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Reynolds v. United States (1879) 98 U.S. 145. Anna Wilson. Background. In 1847 Mormon refugees fled to the territory that would become Utah in order to escape prosecution

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Reynolds v. United States (1879) 98 U.S. 145

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Reynolds v united states 1879 98 u s 145

Reynolds v. United States (1879) 98 U.S. 145

Anna Wilson


Background

Background

  • In 1847 Mormon refugees fled to the territory that would become Utah in order to escape prosecution

    • In 1852 the Mormon leaders announced their belief in plural marriage by sending a high church leader to Washington D.C. to preach the doctrine1

      • This caught the attention of the Republican

        Congressmen, which resulted in the passing of the

        Morrill Act in 1862

        • Banned plural marriage

1 Oman, Nathan B. "Natural Law and the Rhetoric of Empire: Reynolds v. United States, Polygamy, and Imperialism." Washington University Law Review 88, no. 3 (January 2011): 661-706.

Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church


Results of the morrill act

Results of the Morrill Act

  • Utah jurors were unwilling to find Mormons guilty of a crime relating to their religion

    • Federal officials and Mormon leaders decided to test the validity of the Morrill Act by putting forward a defendant to be tried in a case

      • George Reynolds, a newly married polygamist and secretary for Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon Church

        • “agreed to test the statute and cooperate in his prosecution in return for the government’s agreement not to seek a harsh punishment”2

2 Gillett, Todd M, “The Absolution of Reynolds: The Constitutionality of Religious Polygamy”, 8 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 497 (2011): 1-39.

George Reynolds


District court for the 3rd judicial district of the territory of utah in 1874

District Court for the 3rd Judicial District of the Territory of Utah in 1874

  • This was the first court Reynolds was tried in

  • The courts charged Reynolds with engaging in bigamy for his new marriage to Amelia Jane Schofield while still being married to Mary Ann Tuddenham

    • The attorneys referenced sect. 5352 of the Revised Statutes, which states: “Every person having a husband or wife living, who marries another, whether married or single, in a Territory, or other place over which the United States have exclusive jurisdiction, is guilty of bigamy, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500, and by imprisonment for a term of not more than five years”3

3 Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (____).


Territorial supreme court june 23 1874

Territorial Supreme CourtJune 23, 1874

  • Reynolds argued that the grand jury had been chosen according to federal standards instead of state standards

    • “a grand jury for any district court of the United States must consist of no less than sixteen jurors and no more than twenty-three.”4

      • Reynolds’ District case only had fifteen

        • Sect. 808 was not designed for territorial courts

    • Reynolds believed that he had proper cause for an acquittal due to a biased jury

      • Charles Read mentioned he had “formed an opinion on polygamy, but did not think it would influence his verdict on hearing the testimony”5

4Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (____).

5 Ibid.


Supreme court of united states november of 1878

Supreme Court of United StatesNovember of 1878

  • Case was brought forward to examine the Mormon right to polygamy

  • Six main questions to be answered

    • Was the indictment bad because found by a grand jury of less than sixteen persons?

    • Were the challenges of certain petit jurors by the accused improperly overruled?

    • Were the challenges of certain other jurors by the government improperly sustained?

    • As to the admission of evidence to prove what was sworn to by Amelia Jane Schofield on a former trial of the accused for the same offence but under a different indictment

    • The defense of religious belief or duty

    • As to that part of the charge which directed the attention of the jury to the consequences of polygamy

  • Mainly focused on side issues, rather than topic of polygamy


First two questions

First Two Questions

  • The first two questions were presented previously in the Appeals Case

    • Was the indictment bad because found by a grand jury of less than sixteen persons?

      • Sect. 1910 of the Revised Statues states that the district courts of the Territory have the same jurisdiction as regular United States district and circuit courts – but do not have to follow their rules

    • Were the challenges of certain petit jurors by the accused improperly overruled?

      • Arguments over the impartial jurors Read and Ransohoff

        • Court ruled there was no error in their judgement


Questions 3 4

Questions 3 & 4

  • Were the challenges of certain other jurors by the government improperly sustained?

    • Questions over whether the district attorney is allowed to interrogate jurors over their living in polygamy

      • Arguments stated that there was no way an unbiased decision could have been made with a polygamous-based jury

  • As to the admission of evidence to prove what was sworn to by Amelia Jane Schofield on a former trial of the accused for the same offence but under a different indictment

    • Amelia admitted evidence that was used to indict Reynolds

      • The court ordered a subpoena, but due to a miscommunication she did not appear in court


The final two questions

The Final Two Questions

  • The defense of religious belief or duty

    • Reynolds stated that his religion could not be hindered due to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment

      • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”6

    • Does the government have the power to limit what can be determined as a legal religious act?

      • Without regulation, people could become lawless in the name of a religion

  • As to that part of the charge which directed the attention of the jury to the consequences of polygamy

    • Demoralization of America because of polygamy

6 Gillett, Todd M, “The Absolution of Reynolds: The Constitutionality of Religious Polygamy”, 8 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 497 (2011): 1-39.


Decision impact

Decision & Impact

  • Ruled in favor of plaintiffs (United States) with a 9-0 vote

    • The First Amendment protected religious belief, but it did not protect religious practices that were judged to be criminal such as bigamy

  • Defined the Court’s view on the Free Exercise Clause

    • Influence later cases Goldman v. Weinberger (Jewish pilot who wore unauthorized headgear) and Church of LukumiBabalu Aye v Hialeah (practiced sacrifice)


Opinions

Opinions

  • Before the trial there was a significant disapproval towards polygamy

    • Resulted in biased jurors

  • Several big name Mormon Court cases occurring at the same time as Reynolds’ trial

    • Brigham Young’s divorce from his wife

    • John D. Lee’s Mountain Meadows Massacre trial

John D. Lee

Brigham Young


Bibliography

Bibliography

  • Ertman, Martha M. “The Story of Reynolds v United States: Federal “Hell Hounds” Punishing Mormon Treason”. http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1525&context=fac_pubs. (accessed November 13, 2013).

  • Gillett, Todd M, “The Absolution of Reynolds: The Constitutionality of Religious Polygamy”, 8 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 497 (2011): 1-39.

  • Oman, Nathan B, "Natural Law and the Rhetoric of Empire: Reynolds v. United States, Polygamy, and Imperialism", Washington University Law Review 88, no. 3 (January 2011): 661-706, OmniFile Full Text Select (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost (accessed November 14, 2013).

  • Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879).

  • Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (___).

  • Smith, Stephen Eliot, "Barbarians within the gates: congressional debates on Mormon polygamy, 1850-1879.", Journal Of Church And State no. 4 (2009): Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost (accessed November 14, 2013).


Images cited

Images Cited

  • Brigham Young. Digital image. Brigham Young Family Association. July 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.

  • George Reynolds. Digital image. Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association, Jan. 2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

  • Gesaro, John DI. Reynolds Moral Dilemma. Digital image. Group2Courtcases.com. 11 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

  • John D. Lee. Digital image. ExecutedToday. 23 Mar. 2009. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.

  • Joseph Smith. Digital image. PBS.org. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.


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