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Famous Trials:the Carthage Conspiracy (Joseph Smith Murder) Trial 1845

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The Carthage Conspiracy (Joseph Smith Murder) Trial 1845:



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Arrests and Trial Preparation


With sentiment in the county on the question of whether to prosecute any of the Smith brothers' killers decidedly mixed, the final decision hinged on the August 1844 election to fill Hancock County offices.  When the final votes were counted, Mormon-backed candidates swept to office, including Minor Deming, who became the new sheriff of Hancock County.  Soon after his election victory, Deming declared that 200 to 300 people were involved in the Smith murders, and that his office would launch an investigation with an eye to prosecuting those most responsible for the killings.  When Governor Ford and a military force of 450 men arrived in the county the following month, many of those most implicated in the murders decided the time was right to flee to Missouri.

On September 22, attorney Murray McConnell, a special agent appointed by the governor, arrived in Nauvoo and began taking testimony from witnesses.  Among those McConnell heard from was John Taylor, who implicated Levi Williams, commander of the 59th Regiment of the Illinois Militia, and Warsaw Signal publisher Thomas Sharp.  Other testimony suggested the guilt of several prominent dissenters, including Nauvoo Expositor publisher William Law, and Robert and Charles Foster.  Arrest warrants were issued for these and several other men.  When initial attempts to secure arrests failed, Governor Ford posted $200 rewards each for the arrests of three of the men believed most responsible, Sharp, Williams, and Joseph Jackson, who--in a letter--had confessed his role in the plot.



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