News from the Mormon Country—The Trials for the Killing of the Smiths.
NEAR THE TEMPLE OF NAUVOO, May 31,1845.
To the Editor of The Tribune:
DEAR SIR: The trial of the individuals indicted for the murder of JOE SMITH, the Mormon Prophet, and his brother Hyrum last June, in the Carthage Jail, terminated yesterday in a verdict of ACQUITTAL.
The trial commenced on Wednesday, the 21st instant, and lasted ten days, in the Hancock Circuit Court, before his Honor RICHARD M. YOUNG, late United States Senator, and now one of the Judges of the Supreme Bench for the State of Illinois. The prosecution was very ably conducted by Josiah Lamborn, Esq. former Attorney General of the State, who was specially appointed for that purpose by Gov. Ford, assisted by Mr. Sweatland, of Rushville. They were very ably defended by Mr. Richardson, of Rushville, late Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Orville H. Browning, and Calvin A. Warren, Esquires, of Quincy, and O. C. Skinner, Esq. of Carthage.
Two indictments were found against the same individuals—one for the killing of Joseph Smith, and the other for the killing of Hyrum Smith, at the same time and place. The trial just concluded, was on the first indictment, and a special term has been granted for the trial of the second indictment, to be held on Tuesday, the 24th of next month. The defendants in both causes are Hon. J. C. Davis, State Senator; Thomas C. Sharp, Esq. Editor of the Warsaw Signal; Mark Aldrich, former Representative in the State Legislature; Col. Levi Williams, Wm. N. Grover, Esq. Attorney and Counsellor at Law, and one or two others, whose names I do not now recollect.
A very unusual course was taken by the defendants in the opening of the cause—one which, although I presume it has the sanction of law and precedent, has yet but seldom been resorted to in Judicial proceedings, in this State at least. Affidavit was filed by defendants, charging that the County Commissioners' Court, who selected the Jury from the body of the people, is composed of Mormons, and for that reason incapable of selecting unprejudiced and impartial Jurymen—that the Jury thus selected is mainly composed of Mormons, and hence prejudiced against the prisoners—and that the Sheriff and his Deputies, from causes stated, were also prejudiced against them, and consequently incapable of selecting talesmen ; motion was therefore made by defendant's counsel, that the whole Jury panel be set aside, and that two Elisors be appointed by the Court to empanel another Jury. The motion was resisted on the part of the prosecution; but, after being ably argued on both sides, was granted—and Thomas H. Owen, former-Member of the Legislature, and Wm, D. Abernethy, Ex-Sheriff, were appointed Elisors. About three days were occupied in obtaining a Jury, who were selected entirely from the old citizens, but who had not been in any manner conspicuous in the difficulties between the two parties, and who belonged to that class of citizens who have ever deprecated a resort to unlawful measures. About 40 peremptory challenges were exhausted by the prosecution, and ten or a dozen by the defence; and, considering the excited, state of public feeling since the death of the Smiths, this comparatively small number of challenges is proof that the Elisors discharged their duty faithfully.
The testimony against the defendants was very indirect—with the exception of that given by two or three Mormon witnesses—one at least of whom was hired for the occasion, (of which there was proof,) and who swore to so many supernatural and impossible circumstances, that the prosecutor himself asked the Jury to throw away his testimony. The address of the prosecutor to the Jury, and also of Messrs. Browning, Warren and Skinner, (Mr. Richardson being at the time sick,) were most able, and have added to their previous reputation as advocates. The Jury were but a very few minutes in making up a verdict of NOT GUILTY.
The prosecution was so severely handled during the trial, and the most extraordinary conduct of Governor Ford so fully exposed, that Mr. Lamborn declared that his Excellency and himself seemed to be the arraigned ones, and were acting in their own defence, instead of being engaged in the prosecution of others for a high crime. So unpopular at least was the prosecution, that Mr. L. although amply empowered to do so, could find no member of the bar willing to assist him. All was quiet and orderly throughout the trials, both in and out of Carthage—contrary to expectation at the commencement of the term. A few weeks previous, the Mormons, through their organ, the "Nauvoo Neighbor," and in their intercourse with the citizens, had become unusually violent. This was doubtless with the view of intimidating the Court and jury; but as it did not produce the desired effect, they are now quiet. What evil is yet in store for this devoted county, the All-seeing One only can tell. Much as I deprecate it, I anticipate blood! blood! in the coming future. The sun is not more apparent in the firmament, than that the Mormons and Old Citizens cannot (or at least will not) remain together in peace. The apathy of the people abroad—of the State Government—and even of the Union—to the state of affairs in this region, is most extraordinary. I shall give you the result of the trial on the other indictments. Yours, truly, X. Y. Z.
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