Jacob S. Boreman's charge to the jury trying trial for Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Sep 20, 1876
Speech / Court Transcript
Jacob S. Boreman
Scribed Verbatim

Jacob S. Boreman, Charge to the Jury, September 20, 1876, as found in the Second District Court John D. Lee Criminal Case File, 1874-1877, Box 4 Folder 50, Utah Division of Archives and Records Service

Jacob S. Boreman
Jacob S. Boreman, John Doyle Lee
Jury for the Trial of John D. Lee

. . . The prisoner at the bar, John D. Lee, stands before you charged with being a participant and leader in a most atrocious and unprovoked massacre of human beings, men, women, and children, at Mountain Meadows in the south-west part of this District, in the month of September, 1857. The evidence shows that the persons killed were migrants, who had passed with a number of wagons and many cattle, through the settlements of this Territory, and were about passing out of the Territory upon the deserts to the west, on their way to Southern California. Before beginning their journey over the wide deserts, they were recruiting their stock upon the <then> rank and rich grasses of the Mountain Meadows. For several days a combination of Indians and white men had been making attacks upon them, but having failed in every effort at their overthrow and been driven back, the resort was had to the basest treachery and deception to effect their destruction. Under a white flag,--a flag of truce—the prisoner at the bar, approached the Emigrants and having there met a delegation from them, the fears of the emigrants by some means, were allayed and they gave up their arms, putting them into wagons from the attacking party, and then being unarmed, they put themselves under the protection of the white men of which the prisoner, Lee, was one. You have heard the sickening details of the bloody and fiendish work which followed. Indians and white men vied with each other in their efforts at wholesale murdering of over one hundred and twenty human beings, men, women, and children, who had been disarmed and lured from their stronghold behind their wagons. You have heard the part which the prisoner played in this dread tragedy: how it was said, he shot one person with his gun: how he shot others with his postil and cut the throat of another and told an Indian not to spare a woman’s life, whom the save asked to have spared. It is for you to say whether the witnesses who stated these things told the truth; and it is for you to say whether, from the testimony, John D. Lee, can be considered innocent. If there be any good reason for disbelieving the testimony given before you, then the defendant may be innocent, and it is for you upon your oath to say whether any alleged fact is proven or not. But if you believe the testimony detailed by the various witnesses, then truly there is no escaping the conclusion that the prisoner is guilty. The testimony is overwhelming. And the human heart revolts at the fiendish cruelty displayed, and were it not for the requirements of justice, it should forever be sheltered in oblivion. But it was too horrible a deed to slumber forever, although for nineteen years, the perpetrators have gone unpunished. The defence has introduced no witnesses or evidence to refute the testimony for the prosecution but rests the whole case upon the hope to shake your confidence in the witnesses for the prosecution. Were those witnesses unworthy of belief? The most that could be said is that the testimony of a portion of the witnesses, those who were participants in the massacre, should be taken with great caution, if uncorroborated in any material point by other evidence. Were such parties unworthy of belief, the law would not allow them to be put upon the witness-stand. The admission of accomplices is fully justified by the necessity of the case, and there was not and could not have been any objection to their introduction. Who else cold tell what took place upon the bloody field but those who were present, willing or unwilling? After their introduction, you are to weigh their testimony and sift the truth therefrom. Accomplices are not to be disbelieved, simply because they were accomplices, but you are to weigh their testimony in connection with the other evidence, and being corroborated in any material point by other evidence, their testimony is entirely sufficient to warrant a verdict in accordance therewith . . .

BHR Staff Commentary

Citations in Mormonr Qnas
Copyright © B. H. Roberts Foundation
The B. H. Roberts Foundation is not owned by, operated by, or affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.