Published On: Tue, Feb 17th, 2015

The ‘First Trial of the Century’ begins on this Day in History

The assassination of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg led to the illegal arrest and transportation of three Union leaders, Bill Hayward, Charles Moyer, and George Pettibone, and began the stories “First Trial of the Century” on this day in 1906.

The three men were taken into custody by Idaho authorities and the Pinkerton Detective Agency. They are put on a special train in Denver, Colorado, following a secret, direct route to Idaho because the officials had no legal right to arrest the three union executives in Colorado.

Clarence Darrow, 1913 photo

Clarence Darrow, 1913 photo

On December 30, 1905, a powerful bomb affixed to Steunenberg’s front gate exploded and killed him as he was returning to his home in Caldwell, Idaho.

The former governor was a target for union miners after his role in breaking a strike in Coeur d’Alene years earlier.

In order to solve the crime, Idaho called in the Pinkerton Agency and the country’s most famous private detective, James McParland.

McParland got Harry Orchard to implicate Bill Hayward, Charles Moyer, the president of the Western Federation of Miners, and others in the plot to kill Steunenberg.

However, these men were in Colorado, where local authorities were friendly to the unions and would not extradite them based on the confession of a murderer.

Government officials in Idaho, including the current governor and chief justice, sanctioned a plan to kidnap Hayward, Moyer, and Pettibone so that they could be put on trial in Caldwell.

Despite the blatant illegality of their operation, the union leaders lost their appeals in federal court and were forced to stay in Idaho to be charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

However, the union had one more ace up its sleeve.

High profile lawyer Clarence Darrow was brought in to defend the case. It was the first “Trial of the Century,” drawing national media attention and celebrity attendees.

When none of Orchard’s accomplices would corroborate his story, the case came down to Orchard’s testimony alone. At Hayward’s trial, Darrow made an impassioned 11-hour closing argument that mercilessly attacked Orchard, and the jury acquitted.

Hayward later fled the country to Russia and was buried at the Kremlin in 1928.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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