Continuance, 17 Aug. 1839 [State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Riot]. An apparent scribal error omitted the docket entry for the continuance of the riot case at the November 1839 term and the case’s dismissal during the August 1840 term. However, the circuit court clerk recorded the continuances and dismissals of the other Mormon-related cases, suggesting that the riot case was almost certainly continued and then dismissed, although not recorded. (See Docket Entry, Continuance, 4 Nov. 1839 [State of MO v. Gates et al. for Treason]; and Docket Entry, Nolle Prosequi, 5 Aug. 1840 [State of MO v. Gates et al. for Treason].)