Thursday, October 8, 2009
This paper explores criminal appellate practice in Missouri from the time of statehood in 1821 until the 1870s, with particular focus on the decades before and after the Civil War. The article uses the stories of three trials in and around Columbia, Missouri - an attempted rape case against a slave that resulted in a lynching, a murder case against a white farmer that ended in his execution, and another murder case successfully appealed - to explore the legal culture of the period. All three trials involved two prominent central Missouri lawyers, James S. Rollins and Odon Guitar, who were also important political figures in Missouri’s Civil War. The article weaves together the trials, the biographies of Rollins and Guitar, and an exploration of contemporary rules and trial and appellate norms to explain the relative dearth of criminal appeals in mid-19th Century Missouri, and the factors that gradually produced an appellate system more like our own.
This paper was written for a symposium at Marquette Law School on criminal appeals, but it arises from a larger project examining the social, military, and legal history of central Missouri before, during, and after the Civil War.