The struggle between the
Western Federation of Miners and the Western Mine Owners'
Association at the turn of the twentieth century might well be
called a "war." When the state of Idaho prosecuted William
"Big Billl" Haywood in 1907 for ordering the
assassination of former governor Frank Steunenberg, fifteen years of
union bombings and murders, fifteen years of mine owner intimidation
and greed, and fifteen years of government abuse of process and
denials of liberties spilled into the national headlines. Featuring
James McParland, America's most famous detective; Harry Orchard,
America's most notorious mass murderer turned state's witness; Big
Bill Haywood, America's most radical labor leader; and Clarence
Darrow, America's most famous defense attorney, the Haywood trial
ranks as one of the most fascinating criminal trials in history.
William "Big Bill" Haywood
well-to-do businessman, sheep rancher, and former governor of Idaho,
had recently been converted to his wife's religious faith, the
Seventh Day Adventist Church. That was why he postponed until
after dark that Saturday evening of December
walking downtown and closing a business transaction, for the
Adventist Sabbath lasted from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday.
The Steunenberg residence was located on the
southeast outskirts of Caldwell, Idaho, about a mile from the
Saratoga Hotel, whose lobby was the usual after-hours meeting place
for the town's businessmen and ranchers. At that time,
Caldwell boasted a population of about 1,100. Boise City,
twenty-five miles to the east, claimed some 18,000 residents, the
statehouse, the penitentiary and a brand new electric trolley line.
Returning from a walk in eight inches of
freshly fallen snow, Steunenberg opened an in-swinging gate leading to the porch
of his Caldwell, Idaho home, and was blown ten feet into the air by
an explosion that "shook the earth and could be heard for miles
around." He was carried into his bedroom where in the
presence of his wife, son and a neighbor he died within half
an hour. Speculation began immediately that Steunenberg's
assassination was the work of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), whose enmity Steunenberg had
earned by his aggressive efforts, including the requesting of
federal troops, to suppress labor unrest in the Coeur d'Alene mining
district of northern Idaho. Messages were dispatched to Governor
Frank R. Gooding in Boise. A special train was immediately
made up in the capital and started toward Caldwell, loaded with
state officials and law officers. Every stranger became a
suspect . . .
Governor Frank Steunenberg
The 1890's had been a time of
unprecedented violence in Idaho's silver mines. Federal troops were
called to Idaho three separate times to combat union-sponsored
terrorism that had resulted in many deaths and extensive property
damage to mining company property, the last time being an
eighteen-month occupation from May, 1898 to November, 1899
undertaken at the urging of Governor Frank Steunenberg. Steunenberg
asked President McKinley to send troops after union miners hijacked
a train and planted sixty boxes of dynamite beneath the world's
largest concentrator, owned by the Bunker Hill Mining Company of
Wardner, Idaho, blowing it and several nearby buildings to
smithereens. Federal troops responded by arresting every
male-- even doctors and preachers-- in union-controlled towns,
loading them into boxcars, and herding them into an old barn where
the over 1,000 men were held captive without trial. In
declaring martial law, Steunenberg said, "We have taken the monster
by the throat and we are going to choke the life out of it. No
halfway measures will be adopted. It is a plain case of the state or
the union winning, and we do not propose that the state shall be
defeated." Steunenberg's tough anti-union stance infuriated leaders
of the Western Federation of Miners, all the more so because he was
a Democrat who miners helped elect.
Governor Frank Gooding; James Hawley, Idaho's foremost attorney;
and William Borah, newly chosen U.S. Senator, were close friends of
the Steunenberg family. All pledged their personal resources
and those of the state to the task of tracking down and convicting
The day after Steunenberg's
assassination, a waitress at the Saratoga Hotel in Caldwell reported
that a guest, calling himself Thomas Hogan and claiming to be s
sheep-buyer, had "trembling hands"
and "downcast eyes" when she waited on him shortly after the
explosion. A search of Hogan's hotel room turned up traces of
Plaster of Paris, the substance used to hold pieces of the bomb
together, in his chamber pot. Also found was a piece of
fish-line, acid residue in an empty bottle, a powder-stained coat
pocket, and other tools of the bomb-maker's trade. Hogan was questioned about the bombing
and, the next day (New Year's Day, 1906) arrested while having a
drink in the hotel bar and charged with the first degree murder of
Frank Steunenberg. Interrogated repeatedly in a Caldwell jail,
Hogan disclosed that his name was Harry Orchard, and that he knew leaders of the WFM, though he
continued to deny both his own guilt and any recent contact with
Albert E. Horsley: Alias Thomas Hogan,
No one in Idaho believed that
Steunenberg's assassination was the work of just one man.
In those days, investigations of major crimes often were turned over
to professional private agencies, such as the Thiel Detective
Service or the Pinkerton Agency. The first professional on the
scene was Captain Swain from the Spokane office of the Thiel Agency.
Governor Godding hired him to take charge of sweating the truth out
of Thomas Hogan.
Among the papers that have survived in the files of the Idaho
Historical Society are the confidential reports of Captain Swain and
his operatives to the governor. These cover the several weeks
that the Thiel Agency was involved in the investigation. If
bright lights, rubber hoses or strong-arm methods of persuasion were
used on the suspect, they were not detailed.
Thomas Hogan stuck to his story: he was nothing but a
sheep-buyer, incriminated by circumstantial evidence. He had
been using plaster of Paris to make a set of loaded dice, he swore.
The fish-line was for fishing. He knew nothing about the
Western Federation of Miners.
Yet strangely enough, shortly after Thomas Hogan's arrest and
without his sending a message to anyone, a telegram arrived from
Fred Miller, in Spokane, saying that he was heading for Caldwell to
defend Hogan. Miller was an attorney for the Western
Federation of Miners. From the Denver headquarters of the
Federation, William Haywood, Executive Secretary, sent an urgent
telegram to the union miners in Silver City, Idaho, directly south
of Caldwell, urging the local to raise a defense fund for Hogan.
The message was turned up by a Thiel operative, who had become a
member of the union. The Silver City local declined to have
anything to do with defending a man who appeeared to have murdered
After going along with Captain Swain and the Thiel Agency for
several weeks, Gooding, Hawley and Borah felt it was time for a
change. The Governor wired James McParland, Western manager of
the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Denver, asking him if he would
take charge of the case. McParland wired back, "Catching next
train to Boise." James McParland was Pinkerton's most
famous employee and America's premier detective. McParland had made his reputation some thirty
years earlier, working undercover in Pennsylvania's anthracite coal
mining region to expose and convict a secret group of Irish labor
activists suspected in a series of killings, the Molly Maguires.
A young man in his twenties then, his method had been to pose as a
miner under the assumed name of Frank McKenna. He worked,
drank, and caroused with the violent element until he had gained its
confidence, then exposed the guilty parties in a series of trials
that sent a number of men to the gallows. McParland's fame was great enough to attract the interest of the
author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who invented a meeting of Sherlock
Holmes and McParland in The Valley of Fear, an unprecedented
honor for a real detective.
To union men, McParland was the devil incarnate. To
capitalists, he was the white knight in armor. In 1906, he was
in his late fifties, not in the best of health, ponderous, slow, and
sparing of speech. But what he lacked in physical vitality he
more than made up for in mental capacity and experience. When
he moved in on a case, he supervised every detail; he played rough
and he played for keeps. But so did the other side.
During the eighteen months between the day of his first
employment by the state of Idaho and the time when the case finally
went to trial, McParland made almost daily written confidential
reports to Governor Gooding. This record runs over 1,000 pages
and gives a fascinating insight into the workings of the mind of the
"greatest detective of that day."
McParland's first act upon reaching Boise and conferring with
Governor Gooding, Hawley and Borah was to tell them that he could
not work with the Thiel Agency in any way. He trusted no
one but his own operatives. He appears to have had a
professional contempt for Captain Swain, discrediting everything the
rival detective had done, even suggesting that the Thiel man had
switched sides and now as secretly working for the defense.
The crime was committed in Caldwell, Canyon County, but as it had
outgrown the capabilities of a rural sheriff and prosecutor,
McParland suggested the prisoner, Thomas Hogan, be transferred from
the Caldwell jail to the state penitentiary at Boise, in adjoining
Ada County. Even in a case of such importance, toes must not
be stepped on politically; sheriffs, judges and county prosecutors
must be pacified. With McParland calling the moves behind the
scenes, Governor Gooding arranges for the transfer of the prisoner.
As special prosecutors for the state, he appoints James Hawley and
Now McParland goes to work on the prisoner. First, he tells
Warden Whitney to put Thomas Hogan alone in a comfortable but
isolated cell and ban all visitors and no news of any kind for
several days. The idea is to make Hogan feel completely
McParland, without revealing his identity, visits Orchard in the state
penitentiary near Boise. He tells the prisoner that the
evidence against him is ironclad; that if brought to trial, he is
bound to be convicted and hanged; and that the people who hired him
to assassinate the ex-Governor regard him as expendable and will not
lift a finger to help him.
Without making any specific promises of leniency, McParland then
goes on to say he feels sorry for the prisoner; that he knows he is
merely a tool; that others conspired with him; that the big men
should suffer rather than him. McParland expounds at some
length on similar cases in other parts of the country, particularly
the Molly McGuires, where the hirelings who committed the actual
crimes turned state's evidence and got off scot-free.
McParland also touches on the religious side of things, pointing out
that the worst of sinners can be forgiven if he confesses his sins.
The prisoner, Thomas Hogan, listens attentively and politely.
He requests time to think it over, and asks McParland to come back
and see him soon.
A few days later, McParland pays the prisoner a second visit and
talks to him in the same vein. Now the prisoner
recognizes him as the famous detective, James McParland, and is
flattered and awed, and again asks for time to think it over.
Shortly thereafter, Hogan sends word to McParland that he is ready
to make a full confession.
Orchard, after breaking down and crying several times, offered one
of the most amazing confessions in the annals of American justice.
In his 64-page confession, Orchard admitted both to the Steunenberg
bombing and seventeen other killings, all, he said, ordered by the
inner circle of the WFM. Charles Moyer, President of the
Western Federation of Miners; William Haywood, Executive Secretary;
George Pettibone, former Treasurer and Jack Simpkins, Executive
Board Member were all specifically accused of ordering the
Steunenberg assassination. Orchard also identified three other
WFM miners who he said had been his accomplices in various acts of
With Orchard's confession in hand, McParland proceeded to devise a plan to arrest the three members of
the WFM inner circle, all living in the WFM's headquarters city of
Denver, and transport them to Idaho for trial. Talking it over
with Governor Gooding, Hawley and Borah, McParland points out that
the above-named men are the real murderers and the prosecution
should go after them, rather than their tool, Harry Orchard.
According to Idaho law, any person or persons who
conspire to commit a murder--no mater where the conspiring is
done--are considered to be present in fact when the murder is
committed. Idaho law does not recognize an accessory before
the fact; an accomplice is regarded to be as much of a principal as
the killer himself.
In his confession, Harry Orchard has sworn that he
was hired and instructed to assassinate Steunenberg by Charles
Moyer, William Haywood, George Pettibone and Jack Simpkins.
The conspiring took place in Denver some months before the murder,
and the first three men named were in Denver when the bomb went off.
No matter, McParland points out. They
conspired; murder was committed; therefore, they were present in the
eyes of the law. Thus, they are extraditable from the State of
Colorado to the State of Idaho, where they must answer for their
crime. Gooding, Hawley and Borah agree. So when the
proper tome comes, McParland says, "we'll extradite them, bring them
to Idaho, and try them for murder." But there are other
matters to attend to first.
In his confession, Harry Orchard, stated that Jack
Simpkins, member of the executive board of the Western Federation of
Miners, came to Idaho with him, helped him shadow Steunenberg, and
then moved on before the murder was committed. It certainly
may be assumed that Jack Simpkins was in Idaho when the bomb went
off. Wherever he is now, he must be found and tried, also.
But Jack Simpkins has disappeared, and all the efforts of the
far-flung Pinkerton system can find no trace of him. However,
his wife, who lives in Spokane, is under constant watch, and sooner
or later must give away his whereabouts.
In his confession, Harry Orchard states that a man
names Steve Adams was with him and assisted him on many of his
bombing missions, not the least of which was the bombing of the
Independence, Colorado, railroad depot, where some fourteen
non-union scabs were blown into eternity. According to Idaho
law, the confession of an admitted murderer cannot be used to
convict other members of the conspiracy--unless it can be
corroborated by "independent evidence." Steve Adams, according
to Harry Orchard, is an habitual drunk, a weakling, and an ignorant
man. If he can be found and arrested, a master psychologist
like James McParland no doubt can wring a confession out of him in
short order, if he gets the idea that by confessing he can save his
own neck. Governor Gooding, Hawley and Borah agree that the
State of Idaho can make no promises in advance; still, there are
ways to get the message across.
Time is running on. Jack Simpkins and Steve
Adams cannot be found. Almost daily, McParland is conferring
with Harry Orchard, who now is the most willing and eager of
witnesses, on details of his confession, seeking to pin down
"independent evidence" to corroborate it. Orchard's trail of
violence is a long and crooked one, beginning at the Bunker Hill &
Sullivan mill explosion in northern Idaho in 1899 and wandering with
little rhyme or reason across the states of Washington, Oregon,
California, Montana and Wyoming. But always, Orchard claims,
as a paid killer for the Western Federation of Miners.
Reluctantly, McParland agrees to go ahead with
Simpkins and Adams still missing. Over in Denver, Charles
Moyer, William Haywood and George Pettibone are getting nervous;
they know something is being cooked up, and the lack of news worries
them. Fred Miller, the W.F.M. attorney from Spokane, is in
Boise, conferring frequently with Harry Orchard and trying to set up
his defense. Miller does not know that Orchard has confessed
and that every word said by him to Miller is quickly passed on to
McParland. Moyer is ill and acting queerly; Haywood no long
Haywood is the driving force on the executive
board. He is tough, aggressive and smart. His early year
as a miner were spent in Silver City, Idaho, fifty miles south of
the gate where Steunenberg died. He lost the sight of his left
eye in a childhood accident and does not like to be approached from
his blind side. He favors merging the Western Federation of
Miners with the radical Industrial Workers of the World, which plans
to end the conflict between capital and labor by taking over the
means of production--by bloody revolution, if necessary. At
least that's what the enemies of the I.W.W. claim--and the tone of
the more radical labor papers bears out the theory.
McParland now moves into action. He writes a
confidential letter to Governor McDonald of Colorado. He
writes another to Colorado Supreme Court Justice Goddard. He
tells them he was something of importance to talk to them about,
says he will be in Denver shortly, and begs for a few minutes of
their valuable time.
Before leaving Boise, McParland goes over his plan
in detail with Gooding, Hawley and Borah. A code system is set
up so that they may communicate with one another by telegram and
letter without the enemy catching on to what they are saying, in
case the messages are intercepted. Code name for McParland
wiill be "Owl." Hawley is "Fox." Borah is "Wolf."
Idaho and Colorado towns are given southern names such as "Savannah"
and "Mobile" so that they cannot be identified by persons not in the
know. Moyer is "Rattler." Haywood is "Viper."
Pettibone is "Copperhead."
McParland goes to Denver and has a talk with
Supreme Court Justice Goddard. In this session, Harry
Orchard's confession is read aloud. At one point in his
confession, Harry Orchard states that a year or so earlier the
Western Federation of Miners employed him to assassinate Colorado
Supreme Court Justice Gabbart. Orchard was to plant a bomb in
a hole next to a path in a vacant lot Judge Gabbert customarily
crossed each morning. A purse would be attached to a wire
triggering the bomb. When the judge saw the purse, he would
stoop, pick it up, the bomb would explode--and there would be one
less Supreme Court Justice to render decisions hostile to the
Western Federation of Miners.
The bomb was planted. But on that particular
morning Judge Gabbart took the long way around, using the sidewalk
rather than the path. A while later a total stranger to
Orchard--a man named Walley--came along, saw the purse, picked it
up--and was blown into eternity.
At this point in the reading, Judge Goddard
interrupts. He remembers the explosion. In fact, he
remembers that Judge Gabbert later said to him, "I don't know what
made me stay on the sidewalk that day. If I hadn't, I would
have been killed instead of Walley."
"Wait," McParland tells Judge Goddard.
"There's more." Later in his confession, Harry Orchard states
he later buried a bomb near Judge Goddard's gatepost, with its
triggering device to be fired by a string leading up through a
screw-eye fastened to the bottom of the gate. For some
reason, the bomb did not go off. As far as Orchard knows, it
is still buried by the judge's gate.
At this revelation, Judge Goddard becomes very
agitated. Bulkley Wells, a Harvard engineering graduate,
former Adjutant General of Colorado, and an explosive expert, is
summoned, and the reading session is recessed to Judge Goddard's
residence. After the family has been evacuated from the house,
General Wells gingerly digs into the ground beside the gatepost,
unearths the unexploded bomb, and carries it away to the arsenal for
safe-keeping. It is indicative of the iron nerve of this man
that he offers to bring the bomb intact to Boise as evidence in the
trial, if need be. McParland tells him it will be permissible
to remove its charge--before witnesses-and bring only the bomb case.
Railroads and courtrooms, it seems, have some stuffy rules against
Now McParland and Judge Goddard pay a call on the
Governor of Colorado. Again the Harry Orchard confession is
read. The governor asks McParland what is required of him.
McParland points out that many of the crimes committed by Harry
Orchard at the instigation of the Western Federation of Miners took
place in Colorado. It would be possible to bring charges
against Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone and try them Colorado.
But a leading citizen of Idaho has been foully murdered. Idaho
wants these men. Trials are expensive. Idaho, with the
help of law and order men (meaning mine owners) is willing to bear
the expense of the trial if it can get its hands on the criminals.
McParland has extradition requests from Governor
Gooding, which swear that the wanted men were in Idaho at the time
of the crime--in spirit, if not in person. He tells the
Colorado governor if he will sign the necessary papers, he'll take
care of the details.
Governor McDonald points out that, willing though
he might be to grant extradition, the moment the papers are served
on the three men, Western Federation of Miners attorneys will get
writs of habeas corpus, which, with the inevitable appeals, will
keep the men in Colorado indefinitely. Furthermore, the
extradition papers must be filed in the attorney general's office;
he is a strong pro-labor man, so the secret will be out in a matter
McParland has the answer for that. Let the
governor draw up and sign the necessary papers. Let special
deputies be sworn in to make the arrests at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.
Let a special train be ready and waiting on the outskirts of Denver.
Let General Bulkley Wells be in charge of it. Let it leave
Denver at 7 a.m. The courts will not be in session on Sunday.
The train will be out of the state of Colorado before the Western
Federation of Miners realize what has happened. By dark Sunday
night, the train will have crossed Wyoming and the birds will be
safely flying across the state of Idaho. Then let the lawyers
scream. As far as the labor-living Attorney General is
concerned, he'll get the papers on Monday. This, it is
arranged . . .
McParland wanted the
arrest and trip north to be so surreptitious and swift that the men
would have no opportunity to obtain the assistance of lawyers who
might prepare legal challenges to extradition. In effect, what
McParland proposed was a kidnapping under the barest color of state
law. McParland and Idaho state officials succeeded in
convincing the governor of Colorado to issue warrants for the arrest
of the three men (codenamed Copperhead, Viper, and Rattler) on
February 15, 1906. Both the warrants and the planned arrests
remained a closely guarded secret until the night of February 17,
when the three were rounded up. Moyer was arrested after boarding
"the Deadwood Sleeper" which was to take him to South Dakota on the
first leg of a probable planned escape to Canada. Haywood was
arrested while having sex with his sister-in-law. Haywood, Moyer,
and Pettibone were placed for a few hours in the city jail, denied
permission to call family or lawyers, before being hustled in the
early hours of the morning to the Denver depot. Here placed on a
special train with orders not to stop until it crossed the Idaho
McParland wants the train to move out at once, but the division
superintendent of the Union Pacific says that is impossible.
The trains crews, clearances and changes of engines have been set up
for early Sunday. At this late hour, it is impossible to
change the timetable. The train rolls north at 6 a.m.
In order to keep the hands of the Pinkertons clean, McParland had
arranged for Colorado officers to make the arrests and for the
special Idaho deputies to act as train guards, with General Bulkley
Wells in charge. Wells declares that no law officer of less
rank than a United States Marshall will be permitted to stop the
train, and he is not at all sure that he would stop on even that
officer's order. At any rate, there is only one U.S. Marshal
that could possibly stop the train along the route it is taking; he
lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which the train reaches at 10 a.m.
The Cheyenne railroad yards have been cleared; the train, blinds
on the passenger cars drawn, highballs through at thirty miles an
hour. It is scheduled to cross Wyoming during daylight hours,
stopping for coal and changes of crew only at isolated places.
McParland reasons that a red lantern seen at night would make a stop
mandatory, for a bridge might be out; in daylight, the engineer can
see the track ahead.
Prisoners and guards are well supplied with fried chicken and
beer, the latter strictly controlled by General Wells. False
trails and news stories have been planted back in Denver so the
whereabouts of the three men is uncertain. As for McParland
himself, he stays in Denver, feigning ignorance of the whole affair.
At a late hour Monday night, the three prisoners reach Boise City
and are placed in the penitentiary for safe keeping. At about
this same time, Steve Adams is located and arrested near Baker City,
Oregon, and is taken to Boise.
Charles Moyer, William Haywood, George
Now the storm breaks in newspapers
across the country, the labor press scraming "Kidnapped!" while the
capitalistic press cries "Well done!" Not long after the special train
departed the Denver station, Edmund Richardson, the longtime attorney for the WFM, boarded
another train to Idaho and began the legal battle to free the three
leaders. Richardson filed petitions for habeas corpus, arguing that
their forcible removal from Colorado without an opportunity to
legally challenge their arrest and extradition in Colorado courts
violated the Constitution. The prisoners' arguments lost both in the
Idaho courts and the United States Supreme Court, which in December
of 1906 in the case of Pettibone v. Nichols, ruled that a prisoner was "not excused
from answering to the state whose laws he has violated because
violence has been done to him in bringing him within the state."
Justice McKenna was the sole dissenter, writing: "Kidnapping is a
crime, pure and simple. All of the officers of the state are
supposed to be on guard against it. But how is it when the law
becomes a kidnapper? When the officers of the law, using it forms,
and exerting its power, become abductors?"
Eugene Debs, a Socialist Party leader in Chicago, threatens to
raise an army of 50,000 working men, lead it to Idaho, and liberate
the prisoners by force of arms. Angry Idaho citizens answer,
"Come ahead--we'll meat you at the border with hot lead."
Haywood, Moyer, and Pettibone took their
fates differently. Moyer was frequently observed crying or walking
nervously around his cell. Haywood used his time in jail to design
new WFM posters, take a correspondence course in law, read books
such as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and run on the Socialist
ticket for governor of Colorado (he received 16,000 votes). Pettibone took his incarceration on death row almost cheerfully,
shouting "There's luck in odd numbers, said Barney McGraw!" Over the
months of their detention, tensions grew between the radical and
defiant Haywood and the more cautious Moyer. Soon they were no
longer on speaking terms and McParland began efforts, ultimately
unsuccessful, to convince Moyer to testify against the other two
Meanwhile, McParland continued to hunt
down other witnesses who could strengthen the prosecution's case. A
miner named Steve Adams, implicated by Orchard in the bombing of a
Colorado train depot that killed thirteen non-union miners and the
killing of two claim jumpers in northern Idaho, was arrested. Threats of hanging and promises of immunity finally induced Adams to
McParland returns to Boise and is disturbed to find one important
detail of his complex plan has misfired. He had given specific
intructions that Moyer is to be put in a cell separate from Haywood;
he knows that Moyer is ill and has a seriously ill wife in
California. He knows of a growing split between Moyer and the
other two men. If given the opportunity, McParland is sure
that he can get Moyer to turn state's evidence, corroborate Orchard,
and cinch the case against Haywood, Pettibone, and Simpkins, whose
arrest he expects momentarily.
But the three men had been placed in the same cell. Moyer's
backbone appears to have stiffened; the golden opportunity is lost.
No matter. Steve Adams is available--and he is a weak man.
McParland goes to work on him in the same manner he had worked on
Orchard. In a matter of days, Steve Adams makes a full
confession, not only corroborating most of what Orchard has said but
adding a few murders in northern Idaho to which Adams was a party
with the missing Simpkins.
By late February, 1906--two months after the murder of Frank
Steunenberg--all the principals accused of the crime are confined in
the Boise penitentiary. Bothe Harry Orchard and Steve Adams
have signed detailed confessions. The charge against Moyer,
Haywood and Pettibone is conspiracy to commit murder, a capital
offense, for which they must be prosecuted as principals. The
defense has habeas corpus appeals pending; the prosecution
has served notice that it intends to try Bill Haywood first, asking
for the death penalty.
The ensuing year is a busy one as the prosecution tries to
collect "independent evidence" that will corroborate details of the
confessions and the defense tries to establish the fact that no
evidence exists to connect the man on trial with the actual
murderer. For example, in his confession Steve Adams describes
how he was taught to make "Pettibone Dope," a liquid that bursts
into flame when exposed to air.
Adams says several years earlier Haywood sent him to Pocatello,
Idaho, with several jars of the liquid, which he was instructed to
throw into a railroad car filled with strikebreakers due to pass
through. Unable to accomplish his mission, he carried the
evil-smelling jars into a vacant building just outside of town and
buried them in the dirt floor. Now he is willing to take
McParland to Pocatello and show him where the jars are buried.
Accompanied by the Pinkerton detectives, prison guards and a
reporter from the Idaho Statesman, Steve Adams goes to
Pocatello and supervises the search for the jars of "Pettibone
Dope". All the suspense elements of treasure hunt are here:
changed landmarks, a burned-down building, abandonment of the
search, the overhearing of a chance remark, a renewed search--and
the eventual discovery of the jars which once contained the evil
Harry Orchard's confession states that two years previously
Haywood sent him to San Francisco to murder Fred Bradley, manager of
the Bunker Hill & Sullivan mill at the time of the 1899 explosion.
After an abortive attempt to poison Bradley by putting strychnine in
his milk, Orchard planted a bomb at the door of the former
mill-manager's apartment house, it exploded, threw Bradley into the
street, and seriously injured him, but he recovered.
On checking the story, the Pinkertons learn there was indeed an
explosion, but Fred Bradley thought it was caused by leaking gas
rather than by a planted bomb. In fact, the owner of the
apartment building had sued the San Francisco Gas Company and
collected damages. Is Fred Bradley telling the truth? Is
he trying to avoid trouble? Could there have been two
explosions, first the bomb, then the gas from the ruptured lines?
Most important, how can it be proved that Haywood and Pettibone were
connected with the alleged attempt on Fred Bradley's life?
In December of 1906 while these investigations by the prosecution staff are going on,
and with the habeas corpus appeals still pending, famed
Chicago defense attorney Clarence
Darrow arrives in Boise and confers with his associate-to-be, E. F.
Richardson. Richardson is an extremely capable man, one of the
finest criminal lawyers in the country, but a plodder. He has
also been described as arrogant, opinionated, and temperamental.
Clarence Darrow is unorthodox, amiable-appearing, but a keen student
of human nature.
Richardson is a detail man, with a fine knowledge of law.
Darrow is a gambler, going for the long-shot. He is said to
have made the statement, "I'll do anything to win--even if it means
bribing the jury," though the statement cannot be proved.
Boise attorneys quickly dub him "Old Necessity"--for "necessity
knows no law." Darrow and Richardson each believe themselves
in charge of the case--a matter that will cause great friction in
time to come.
Darrow sees at once the most damaging part of the case to the
defense is Steve Adams' confession, which corroborates Orchard's in
Darrow's first priority was to convince Adams to withdraw his
confession and thus make the state's case against Haywood stand on
the uncorroborated testimony of Harry Orchard. Denied personal
access to the closely held Adams, Darrow was able to contact an
uncle, known as "old man Lillard," living near Baker City, Oregon.
Darrow pays him a call. Uncle and nephew are hill people who
have migrated west from the Missouri Ozarks, ignorant, clannish,
violent folk, with a long history of feuding and being "agin" the
Details of just how Darrow works on Lillard are not clear, but it
may be reasonably assumed that the attorney reminds the uncle of the
hill code: "Better to die with sealed lips than live after informing
on your clan."
Perhaps money changed hands--as was charged. Certainly it
may be assumed that Darrow told the uncle that Steve Adams would
have a more than even chance for life and freedom if he remained
loyal to the Western Federation of Miners, while, if he testified
against the organization in court, no power on earth could save him
from assassination. Whatever the method used, the net result
of Darrow's talk with Lillard is that the old man goes to the
penitentiary to see his nephew who, much to the chagrin of McParland
repudiates his confession.
McParland, coldly furious, believes there is a way to tighten the
screws on Steve Adams. He points out to Borah and Hawley that
Adams, in his confession, stated that with the help of Jack Simpkins
he killed two timber-claim-jumpers in northern Idaho a few years
earlier. When Adams is released from custody on a writ of
habeas corpus, the sheriff of Shoshone County is waiting with a
warrant for his arrest on a murder charge.
Central and northern Idaho are extremely mountainous; in those
days, direct transportation by rail from Boise to Wallace was
impossible. By rail, one could go east to Pocatello, north
into Montana, then west to Wallace, Idaho; or one cold go west into
Oregon to Pendleton, north into Washington, then east to Wallace.
Either way, the prisoner, Steve Adams, will have to be taken out of
the state of Idaho--and the prosecution fears that the moment his
physical person leaves the jurisdiction of the state of Idaho,
habeas corpus writs will fall like manna from heaven.
McParland and Hawley make a "gentleman's agreement" with Darrow
and Richardson that no legal papers will be served while the
prisoner is outside the state of Idaho. The defense attorneys
board an Oregon-bound train; so do McParland and Hawley. But
Steve Adams is not on it. During the dark of night, he has
been quietly spirited out fo the prison by the back entrance, and,
accompanied by Warden Whitney, Sheriff Angus Sutherland of Wallace,
and a couple of guards, is transported north across the mountains by
a rugged stage, wagon, and horseback rout that will require several
days but will keep him within the boundaries of Idaho.
McParland, it appears, does not think Richardson and Darrow are
The trial of Steve Adams held in Wallace, Idaho during
February, 1907 for the murder of Fred Tyler was a dress rehearsal
for the main show soon to take place in Boise. Hawley and
Borah act as special prosecutors; Richardson and Darrow conduct the
In those days, filing timber claims in remote mountain areas,
getting deeds to the land, then selling the land to big lumber
barons, was a handy way to pick up a few dollars. Having such
claims jumped was a hazard of the game. Getting shot for
jumping--or for not jumping quick enough--was another.
A couple of men have disappeared and rumor has it that Steve
Adams and Jack Simpkins have killed them. Some human bones and
old clothes have been found, which are identified as the mortal
remains of Fred Tyler. Reluctant witnesses give indefinite
testimony; the jury deadlocks six and six; Steve Adams goes back
into the Wallace jail to await a new trial.
Darrow is satisfied; he says he could hardly hope for an
acquittal. McParland is satisfied; he says he could hardly
hope for a conviction. But Steve Adams is still in the toils
of the law, with the shadow of the noose hanging over him.
Grimly, McParland goes back to work on him. The state will ask
for a change of venue at the next trial, he points out to Adams.
Next time, the trial will take place in a farming rather than a
mining community; a jury of farmers will be sure to convict you.
But if you will affirm your original confession . . . Steve Adams
remains sullenly silent.
Meanwhile, back in Boise, the legal maneuverings
continue. The defense sets up an intricate trap, into which it
hopes the prosecution will step. Earlier, the defense has
filed habeas corpus writs for Haywood, Moyer and Pettibone,
which have been denied by the Superior Court. Appeals are
taken to both the Idaho Supreme Court and the Federal District
Court; both deny the appeals. The defense then files appeals
with the United States Supreme Court from both lower court rulings.
Noting that the appeals are identical, the Supreme Court combines
them and sets an October 1906 date for the hearing, a date some
months in the future. Now the defense sets up a clamor in the
newspapers for an immediate trial of Haywood on the murder charge,
claiming that the defense is ready but the prosecution is stalling.
This is potent propaganda, for by now the
prisoners have been in confinement for many months. But Hawley
and Borah refuse to step into the trap. They know that while a
trial may be held pending an appeal from a state court decision, the
U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the result of a trial held pending
an appeal from a Federal Court decision is null and void.
Thus, the hands of the prosecution are tied until the U.S. Supreme
Court makes its ruling on the appeals--unless the defense is willing
to drop its appeal from the Federal District Court ruling and rest
its case on the appeal from the State court ruling. This
Darrow refuses to do--and he makes dramatic capital of the facct
that the prosecution has asked a man on trial for his life to
surrender one of his constitutional rights.
In October 1906, the attorneys go to Washington,
D.C. and argue the habeas corpus appeals before the United
States Supreme Court. In late December, the Court hands down
its ruling: appeals denied. The 8-1 ruling is based on two
principles: (1) That an accused lawbreaker has no right of
asylum in another state, and (2) That once his physical person
is within the jurisdiction of the state accusing him of a crime, he
must stand trial, regardless of the methods used to transport him
into that state.
In a lone dissenting opinion, Justice McKenna
calls the removal of the three accused men from Colorado to Idaho
"kidnapping," but he bases his charge of illegality solely upon the
fact that the Idaho extradition request has sworn that the accused
were present in Idaho when the murder was committed--which they
obviously were not. He overlooks the fact that Idaho law
recognizes only principals, not accessories, and makes being present
in spirit the same as being present in fact.
Although the little town of Caldwell, Idaho, has
enlarged and remodeled its courthouse in anticipation of playing
host to what Eugene Debs calls "the most important trial in American
history," the defense asks for a change of venue to another county.
During the better part of a year, many residents and prospective
jurors in southwestern Idaho have been receiving gratis copies of
weekly paper such as the Socialist and the Appeal to Reason, both
pro-labor publications whose chief purpose is to influence the
readers in favor of the defendants.
Jury selection proved a difficult and time-consuming task, with
249 potential jurors questioned over more than six weeks to arrive
at the final panel of twelve. Both sides understood the
importance of having a favorable jury in a case with the political
implications of the Haywood trial. Each side had invested
great resources in compiling intelligence on members of the local
jury pool. Men were sent out into Boise and the surrounding
countryside posing as encyclopedia and insurance salesman, with the
purpose of investigating the affiliations, politics, and preferences
of any who might be called for jury duty. They work in pairs
so they would be able to testify, if need be, that a certain
prospective juror had discussed the trial and has formed an opinion.
Alphabetical lists of names were made and behind each name are the
letters: "N.G." or "O.K." The Pinkertons managed to
place a spy, Operative 21, as a jury canvasser for the defense with
the instruction to provide Darrow and the defense team with
erroneous reports of the preferences of potential jurors. (Only late
in the jury selection game did the defense uncover the spy in their
midst.) Many potential jurors resisted serving on a jury for
$3 a day for what promised to be a long and controversial trial, and
some ran from the sheriff as he tried to round up potential jurors.
Some took off for the hills, while others were found hiding in
cellars and haystacks. Once in court, potential jurors were asked
about what they thought of labor unions, what church they belonged
to, and whether they heard a speech recently delivered in Boise by
Secretary Howard Taft. Both sides weighed the answers of
potential jurors and exercised peremptory challenges or challenges
for cause against those they saw as unsuitable jurors. Bill
Haywood huddled with his lawyers, seemingly taking an active role in
the jury selection process.
In requesting a change of venue, the defense files over 600
affidavits as proof that potential jurors have formed and expressed
an opinion. Judge Fremont Wood, who is to preside over the
trial, states that while he is personally unconvinced that a fair;
unprejudiced jury cannot be found in Canyon County, he will give the
defense the change of venue which it has requested.
Eight telegraph wires are leased to accommodate the newsmen;
during the ten weeks that the trial lasts, 50,000 words a day are
sent out to the press services of the world, which include the
Associated Press, Reuters and most of the metropolitan dailies.
While the selection of the jury is still in progress, Governor
Gooding permits a group of reporters to see and interview Harry
Orchard at the prison, expressly stipulating that there are to be no
questions regarding the forthcoming trial. Orchard makes such
a favorable impression upon the reporters with his apparent
truthfulness, sincerity and religious conversion, he is given an
extremely good press.
Richardson scream, "Foul!" Darrow chortles gleefully, "The
sons-of-bitches will never get a jury in Ada County Now!"
Judge Fremont Wood is so fearful that this premature publicity may
be grounds for a mistrial he orders an immediate investigation
by Ada County Prosecutor Koelish to see whether contempt charges
should be brought against the news writers. Though the
prosecuting attorney's reply is negative, Judge Wood verbally
chastises the newsmen, and, by inference, Governor Gooding,
McParland, Hawley and Borah.
Errors in judgment are not confined solely to the prosecution
legal staff. Soon after arriving in Boise, Clarence Darrow had
asked Judge Wood's former law partner, Edgar Wilson, to join the
defense team, offering him a fat $15,000 fee. Wilson puts
Judge Wood in an impossible position when he asks his old friend if
his taking the job would in any way prejudice the judge's position.
Judge Wood coldly tells him to let his conscience be his guide.
After due consideration, Edgar Wilson accepts Darrow's offer--and
then does nothing to earn the retainer except in the pre-trial
examination of a couple of jurors. During the trial itself,
Wilson does not once open his mouth in court, and much of the time
is not even present.
Finally, jury selection was completed
with the addition to the jury of a rancher named O. V. Sebern.
Of the twelve jurors, nine were ranchers or farmers, one was a real
estate agent, one a construction foreman, and one a building
contractor. Eleven of the twelve were men over fifty.
Now the rehearsals are over. A date is set
for the opening performance--Bill Haywood's trial--before a
blue-ribbon panel of critics, fifty top reporters for the nation's
leading newspapers and magazines.
On May 9, 1907 the case of State of
Idaho versus William D. Haywood was called for trial in
Judge Fremont Wood's third-floor courtroom of the Ada County
Courthouse. Press reports that day from Boise announced that
"the eyes of the civilized world are on these great proceedings,"
which was described as a "determined struggle between labor unions
and capital." One reporter called the Haywood trial "the greatest
trial of modern time," while another described it as "one of the
great court cases in the annals of the American judiciary." In a
front row bench, much like an old-fashioned church pew, sat
Haywood's wife, daughters, and mother, all of whom had been asked by
Darrow to attend the trial so as to help create sympathy for his
Judge Fremont Wood
Boise remains remarkably quiet. Rumors of
mob violence, threats of assassination of Orchard by riflemen posted
on the hills outside the prison, and bomb scares against the persons
of Governor Gooding and Clarence Darrow--all prove to be as
insubstantial as Eugene Debs' threatened army of 50,000 workers.
In the labor press, Debs declares his intention to attend the trial
as a spectator and one-man judge and jury but is dissuaded by Darrow
and Richardson, who feel that his presence will do their client's
cause more harm than good. Samuel Gompers, president of the
conservative American Federation of Labor, is invited by Governor
Gooding to attend the trial and witness the fairness of Idaho
justice, but he stiffly declines. Gompers does not want his
union identified with violence even by association.
A bearded, suspicious-looking man carrying a
package is arrested as he tries to push his way into the crowded
courtroom. When authorities question him and gingerly inspect
the package, he is revealed to be a sheepherder jsut in from the
hills carrying a dirty pair of overalls to his laundry woman.
Six attorneys sit at the defense table. All
during the selection of the jury and the trial itself, Bill Haywood
remains alert, constantly jotting down notes and conferring with
Richardson and Darrow. Just behind him sits his family.
His wife, a thin, pale woman who has been an invalid for the past
eight years, is brought into court in a wheel chair a few minutes
before each session begins, somberly dressed, accompanied by her
siste, who acts as her nurse, her tow daughters, thirteen and eight
years of age, her mother, and Bill Haywood's own mother and father.
William "Big Bill" Haywood defense team -
Darrow & Richardson far right.
The prosecution team consisted of William Borah
who later became a member of the United States Senate as a leading voice for the Progressive Republicans.
Known for his shrewd strategizing and forceful oratory, Borah had the
biggest and most profitable legal practice in the state. Borah was
joined by James Hawley, a stereotypical western lawyer, renowned for his
rapport with Idaho juries and the state's most experienced trial
Behind the prosecution table, the murdered man,
Frank Steunenberg, is not nearly as well represented.
Following her collapse immediately after his death, Mrs. Steunenberg
was gravely ill for a time, then, as she recovered, she was sent to
Southern California where she had since lived with relatives most of
the time. A deeply religious woman, she will appear in court
for only one session during the entire trial--and then apparently
much against her wishes. During the trial, she attends a
Seventh Day Adventist Convocation in College Place, Washington, near
Walla Walla, but the only comment she will make for the papers is
that she cannot fond it in her heart to condemn Harry Orchard.
She hopes his religious conversion is genuine.
Julian Steunenberg, a young man of nineteen,
appears in court and briefly testifies to having helped pick up the
shattered body of his father and carry it into the house.
Lieutenant William Steunenberg, a brother of the ex-governor, now
stationed with the Army at Fort Lapwai, in northern Idaho, attends a
session or two but says nothing for publication. The great
actress, Ethel Barrymore, visiting Boise with a touring theatrical
company, spends an afternoon in court while Harry Orchard is on the
stand and is later quoted as saying that Orchard looks like a nice
man, while Haywood's face frightens her half to death.
James Hawley gave the prosecution's
opening statement. Hawley's attempts to describe Steunenberg's
murder and the confession of Orchard were repeatedly objected to by
Darrow, who called his statements argument rather than an outline of
the proposed evidence as the rules for opening statements call for. Darrow's interruptions and frequent sarcastic editorializing seemed
to fluster Hawley, and most reporters rated the opening statement
weak. Darrow opted to postpone his own opening statement until the
close of the prosecution case.
The first set of witnesses called by the
state described events in Caldwell on December 30, 1905. The group
included a neighbor of Steunenberg who heard the explosion, a doctor
who attended Stuenenberg at his deathbed, a Caldwell resident who
witnessed Orchard observing the Steunenberg residence with
binoculars, another resident who observed Orchard leaving the
Saratoga Hotel shortly before the explosion and, finally,
Steunenberg's son Julian, who once had a conversation with Orchard
during which he was said to have asked about the possibility of
buying sheep from his father. Then the state called the witness
everyone was waiting to hear.
"Call Harry Orchard." The prosecution
considered it something of a victory to present a live Harry
Orchard, after months of rumors that the WFM was planning to poison
him in jail or shoot him on the way to the courthouse. The rumors
were taken seriously. Hawley sent word to the defense that "the
second man shot will be Darrow." Orchard took the stand,
wearing a tweed suit and a neat mustache, he was described by one
reporter as "looking like a Sunday school superintendent."
Prosecution witness Harry Orchard on stand during Haywood trial.
Before Orchard could begin to tell his
remarkable tale of his career as a union terrorist, Hawley had some
"Is Harry Orchard your
"How long have you used
the name of Harry Orchard?"
"About eleven years."
"What is your real
"Albert E. Horsley."
With a strong, steady delivery, Orchard told his story to a
packed courtroom (with hundreds of spectators unable to find seats
milling around on the courthouse lawn). Orchard said he was born in
Ontario, Canada forty years earlier, left for the U.S. at age
thirty, eventually finding work as a mucker in a Burke, Idaho silver
mine, where he joined the WFM. On April 29, 1898, Orchard was,
he said, one of the thousand or so miners who hijacked a Northern
Pacific train, diverted it to Wardner, then blew up the Bunker Hill
concentrator, killing two men:
"Who lit the fuse?"
"I lit one of them. I
don't know who lit the rest."
Orchard testified that he evaded arrest by hiding out in the
hills above Burke, then making his way to Butte, Montana which was
then the headquarters of the WFM. His career as a union killer
began in 1903 when he blew up the Vindicator mine in Colorado for
$500, killing two. In 1904, he dynamited the train depot in
Independence, Colorado, killing thirteen non-union miners. Later,
under orders of Haywood and Pettibone, Orchard said that he
attempted assassinations of the governor of Colorado, two Colorado
Supreme Court justices, and the president of a mining company. The
attempts all failed, although one bomb intended for a justice killed
an innocent bystander instead. Orchard testified that he was
the fifth man hired by Haywood, Moyer, and Pettibone to assassinate
Steunenberg. He testified that when he was hired Haywood said
to him, "Steunenberg has lived seven years too long." His
reward for a successful job was to be several hundred dollars and a
ranch. The purpose of the Steunenberg assassination, according
to Orchard, was to strike fear in any politician who might consider
actions that would frustrate WFM goals. (Additional reports by Oscar
Davis on Orchard's Testimony.)
Edmund Richardson cross-examined Orchard
for the defense, after winning a battle with Darrow for the honor.
For twenty-six hours, Richardson subjected Orchard to a threatening,
loud, and insulting attack covering every detail of his confession.
The cross-examination succeeded only in emphasizing his testimony
through repetition. Richardson attempted to damage Orchard's
credibility by showing him to be a womanizer, a man who deserted his
family, a bigamist, a heavy drinker, a gambler, and a cheat. He was
drilled about his indifference to the damage and destruction he
inflicted. Through it all, Orchard stood up well.
Richardson suggested that Orchard took the stand only to save his
"So you thought you
could make your peace with the future by having someone else hanged,
"No, sir. No, sir.
[Orchard was sobbing at this point.] I had no thought of getting out
of it, by laying it on anybody else. I began to think about my own
life and the unnatural monster I had been."
When Orchard finally left the stand, the reporter for Collier's
called him "the most remarkable witness that ever appeared in an
American court of justice."
The state concluded its case by
introducing articles from a WFM publication, Miner's Magazine, that
revealed a deep hatred of Steunenberg and sardonic pleasure over his
passing, some letters received by Orchard, and presenting an
African-American witness who claimed to have seen Orchard and
Haywood together in a buggy. The defense asked for a directed
verdict when the prosecution rested, but Judge Wood ruled that he
was "thoroughly satisfied that the case should be submitted to a
The defense called nearly a hundred
witnesses to refute various points of Orchard's confession or cast
doubt on his motives. Among those called was Morris Friedman,
Pinkerton Detective James McParland's private stenographer and
author of a book, Pinkerton Labor Spy. Friedman described
dirty tricks used by the Pinkertons to subvert the WFM, including
the use of undercover operatives within the WFM who padded bills to
drain the Federation treasury and reduced payments to miners to
build dissatisfaction with Haywood. The purpose of the testimony was
to suggest to jurors that Pinkerton infiltrators may have committed
some of the crimes Orchard attributed to the WFM in order to bring
the labor organization into disrepute. Charles Moyer and
George Pettibone also testified and denied many of Orchard's
specific allegations about their complicity in crimes.
On July 11, 1907, Darrow called William
Haywood. Spectators fanned themselves with palm-leaf fans in
ninety-five degree heat as Haywood, in a mild-mannered, soft-spoken,
conversational tone, denied charge after charge that had been
leveled against him by Harry Orchard. He denied ordering Orchard to
blow up any mine or assassinate Steunenberg or any other public
official. One reporter, no fan of Haywood, wrote in admiration of
Haywood's "manly assertion of his principles." Senator Borah
cross-examined Haywood for the prosecution. As Borah stood to
begin his questioning, Haywood fixed his single eye (the other had
been lost in a childhood accident) on the prosecutor. Borah was to
say later that Haywood's glare "doubled me up like a jack-knife." For five hours, Borah tried and failed to crack the imposing
J. Anthony Lukas, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the
magnificent book about the Haywood case, Big Trouble, wrote that "rarely in the nation's first
century and a quarter had a courtroom harbored four attorneys of
such distinction as Hawley, Borah, Richardson, and Darrow."
There summations were, at a time when courtroom theater was a
popular form of entertainment, greatly anticipated, and their
performances did not disappoint.
J. Anthony Lukas
Hawley summed up first for the
prosecution, chatting with the jury in the informal way for which he
was famous. Hawley said the prosecution asked only for justice, then
reminded them of that December day when Steunenberg was "sent to
face his God without a moment's warning and within sight of his wife
and children." In Orchard's confession, Hawley saw "divine grace
working upon his soul and through him to bring justice to one of the
worst criminal bands that ever operated in this country."
Richardson offered the defense's first
summation. In a nine-hour address full of theatrics and flourishes,
Richardson asked jurors to determine Haywood's guilt "under the high
dome of heaven." He reminded juror's of Steunenberg's 1899
crackdown on northern Idaho miners and the resulting incarceration
of miners in "bullpens" by federal "colored troops:"
"They threw them in the dirty, vile-kept bullpens
and they were subjected to all sorts of indignities and insults at
the hands of those negro soldiers. If you had been there...gentleman
of the jury, it is certain that you would have attained in your
breast a righteous hatred for every person who had anything to do
with causing your humiliation and suffering."
Richardson argued that the angry words about Steunenberg in
Miner's Magazine were understandable given the events of seven
years earlier. Blame for Steunenberg's murder, however,
Richardson laid on Orchard and the Pinkertons. Richardson suggested
it was odd that an assassin like Orchard would make himself known
around Caldwell, fail to destroy incriminating evidence, and be
called "Harry" by prosecutors. The murder, he suggested, was a
frame-up planned by the Pinkertons to discredit and ultimately
destroy the leadership of the WFM.
As impressive as the first two
summations were, Hawley and Richardson were, in the words of Anthony
Lukas, "a bit like vaudeville artists who warmed up the crowd for
the top bananas," Darrow and Borah. Darrow closed for the
defense with an eleven-hour speech that at times, had Haywood's wife
and mother and many of the women in the courtroom sobbing.
Darrow pitilessly attacked Orchard, who
he called "the biggest liar that this generation has known." Any
juror "who would take away the life of a human being upon testimony
like that [of Orchard's] would place a stain upon the state of his
nativity...that all the waters of the great seas could never wash
away." In a move much criticized in the press, Darrow both
admitted and excused much of the violence attributed to the WFM:
"I don't mean to tell this jury
that labor organizations do no wrong. I know them too well for that.
They do wrong often, and sometimes brutally; they are sometimes
cruel; they are often unjust; they are frequently corrupt. . .But I
am here to say that in a great cause these labor organizations,
despised and weak and outlawed as they generally are, have stood for
the poor, they have stood for the weak, they have stood for every
human law that was ever placed upon the statute books. They stood
for human life, they stood for the father who was bound down by his
task, they stood for the wife, threatened to be taken from the home
to work by his side, and they have stood for the little child who
was also taken to work in their places--that the rich could grow
richer still, and they have fought for the right of the little one,
to give him a little of life, a little comfort while he is young. I
don't care how many wrongs they committed, I don't care how many
crimes these weak, rough, rugged, unlettered men who often know no
other power but the brute force of their strong right arm, who find
themselves bound and confined and impaired whichever way they turn,
who look up and worship the god of might as the only god that they
know--I don't care how often they fail, how many brutalities they
are guilty of. I know their cause is just."
Darrow offered a different motive for
Orchard's murder than the one suggested by his co-counsel. He argued
(unconvincingly, as far as the press was concerned) that Orchard
bore a personal grudge against Steunenberg because the governor's
intervention in northern Idaho resulting in him losing a share of a
silver mine. Finally, Darrow launched into a powerful
conclusion that ranks among the best of his long career:
I have known Haywood. I have
known him well and I believe in him. I do believe in him. God knows
it would be a sore day to me if he should ascend the scaffold; the
sun would not shine or the birds would not sing on that day for me. It would be a sad day indeed if any calamity should befall him. I
would think of him, I would think of his mother, I would think of
his babes, I would think of the great cause that he represents. It
would be a sore day for me.
But, gentlemen, he and his
mother, his wife and his children are not my chief concern in this
case. If you should decree that he must die, ten thousand men will
work down in the mines to send a portion of the proceeds of their
labor to take care of that widow and those orphan children, and a
million people throughout the length and the breadth of the
civilized world will send their messages of kindness and good cheer
to comfort them in their bereavement. It is not for them I plead.
Other men have died, other men
have died in the same cause in which Bill Haywood has risked his
life, men strong with devotion, men who love liberty, men who love
their fellow men have raised their voices in defense of the poor, in
defense of justice, have made their good fight and have met death on
the scaffold, on the rack, in the flame and they will meet it again
until the world grows old and gray. Bill Haywood is no better than
the rest. He can die if die he needs, he can die if this jury
decrees it; but, oh, gentlemen, don't think for a moment that if you
hang him you will crucify the labor movement of the world.
Don't think that you will kill
the hopes and the aspirations and the desires of the weak and the
poor, you men, unless you people who are anxious for this blood--are
you so blind as to believe that liberty will die when he is dead? Do
you think there are no brave hearts and no other strong arms, no
other devoted souls who will risk their life in that great cause
which has demanded martyrs in every age of this world? There are
others, and these others will come to take his place, will come to
carry the banner where he could not carry it.
Gentlemen, it is not for him
alone that I speak. I speak for the poor, for the weak, for the
weary, for that long line of men who in darkness and despair have
borne the labors of the human race. The eyes of the world are upon
you, upon you twelve men of Idaho tonight. Wherever the English
language is spoken, or wherever any foreign tongue known to the
civilized world is spoken, men are talking and wondering and
dreaming about the verdict of these twelve men that I see before me
now. If you kill him your act will be applauded by many. If you
should decree Bill Haywood's death, in the great railroad offices of
our great cities men will applaud your names. If you decree his
death, amongst the spiders of Wall Street will go up paeans of
praise for those twelve good men and true who killed Bill Haywood.
In every bank in the world, where men hate Haywood because he fights
for the poor and against the accursed system upon which the favored
live and grow rich and fat--from all those you will receive
blessings and unstinted praise.
But if your verdict should be
"Not Guilty," there are still those who will reverently bow their
heads and thank these twelve men for the life and the character they
have saved. Out on the broad prairies where men toil with their
hands, out on the wide ocean where men are are tossed and buffeted
on the waves, through our mills and factories, and down deep under
the earth, thousands of men and of women and children, men who
labor, men to suffer, women and children weary with care and toil,
these men and these women and these children will kneel tonight and
ask their God to guide your judgment. These men and these women and
these little children, the poor, the weak, and the suffering of the
world will stretch out their hands to this jury, and implore you to
save Haywood's life.
The final words belonged to the prosecution
and Senator Borah. Borah told the jury that this "is simply a trial
for murder," not an attack on organized labor. He asked the jury to
consider Orchard's actions, not just his words, especially his
frequent trips to Denver: "Why? Why always back to Denver? Unless it
was to find there the protection and pay of his employers."
Borah closed by reminding jurors of their solemn duty:
"I remembered again the awful
thing of December 30, 1905, a night which has taken ten years to the
life of some who are in this courtroom now. I felt again its cold
and icy chill, faced the drifting snow and peered at last into the
darkness for the sacred spot where last lay the body of my dead
friend, and saw true, only too true, the stain of his life's blood
upon the whitened earth. I saw Idaho dishonored and disgraced. I saw
murder--no, not murder, a thousand times worse than murder--I saw
anarchy wave its first bloody triumph in Idaho. And as I thought
again I said, ‘Thou living God, can the talents or the arts of
counsel unteach the lessons of that hour?' No, no. Let us be brave,
let us be faithful in this supreme test of trial and duty...If the
defendant is entitled to his liberty, let him have it. But, on the
other hand, if the evidence in this case discloses the author of
this crime, then there is no higher duty to be imposed upon citizens
than the faithful discharge of that particular duty. Some of you men
have stood the test and trial in the protection of the American
flag. But you never had a duty imposed upon you which required more
intelligence, more manhood, more courage than that which the people
of Idaho assign to you this night in the final discharge of your
Judge Wood gave the jury their instructions.
He told them the defendant was presumed innocent, that proof of
guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the
jury could not convict without corroborated evidence that connected
Haywood with the Steunenberg assassination. At 11:04 am on Saturday,
July 28, 1907, the twelve jurors began their deliberations.
continued through the night, rumors of the jury's thinking began to
swirl around Boise. Most rumors had it that the jury was 11 to 1 or
10 to 2 or 9 to 3 for conviction. Darrow seemed to be pinning his
hope on a hung jury. After deliberating through the night, the jury
at 6:40 am on Sunday morning reported that they had reached a
As the jury filed
into Judge Wood's courtroom, Darrow put an arm around his client and
said, " Bill, old man, you'd better prepare for the worst. I'm
afraid it's against us, so keep up your nerve." Haywood replied,
"Yes, I will." The clerk of court, Otto Peterson, announced the
verdict: "We the jury in the above entitled cause find the
defendant, William D. Haywood, not guilty." Haywood jumped up,
laughing and crying, bear hugged friends, then rushed to the jury to
shake hands with as many members of it as he could.
The trial transcript runs some 5,700 typed
pages. Harry Orchard is on the witness stand for eight days. Interviews with
jurors after the trial hint at several reasons for their surprising
verdict--reached six ballots after an initial vote of 8 for
acquittal, 2 for conviction, and 2 abstentions. Some jurors
suggested that Judge Wood's instructions requiring corroboration of
Orchard's testimony dictated the result. If so, the defense's
success in persuading Steve Adams, by bribe or threat or whatever,
to withdraw his confession was the key to victory. Other jurors
expressed their positive impression of Haywood on the witness stand. Still others credited Darrow's moving summation. Members of the
press offered other speculations as well, suggesting that fear of
reprisals by the WFM may have persuaded some jurors to vote for
acquittal. At least one Pinkerton detective offered an even darker
explanation: that at least one of the jurors was bought.
was next up for trial. Harry Orchard was the state's star witness.
This time his cross-examination was handled by Darrow who according
to one observer, caused the jury to turn from Orchard as they would
"from the carcass of a dead animal." The Pettibone jury acquitted
him in much less time than it took the Haywood jury to reach its
verdict. Charges against Charles Moyer were dropped after the Pettibone trial.
became the leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (the "Wobblies").
In 1918, Haywood was tried under an espionage and sedition act for
urging a strike in a war-sensitive industry, was convicted and
sentenced to thirty years in prison. In 1921, while out on bond
pending appeal, Haywood jumped bond and fled to the Soviet Union,
where he was to become a confidant of the Bolsheviks and a friend to
John Reed. Haywood died in Moscow in 1928. Half of his ashes were
buried in the Kremlin near those of Reed, and the other half were
shipped to Chicago for burial near a monument to the Haymarket
rioters whose actions in 1886 inspired Haywood's life of radicalism.
Harry Orchard was
tried and convicted of the murder of Frank Steunenberg. He was
sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life in
prison. He remained in the Idaho state penitentiary near Boise,
raising chickens and growing strawberries as a prison trusty, until
his death in 1954.
The trials of Haywood
and Pettibone roughly marked the end of the fifteen year labor war
in the western mines, a period which approached nearer than any
other in American history to open class warfare. Anthony Lukas
wrote in Big Trouble:
Finally, the opposing camps in
this nasty class war sputtering along the icy ridges of the Rocky
Mountains had just about canceled each other out. Operative for
operative, hired gun for hired gun, bought juror for bought juror,
perjured witness for perjured witness, conniving lawyer for
conniving lawyer, partisan reporter for partisan reporter, these
cockeyed armies had fought each other to an exhausted standoff.
(Anthony Lukas was himself left physically
and emotionally spent after seven years of work on Big Trouble.
On June 5, 1997, after discussing final revisions on the book with
his editor, Lukas hanged himself.)
The Haywood Trial
offers a fascinating window upon a time of economic conflict and
change. Although called by one reviewer of Big Trouble "a
long forgotten trial," it deserves to rank among America's greatest