Trial of John Doy
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Trial of John Doy

TRIAL OF JOHN DOY.
In the month of January, 1859, Wm. A. Newman, of Platte County, had a favorite servant to run away from his home, in Weston, to Lawrence, Kansas. Dick being an active, intelligent and skillful carpenter, Newman offered a large reward, and in the month of February, 1859, at a point fourteen miles above Lawrence, near the Kansas River, two covered wagons were captured by a party of eight Missourians, as they were passing northward from Lawrence to Nebraska. One of these wagons was driven by Dr. John Doy, and the other by his son Charles, a young man of nineteen, and contained besides the Newman slave, Dick, thirteen women and children, who were slaves escaping from Jackson County, Missouri, towards freedom. The wagons and their contents were driven rapidly towards Leavenworth City, which they passed at nine P.M. and reached the ferry, at Rialto, at eleven at night. Capt. Z. T. Washburn, the ferryman, crossed the party over, and they arrived at Weston at one A. M. and were kept under guard. In the morning the slaves were re-delivered to their owners and a warrant was issued by a justice for the holding of Dr. Doy and his son as criminals, for stealing the negro man Dick from his owner, in Platte County, and after an examination before two justices, they were held for trial and imprisoned in the Platte County jail, at Platte City, and at the March term following, within about three weeks afterwards, they were indicted by the grand jury of Platte County and plead not guilty.


When the news of the arrest of Doy was received at Topeka, the Legislature of Kansas, then in session, appropriated one thousand dollars to pay the Attorney General of the state, A. C. Davis (afterwards Colonel of the 12th Kansas volunteers, and who died in July, 1881, in New York, where he then resided) and Wilson Shannon, the old Governor of Ohio and Minister to Mexico, to defend the Doys, at the court in Platte Cit. General Bassett, the circuit attorney for the 12th Judicial District, being sick, Judge Norton appointed Col. John Doniphan, now of St. Joseph, to prosecute the indictment. A change of venue to Buchanan County was granted the defendants, and on the 25th day of March, 1859, they were put on trial at St. Joseph, before the following jury: S. S. Allen, Edward Pace, Judge Thomas W. Keys, Thomas P. Booth, Sinclair R. Miller, Caswell Goodman, Israel Landis, James Highly, Samuel Lockwood, Abner Copeland, Lewis F. Weimer and Lawson Rodgers.
This jury, after being out two days, were discharged, as being unable to agree—the principal ground of defense relied upon being that the Doys were not seen in Missouri, and no evidence except, of a circumstantial character, to show the court had any jurisdiction. At the request of the defendant’s attorneys, the court adjourned until the 21st day of June, 1859, to again try the defendant, Dr. Doy, the State having dismissed as to Charles.


At the appointed time, Governor Shannon and General Davis appeared with a number of witnesses and many depositions from Kansas, and the trial was commenced, and for three days was heard, amid an immense crowd, which packed the old court house to repletion.
The jury were Samuel B. Tolin, George Boyer, Jacob Boyer, H. D. Louthen, Merrill Willis, Henson Devoss, George Clark, Henry P. Smith, John Modrill, Ortin M. Loomis, William W. Mitchell and James Hill.


At the close of the evidence, Judge Norton, (now of the Supreme Court of Missouri), who had presided with great dignity and fairness, instructed the jury as to the law of the case.
The case was then opened by General Bassett for the state, in a speech of masterly power and searching analysis of the evidence. He was followed by General Davis in a speech of two hours, and then Governor Shannon, in a speech of three hours. Both of these speeches were brilliant, pathetic and logical, and vindicated the judgment of the Kansas Legislature in their selection, as both of them were Democrats.


After supper the Court House was packed to hear the closing of the case by Col. Doniphan, which was done in a speech of one hour and a half, of singular power of argument and analysis, and when he closed there was scarcely a doubt of the guilt of the prisoner, and the effect of it was announced in a verdict of guilty within a short time after the retirement of the jury.
The defendant, Dr. Doy, appealed to the Supreme Court, and, pending the appeal, he was released from jail by a party of Kansans, headed by John Brown who, afterwards, vindicated his faith as a martyr at Harper’s Ferry. They crossed from Elwood, on a dark night in skiffs, and approached the old jail during a heavy storm, and induced the jailor to open the door by presenting one of their number as a supposed horse-thief, recently caught in Andrew County, and, once within the jail, they captured the jailor, released Dr. Doy, leaving the jail locked and threw the key away and returned to Kansas without any pursuit or molestation. The statute, under which the indictment was found, is section 27, page 576, vol. I, of the statutes of Missouri of 1855, and is as follows:
Sec. 27. If any person shall entice, decoy, or carry away out of this state, any slave belonging to another, with intent to deprive the owner thereof of the services of such slave, or with intent to procure or effect the freedom of such slave, he shall be adjudged guilty of grand larceny and punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than five years.


Dr. Doy, soon after his escape, left Lawrence for Rochester, New York, where he published a book giving an account of his trial and conviction. His book spoke kindly of the witnesses and attorneys who prosecuted him, but bitterly of the officers and jury which convicted him. It is reported he died in New York some years since. His son Charles was hanged in southern Kansas, in the fall of 1860, for horse stealing, by a vigilance committee, at the command of Judge Lynch.
pp. 280-282 of the 1881 County history

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