October , 2018

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The founder of the Mormon Church will again “face” extradition hearings as two premiere Illinois institutions produce a series of events exploring how the courts have protected minority rights since the 1800s. 

Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Latter-day Saints (the “Mormons”), is the focal point of three days of programs sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a division of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.  The two Illinois institutions are producing a rehearing and a panel discussion to educate the public on the use of habeas corpus, a writ carried over from English law that determines whether an individual is being detained legally.  Smith used the writ in the 1800s to stop efforts by Missouri officials to extradite him from Illinois for events arising from the Missouri War of 1838.

On Sept. 24, the Museum will be the site for a reenactment of the three Smith habeas corpus hearings.  The script draws on Mormons’ experiences in the early 19th century.  Logan Auditorium at the University of Chicago is the site of an encore presentation Oct. 14.

At each venue, the reenactment will be followed by a panel discussion on the use of habeas corpus over the last two centuries, from Smith to Abraham Lincoln to Guantanamo Bay.  Panel members include U.S. District Court Judge Sue Myerscough of the Central District of Illinois; Michael Scodro, Solicitor General for the State of Illinois; Jeffrey Colman, partner at Jenner & Block in Chicago, who has worked on behalf of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay; and Jeffrey N. Walker of the Joseph Smith Papers , Salt Lake City, Utah.  President Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War.

In addition to the rehearings and panel discussions, on Sept. 23, experts will lead tours of the Nauvoo historic sites in central Illinois near Quincy, one of the key settlements in the early years of the Mormon faith.  That evening, Dallin Oaks, former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, former Utah Supreme Court Justice and current member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), will speak at the LDS Center in Nauvoo.

A state-wide group of lawyers and judges led by Illinois Supreme Court Justices Rita Garman and Anne Burke are spearheading the effort to bring greater awareness of historic legal events in Illinois and the lessons that can be learned from them.  Last year this group explored involuntary commitment through a re-enactment of the case of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, who was involuntarily committed by her son in 1875.  Previously, the group explored the trial of Mary Surratt who was convicted for conspiring in the Lincoln assassination and who became the first woman executed by the federal government. 

Tickets will be available after July 15.  For more information on these events, visit www.josephsmithcaptured.com. 

For more information, please contact John Lupton, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission in Springfield.  217-670-0890, ext. 1.  John.lupton@illinoiscourthistory.org

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