We’re continuing our conversation with Brian Stutzman, and we’ll talk about the trial of Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s murders. Was justice served or was it a kangaroo court?
Brian: The martyrdom happened June 27th, [1844.] Thomas Sharp came back to Warsaw and after his night of drinking and bragging at the Warsaw House, within the next couple days, he writes a 32-page pamphlet and publishes it in the Warsaw Signal‘s press office. He defends the martyrdom and defends the action. See there’s a political thinking called reserved rights. It basically said that in a small community, if the government doesn’t take action, the citizens have reserved rights, the right to take action among themselves. Well, in the first week of July of 1844, right in his newspaper, he writes about the martyrdom and he defends the actions of the mob. He says, “We regret, and we still regret,” he starts out by saying we the citizens of Warsaw are law abiding community. But we regret we still regret the actions we had to take. We didn’t participate in murder. We participated in extra judicial executions and anybody familiar with the facts, would agree that we were in the right.” He publishes this for whole world to see.
GT: Wow. A lynching.
Brian: A lynching, a legal lynching. Then, as we talked about later on, the trial was not for who pulled the trigger, but who were the soul of the movement. You can say that Thomas was not the soul of the movement. Well, years later, somebody asked Thomas Sharp, “So did you kill Joseph Smith?” His answer was, “Well, the jury said not.” Acquittal meant that these leaders, these people could go on with normal lives. Thomas Sharp, for instance, when Warsaw incorporated and became a town, he was elected the first mayor of Warsaw in 1853.
GT: This is after Joseph was killed. I do want to ask, what was Governor Ford’s reaction to the verdict?
Brian: He writes about it in his history. I think he thinks it’s a miscarriage of justice. But what are you going to do? The saints already know that it’s farcical, they know that.
GT: Would it have helped if John Taylor or others had testified?
Brian: They probably would have been killed.
GT: You think so?
Brian: The mob put 1000 people outside of Carthage to prevent anyone from coming in during trial week. They were not going to let the Mormon people come. They would kill them first.
GT: So it was a total kangaroo court.
Brian: It was a kangaroo court. So Thomas Sharp goes on, becomes mayor three times, becomes a judge. He’s not convicted, but everybody knows.