Famous Trial: Big Bill Haywood

In order to fully understand the nature of this trial, let’s take a quick look at the circumstances leading up to it:

It begins in July of 1892 in Northern Idaho, during a worker’s strike of local miners because of their wages being reduced from 35 cents to only 30 cents. After discovering a company plant, angry union workers decide the best way to get their point across is to blow up a mill and hold captive non-union workers. Other union men commandeer a train and take over other mills in the area. The Governor of Idaho declares martial law and with the assistance of President Benjamin Harrison, the federal troops are sent in.

The Governor of Idaho declares martial law and with the assistance of President Benjamin Harrison, the federal troops are sent in. The Federal Troops arrest 600 union men and sympathizers where they are held with no charges and then released.  Union leaders are tried.

Two years later in 1894, 40 masked men assassinate John Kneebone, a witness against the union leaders. This forces President Cleveland to send more federal troops to occupy Idaho.

Tension like this continues over the next several years with more mining explosions more federal troops being sent it, with over 1000 union members and sympathizer being arrested as of 1899.

In the early 1900s, the violence continued; a train bombing killing non-union members and the governor of Idaho being blown to smithereens from a bomb planted in his home.

Now that we have some historical context, the next thing we must focus on is the investigation into the bombing of the governor of Idaho:

On December 31, 1905, a waitress from The Saratoga Hotel, remembers a visibly shaken Thomas Hogan after the explosion that killed the governor. A search of his hotel room shows traces of plaster of paris which was used to hold the bomb together. The next day Thomas Hogan (born Harry Orchard) is arrested for the murder of the governor.

The state of Idaho hires the best detective of the era James McParland. He meets with Orchard and offers a plea deal if he is willing to testify as to who hired him for the job.

After having a complete meltdown in prison on February 1, 1906, Orchard confesses to killing the governor as well as 17 other people on the behest of union members William Hayword, Charles Moyer and George Pettibone.

Aha! It’s all coming full circle!

After some ridiculous shenanigans of getting William Hayword back to Idaho (he was Colorado hiding out but was found), on May 9, 1907, Hayword stood trial for the murder represented by the criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow and Edmund Richardson.

On July 29, 1907, the jury deliberates for 9 hours and announces it’s decision.

Hayword is found NOT GUILTY.

How could this be? There has been much debate amongst historians. Some believe that it was Clarence Darrow’s eloquence while other’s believe that it was the prosecution’s failure to provide any evidence to Orchard’s claims against Hayword. And remember the burden is on the prosecutor to prove without a reasonable doubt that Hayword was guilty of ordering the murder of the governor of Idaho.

Reports from all over the country reported on Darrow’s skilled defense and his team’s ability to countering the witness is cross-examination. One reporter even wrote, “the greatest trial in modern times.” And that is precisely why it’s on his our list.

When Does Murder Become A Federal Crime?

According to the United States Constitution, criminal law is left to be handled by the individual States where the crime was committed. So for example, let’s say you kill someone in Florida and are caught, you will be tried under Florida’s criminal laws.

But did you know that there are 10 specific cases in which committing murder can be seen as a federal offense and therefore ultimately be tried in a federal court? Not that we condone murder in any way but here’s how murder becomes a federal crime:

  1. Murdering An Elected/Appointed Official Of The Federal Government – this includes the President, Vice-President, Congressman, Senators, Cabinet Members or Supreme Court Justice.
  2. Murdering A Federal Jude or Law Enforcement Official – this includes any judge servicing on the federal court as well as law enforcement officials like the FBI, CIA, DEA, etc.
  3. Murdering An Immediate Family Member of A Law Enforcement Official – you cannot threaten a law enforcement to drop their investigation by murdering their family.
  4. Murdering Someone With The Intent Of Influencing The Outcome Of A Court Case – you cannot kill jurors, witnesses, police informants or officers to help win your court case. It’s also a federal crime to kill someone in response to their testimony.
  5. Murdering Someone During A Bank Robbery – since bank robbery in itself is a federal crime, if someone is killed (civilian, security guard, etc) the criminal will be brought up on a federal murder charge.
  6. Murdering A Child With Ties To Rape, Child Molestation or Sexual Exploitation – if you have sexually abused a child and they are killed because of it or you murder them afterward that will lead you to a federal murder charge. 
  7. Murdering Someone Aboard A Ship – maritime law is tricky because the ocean is considered multinational but since you are crossing multiple state lines in some cases it becomes a part of interstate travel which is under Federal Jurisdiction.
  8. Murdering Someone For Drug Related Reasons – due to the country’s War on Drugs, drug related offenses have higher punishments and are prosecuted under federal laws.
  9. Murdering Someone Due To A Contract (Communicated Through Internet/Cell Phone) – since cell phone towers and internet lines cross state lines this falls under Federal Jurisdiction.
  10. Murdering Someone Due To A Contract (Communicated By Mail) – same reason as above.

For the record, MURDER IS A CRIME! We do not want anyone to commit these heinous acts. But in some situations, it becomes a federal crime where the punishment and sentencing are much more severe than if being tried in a state court. We are bringing these up in the event you watch Crime Dramas, you can impress all your friends and family with your knowledge of Federal Law.

10 Trials That Fascinated America

We stole this list from Mojo Jojo, who does a very good job of selecting a top 10. This is our precursor as we instead to go through each of these trails more in depth as continue to write more and more articles for this blog. There are some major accusations of cover-ups, biased media coverage, racial discrimination and so much for us to comment on.

10. Scott Peterson Trial
9. Mike Tyson Rape Trial
8. Clay Shaw Trial
7. Casey Anthony Murder Trial
6. Michael Jackson Molestation Trial
5. Marilyn Manson et al: LaBianca Tate Murder Trial
4. Impeachment of Bill Clinton
3. Timothy McVeigh: Oklahoma City Bombing Trial
2. Rodney King Trial
1. O.J. Simpson Murder Trial

You can watch the full video here: