William Russell v. Edmund Hogan
In August of 1821, William Russell, a land surveyor and speculator, sent a letter to Radford Ellis and Stephen Harris. The letter was written on the eve of the election in territorial Arkansas. Edmund Hogan was running for representative of Crawford and Pulaski Counties, against Thomas Tindall. Hogan was a prominent figure in territorial Arkansas. He had represented Arkansas County for two successive legislative sessions at St. Louis, when Arkansas was still part of the Missouri Territory. He had also been appointed Brigadier General of the territorial Arkansas militia in 1820, after then general William O. Allen was killed by attorney Robert Oden in a duel. Russell was also well known. He was based in St. Louis, but spent extensive time in Arkansas during this period. He owned vast quantities of land, and was one of the founders of Little Rock, as well as of other towns in Arkansas.
In the letter, Russell accused Hogan of making political deals several years earlier with both William Cummins and Henry Cassidy, who were running against each other for legislative councilman in the Missouri Territory. Allegedly Hogan, who was running for representative, asked them for their support, and promised to support both of them. Then after Hogan was elected, Russell accused him of being responsible for naming Clark County after Missouri Governor William Clark (of Lewis and Clark), even though the people south of the Arkansas River (the location of Clark County), particularly those at Fourche Caddo who had almost unanimously voted for Hogan, hated Clark more than any man under the Sun. Hogan honored Clark in this way, Russell claimed, merely because Clark had let him eat once or twice at his table. In addition, Russell accused Hogan of neglecting legislative business to spend all of his time playing cards with a negro named Lyon who kept a tipling shop in St. Louis.
Russell went further, stating that Hogan "is the most sanctified of all and Sometimes cries a little" at camp meetings, yet was one of the foremost and leading men amongst those who get drunk or Gamble on Sundays. He also accused Hogan of cheating a man named Edwards out of his property and slaves, rendering Edwards's widow and child destitute. He ended the letter by challenging Hogan to read the letter to the public.
Hogan was judged to have initially lost the election to Thomas Tindall, but he challenged the election results and was afterwards declared the winner. He responded to Russell's letter by suing Russell for trespass on the case for libel. The trial took place in the Superior Court on April 18, 1822. All three judges Andrew Scott, Joseph Selden and Benjamin Johnson were presiding. The writ of execution reveals that a number of men were called as witnesses: Reuben Blount, Benjamin Murphy, James Lemmons, Jacob Pyeatt, Samuel Collins, Robert Magness, R. Rowland, John Lockhart, Wright Daniel, Radford Ellis and Thomas W. Newton. The jury consisted of John Howe, Samuel McHenry, Nathaniel Lockheart, William Jones, Nathaniel Rowland, John B. Mosby, William Thompson, Sterling McNeal, Walter Trimble, Drury Harrington, Jesse Jeffrey and William Flanakin. The jury found for Hogan and valued damages at $2,400 plus court costs. Russell filed a motion for a new trial, but the record book indicates that it was denied on April 23.
The additional court costs consisted of fees for the witnesses, jurors and the clerk, as well as costs of Sheriff Henry Armstrong and Deputy Sheriff Gabriel Greathouse. Attorney Robert Oden was also owed $6.00, but the writ does not state why. On April 27, 1822, Clerk David E. McKinney issued a writ of execution, commanding the sheriff to levy against any property of Russell, for a total of $2,533.28. This execution taking place before the abolition of debtor's prison, the sheriff was empowered to jail Russell if he could not levy the amount owed. Hogan received $1,100 from William Drope, who owed that amount to Russell. The rest came out of Russell's property. An advertisement in the June 11 Arkansas Gazette announces the upcoming sale on July 2 of some property of Russell's which said property was levied on by virtue of an execution against Russell for the benefit of Hogan.
However, the story did not end here. On July 11, 1823, Ambrose Sevier, representing Russell, filed a bill in equity in the Superior Court. Russell alleged numerous facts arguing for the verdict to be set aside. First, he claimed that his original witness had died and had not been available for the trial, but now claimed to have found an additional witness. Second, he alleged that Hogan had absconded from St. Louis at night without paying his debts. Third, he alleged serious jury impropriety during the trial. He accused Hogan of planting sympathetic jurors by keeping them near the person of the Sheriff for the express purpose of having them Summoned on the Jury as they werethat a juror unsympathetic to Hogan, Benjamin Shattock, was excused from the jury by the sheriff without any reason being giventhat jurors William Flanakin and William Jones swore on oath that they knew nothing about the case, but they had already formed opinionsthat Hogan and his brother in law, Samuel H. Hinkston, bought ardent spirits for the jurors during and trial and the recess and drank freely and conversed with themand finally, that when it became time for the jury to decide on the amount of damages, the jurors each thought of individual amounts, which were totaled and divided by twelve, instead of arriving at the amount by consciencious Judgments. For all these reasons, Russell asked that the judgment be reversed and the execution set aside. The bill was sworn to before Matthew Cunningham, Justice of the Peace for Big Rock Township (and incidentally the first doctor to settle in Little Rock).
The superior court clerk issued a subpoena, which was served by Sheriff Armstrong by delivering it to William Hogan at Edmund Hogan's house in Pyeatt Township. On August 22, attorneys Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley, representing Edmund Hogan, filed a motion to dismiss because they claimed that Hogan had not seen a copy of the additional documents such as the letter. The letter was filed with the court and served on Hogan in February 1824. In October Hogan's counsel filed a demurrer. The case was continued until April 16, 1825, when the record book indicates that since the court was divided, the demurrer was sustained, and Hogan could collect his court costs from Russell. Thus, Russell again lost, and had to pay an additional amount.
This case is interesting for several reasons. First, it sheds some light on how petit jurors were selectedsimply by being near the sheriff. Second, it sheds light on jury proceedings. The jury was allowed to wander at large during the trial, and it was easy for parties to attempt to influence them. Also interesting is the seeming relationship between the jurors and the witnesses. It appears as though at least two jurors were relatives of the witnesses.
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