The Haywood Trial

Class Warfare in an Idaho Courtroom

In the summer of 1907, a battle between workers and capitalists, that had been developing for decades, finally played out in a Boise, Idaho, courtroom.

[Image: courthouse where trial took place]William D. "Big Bill" Haywood stood charged with hiring hitman Harry Orchard to assassinate former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg on December 30, 1905. Haywood was the secretary-treasurer of the Western Federation of Miners, a union with a reputation for violence. Although the union leader was not even in Idaho when Steunenberg was dynamited, Idaho's Governor Gooding was convinced the labor union was behind the murder.

The ensuing trial, which lasted from May 9th until July 28th, was one of the most significant events in the history of Idaho. It was also one of the most famous criminal trials in the history of our country.

Through the reporting of more than fifty national and international journalists, the world followed this courtroom confrontation of the working class and the capitalists day by day. Orchestrating the drama were some of the legal giants of the era, including: James Hawley, reputedly the best criminal lawyer in the West; William Borah, newly elected United States Senator from Idaho; and Clarence Darrow, the legendary "attorney for the damned."

The Not Guilty verdict surprised everyone, even Darrow. There are those who think justice was not served, that the judge's instructions to the jury regarding corroborating evidence made a confession virtually impossible. But others point to this trial as one of the best examples in American jurisprudence of justice under the law.

Key Players

[Image: former governor steunenberg]
Frank Steunenberg
(former Governor;
the victim)
[Image: Harry Orchard]
Harry Orchard
(the assassin; chief prosecution witness)
[Image: William Haywood]
William Haywood
(union leader; one of three accused)
[Image: James McParland]
James McParland
(Pinkerton detective and chief investigator)
 
[Image: James Hawley]
James Hawley
(prosecutor)
[Image: William Borah]
William Borah
(prosecutor)
[Image: Clarence Darrow]
Clarence Darrow
(defense attorney)
[Image: Edmund Richardson]
Edmund Richardson
(defense attorney)

 

Other players

Closing arguments

We have included excerpts from the four attorneys' summations to the jury, in the order in which they spoke.

Prosecutor James Hawley spoke for more than eight hours. Defense attorney Edmund Richardson spoke for more than ten hours, followed by defense co-counsel Clarence Darrow, who spoke for more than eleven hours. William Borah, speaking for the prosecution, wrapped up the closing arguments over more than five hours.

[Image: James Hawley]
James Hawley
[Image: Edmund Richardson]
Edmund Richardson
[Image: Clarence Darrow]
Clarence Darrow
[Image: William Borah]
William Borah