Tuesday, November 1, 2016

PRAIRIE DEFENDER: THE MURDER TRIALS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

My next book is a survey of the criminal trial practice of Abraham Lincoln which focuses on the homicide cases which he both prosecuted and defended. The book is now in the copy editing stage, and it should be published sometime next year. Southern Illinois University Press is already taking pre-publication orders for it. It's also being sold on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

As a sort of a preview of the book, here is the annotated table of contents:

TABLE OF CONTENTS: 
PRAIRIE DEFENDER: THE MURDER TRIALS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

INTRO: THE LEGEND OF LINCOLN THE LAWYER:
Discusses the commonly told stories about Lincoln as a practicing lawyer, roughly dividing them into two types: "Lincolnolatry," which portrays Lincoln as a saintly lawyer who never raised technical defenses and could not defend guilty clients; and "Lincolnoclasm," which portrays him as an unethical legal hack with marginal lawyerly skills.  Also discusses the commonly  held belief that Lincoln was not an accomplished criminal trial lawyer.

CH. 1: PEOPLE versus HENRY B. TRUETT, October 13, 1838:
 In his first murder case, which was prosecuted by Stephen A. Douglas, the defense faces the daunting task of trying to neutralize an almost open-and-shut case for the prosecution. Lincoln is trusted by his far more experienced co-counsel to give the summation for the defense. He talks the jury into acquitting.

CH. 2: PEOPLE versus WILLIAM FRAIM, April 23, 1839:
William Fraim stabs a man to death because the man blew cigar smoke in his face. Lincoln is appointed to represent him, loses the case, and Fraim is hanged despite Lincoln's efforts to have the case dismissed on a technicality.

CH. 3: PEOPLE versus SPENCER TURNER, May 23, 1840:

Lincoln teams with Stephen A. Douglas to successfully defend a man on a charge of murder and has to sue him to collect his attorney’s fee.

CH. 4: PEOPLE versus ARCHIBALD AND WILLIAM TRAILOR, June 18, 1841:

In a case which remains a mystery to this day, Lincoln defends two brothers accused of murder and proves they are not guilty by proving (much to his clients’ surprise) that the victim is not dead. Lincoln again has to sue to collect his fee. He later writes an article about the case entitled “Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder.”

CH. 5: VARIOUS CRIMINAL CASES, 1845-1846:
Discusses a number of cases for which very little evidence has survived.
 
CH. 6: PEOPLE versus JAMES AND GEORGE DENTON, June 12, 1846:

Lincoln is retained to assist the prosecution in an axe murder. The first trial results in a hung jury, and the second results in an acquittal. This trial is cited as evidence of Lincoln’s inability to prosecute. The chapter investigates whether this case really supports the claim that Lincoln was not a good prosecutor.

CH. 7: VARIOUS CRIMINAL CASES, 1850-1853:

Discussion of more cases for which very little evidence survives.

CH. 8: PEOPLE versus MOSES LOE, May 19, 1853:
Loe waylays Gray, knocks him to the ground with a club, and then stabs him in the throat. It’s an open and shut case of murder. Through some adroit pretrial maneuvering and skillful trial work Lincoln is able to obtain a manslaughter conviction, which courtroom observers count as a loss for the prosecution.

CH. 9: PEOPLE versus DAVID LONGNECKER, June 3, 1856:
Longnecker, a lawyer, stabs a former client to death in an argument over unpaid legal fees. He is indicted and tried for murder, and the jury hangs. When the case comes up for retrial, Lincoln has joined the defense team. The jury hangs again. Lincoln writes and circulates a petition asking the prosecutor to drop the charges. It is signed by 14 members of the bar. The prosecutor dismisses the case.

CH. 10: LINCOLN'S PARDON PRACTICE:

Discusses Lincoln’s very active and successful practice in obtaining pardons for his clients. Pays particular attention to the case of George High, where Lincoln obtained a pardon for the leader of the Redwood Gang, a gang of horse thieves which engaged in interstate trafficking in stolen horses and used classic organized crime tactics. Attempts to understand how Lincoln could have associated himself with efforts to pardon such an unrepentant and unworthy person as George High.

CH. 11: PEOPLE versus JANE AND THEODORE ANDERSON, November 28, 1856:
Lincoln turns down an offer of $200 to prosecute a poisoning case and accepts a $75 fee to defend it. In a sensational, high-profile case Lincoln obtains an acquittal.

CH. 12: PEOPLE versus ISAAC WYANT, April 4, 1857:

Lincoln prosecutes one of the first cases in U.S. jurisprudence where the insanity defense is successfully interposed. This is another case cited as authority for the proposition that he was not a good prosecutor. We investigate the validity of charges that Lincoln botched the prosecution.

CH. 13: PEOPLE versus JOHN BANTZHOUSE, October 2, 1857:

Lincoln's client is freed when a murder indictment is dismissed on a technicality, and he flees the jurisdiction before the prosecutor can obtain another indictment. This case is often cited as an example of Lincoln's use of underhanded tactics. We investigate whether Lincoln engaged in improper conduct in the case.

CH. 14: PEOPLE versus MELISSA GOINGS, October 10, 1857:

Lincoln defends a woman charged with killing her husband. She disappears from the courthouse during a recess in the proceedings. When asked where she was, Lincoln is supposed to have said “She asked me where she could get a drink of water, and I told her there was some mighty good water in Tennessee.” Did he advise his client to flee the jurisdiction? Could this possibly have happened? We investigate the likelihood of this incident actually happening. If it did happen, what does this say about Lincoln’s ethics?

CH. 15: PEOPLE versus DUFF ARMSTRONG, May 7, 1858:
We give an outline sketch of Lincoln’s famous Almanac Trial, discussing certain aspects of the case not covered in Abraham Lincoln's Most Famous Case: The Almanac Trial


CH. 16: PEOPLE versus TOM PATTERSON, April 21, 1859:
This is the case which is most often cited for the proposition that Lincoln could not defend a guilty client. Lincoln supposedly decided midway through the trial that his client was guilty and refused to participate further in the defense. We examine the evidence that Lincoln quit in the middle of the case and weigh it against conflicting evidence that he did no such thing.

CH. 17: PEOPLE versus PEACHY QUINN HARRISON, September 3, 1859:
Lincoln defends the grandson of his old political rival Peter Cartwright against a charge of murdering a former law student of Lincoln’s. Some suggestion has been made that Lincoln used questionable tactics to introduce inadmissible evidence and free a murderer. We investigate this charge to determine its merits.

CH. 18: THE LEGACY OF LINCOLN THE LAWYER:

We assess the Lincoln shown by the historical record against the Lincoln of the Lincolnolators and the Lincoln of the Lincolnoclasts.