Two panels of legal experts will examine the issue in "Personal
Liberty: A Discussion of Habeas Corpus from Joseph Smith to
Guantanamo." The session runs from 2:30 to 4:30 in Room 212 of the
Illinois Capitol, a hearing room that once housed the Illinois
Supreme Court. The event is free and open to the public, but advance
reservations are required. Visit
Sponsored by the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Supreme
Court Historic Preservation Commission, the discussion will focus on
two different incidents in two different periods:
Attempts in the
1840s to have Joseph Smith, leader of what was then the new and
controversial Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
extradited from Illinois to Missouri on charges ranging from
treason to conspiring to murder the Missouri governor.
The continuing incarceration at
Guantanamo Bay of people suspected of connections to the al-Qaida
The issue of habeas corpus -- that is, having a judge determine
whether someone is being held legally -- was a major point of
contention in both cases.
"From our inception as a constitutional republic, the framers
intended the courts and the great writ of habeas corpus to be the
people's ultimate shield against the executive's unrestrained use of
power to curtail liberty," said Judge Neil Cohen, co-chairman of the
Habeas corpus in the era of Joseph Smith will be examined by
Richard Turley, assistant historian for the LDS church; Jeffrey
Walker, editor of the Joseph Smith Papers; Leslie C. Griffin,
professor of law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Lachlan
Mackay, board member of the Joseph Smith Sr. Family Association; Reg
Ankrom, an expert on Stephen Douglas; William Ray Price, former
justice of the Missouri Supreme Court; and Baker & McKenzie attorney
Guantanamo and modern habeas corpus will be the subject of a
second panel, with Turley; Walker; Jeffrey Colman, partner at Jenner
& Block; Thomas Sullivan, partner at Jenner & Block; U.S. District
Judge Sue Myerscough of the Central District of Illinois; David
Owens from the University of Chicago Law School's Exoneration
Project; and Andrea D. Lyon, law professor at DePaul University.
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"In the 19th century, a significant portion of the body politic
viewed some Mormon beliefs as morally evil as slavery. Mormonism in
the eyes of many was not a subject for bargaining," said the other
co-chairman, J. Steven Beckett, director of trial advocacy at the
University of Illinois College of Law. "It is precisely those who
hold unpopular beliefs -- whether religious or political -- that
require the utmost protection of the Constitution and the courts."
Both panels will be moderated by Gery Chico, a Chicago attorney who
served as Mayor Richard M. Daley's chief of staff and is now
chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.
The April 4 round-table discussion is the first in a yearlong
series of events related to Joseph Smith's legal challenges. The
events are produced and sponsored by the Lincoln Presidential
Library and the Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.
On Sept. 24, a mock trial in Springfield will use modern
attorneys and judges to re-create the extradition proceedings
against Smith. A similar trial is scheduled for Oct. 14 in Chicago.
In addition, a historical re-enactment of life in Nauvoo, the
Illinois town founded by Smith and his followers, is scheduled for
The mock trial of Joseph Smith follows similar events looking at
Mary Surratt's role in Abraham Lincoln's assassination and Mary
Lincoln's commitment to a sanitarium. Both of the earlier trials
were used to develop lessons for Illinois schoolchildren.
"These trials are popular with our Illinois students," said
Chico, the panel moderator. "In their classes they can imagine
themselves before the bar as they learn from distinguished lawyers
Teachers attending the round-table discussion can receive
continuing professional development credit. Organizers have also
applied for minimum continuing legal education status.
For more information, visit
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
file received from the