Friday, July 13, 2018

The Murder Indictment of Wyatt Earp & His Vendetta Posse


I've heard from a number of readers telling me that Wyatt Earp and his posse, to include his brother Warren Earp, John "Doc" Holliday, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson, were never charged for the wanton murder of Frank Stillwell at the train station in Tucson. No matter if they were all wearing badges or not, the homicide they committed was unlawful and they did in fact evade justice.

As I have stated in another article on this, on the morning of March 21th, 1882, Frank Stilwell's body was found about 100 yards from the Porter Hotel alongside the tracks riddled with two buckshot and three bullet wounds.

The coroner, Dr. Dexter Lyford, reported that he found a single bullet wound that passed through his body under the his armpits, a wound from a rifle through the upper left arm, a buckshot wound that passed through the liver, abdomen, and stomach, and another buckshot wound that fractured his left leg. There was also a rifle wound through the right leg.

The Tombstone Epitaph reported the next day that Stilwell had been shot six times which included a round of buckshot in his chest that struck him at such close range that six buckshot left powder burns on his coat and holes were measured to be within a 3 inch radius of each other. 

While the Tombstone Epitaph reported that Stilwell had been shot six times, the official Coroner report stated Wyatt Earp and his men killed Stilwell with five different caliber weapons. Sounds like more than each bad actor decided to take their turn killing someone already dead.

Frank Stilwell was already dead but Earp and his men, all supposed lawmen, kept shooting him even after he was dead? They sound more like executioners than lawmen, doesn't it?

Later, Ike Clanton correctly stated in a newspaper interview that he and Stilwell had been in Tucson to respond to a federal subpoena from the Grand Jury. It was over interfering with a U.S. mail carrier when they "allegedly" robbed the Sandy Bob line of the Bisbee stage on September 8th, 1881.

In fact, the federal charges that took them in front of the Grand Jury had been filed by then Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp after Frank Stilwell was acquitted for lack of evidence on the state charges of robbery.  

Clanton said he had heard that the Earps were coming in on a train to kill Stilwell after hearing the testimony from Pete Spence wife. According to Clanton, Stilwell left the hotel and was last seen walking down the railroad tracks away from the Porter Hotel. It is believed that Stilwell was on his way to meet another "cow boy" who was also subpoenaed to testify but was possibly coming in on a later train since he hadn't arrived earlier when they checked the station. 

The following is a transcript of the Murder Indictment for the arrest of Wyatt Earp and those who were in on the murder of Frank Stillwell. It was issued on March 25th, 1882.
Territory of Arizona
vs

Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson

Grand Jury Indictment for the Killing of Frank Stilwell

In the District Court of the First Judicial District of the Territory of Arizona in and for the County of Pima

Territory of Arizona
against

Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson.


Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson are accused by the Grand Jury of the County of Pima and Territory of Arizona on their oath by this indictment of the crime of murder committed as follows: 

That the said Doc Holliday at the City of Tucson in the said County of Pima on or about the 20th day of March, A.D. 1882 with force and arms in and upon the body of one Frank Stillwell then and there being, then and there feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Doc Holliday a certain gun charged with gunpowder and leaden bullets which he the said Doc Holliday in his hands then and there feloneously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died, and the said Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, sherman McMasters and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present standing by, aiding, abetting assisting and maintaining the said Doc Holliday the felony and murder as aforesaid set forth, in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ, and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid do say that the said Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warrren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson, the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid felonously, wilfully and of their mailice aforethought did Kill and Murder: 

Contrary to the form of Statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona

Second Count

and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said Wyatt Earp on or about the said 20th day of March A.D. 1882 at said City of Tucson in said County of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of the said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Wyatt Earp a certain gun charged with gunpowder and leaden bullets which he the said Wyatt Earp in his hands then and there had and held, then and there feloneously, wilfully, and of malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off, giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died, and said Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, sherman McMasters and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present standing by, aiding abetting assisting and maintaining the said Wyatt Earp the felony and Murder as aforesaid set forth in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ. and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do say that the said Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloneously, wilfully and of their mailice aforethought did Kill and Murder:

Contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona

Third Count

and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said Warren Earp on or about the said 20th day of March A.D. 1882 at said City of Tucson in said County of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of the said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Warren Earp a certain gun charged with gunpowder and leaden bullets which he the said Warren Earp in his hands, then and there had and held, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died, and the said Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present, standing by, aiding, abetting assiting and maintaining the said Warren Earp the felony and murder as aforesaid set forth in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ. and so the Jurors aforesaid upon the oaths aforesaid do say that the said Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Sherman McMasters and John Johnson the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought did Kill and Murder:

Contrary to the form of Statute in such case made as provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona.

Fourth Count

and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said Sherman McMasters on or about the said 20th day of March A.D. 1882, at said City of Tucson in said County of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of the said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault and the said Sherman McMasters a certain gun charges with gun powder and leaden bullets which he the said Sherman McMasters in his hands then and there had held, then and there feloneously wilfully and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of there the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off, giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound of which said mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died, and the said Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, Wyatt Earp and John Johnson then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their mailice aforethought were present standing by, aiding, abetting, assisting and maintaining the said Sherman McMasters the Felony and Murder as aforesaid set forth, in manner and form aforesaid, to do and committ. And so the Jurors aforesaid do say that the said Sherman McMasters, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp and John Johnson the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloneously wilfully and of their malice aforethought did Kill and Murder: Contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the Territory of Arizona.

Fifth Count

and the said Grand Jurors do further present that the said John Johnson on or about the said 20th day of march A. D. 1882 at said City of Tucson in said county of Pima with force and arms in and upon the body of said Frank Stilwell then and there being, then and there feloneously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault, and the said John Johnson a certain gun charged with gun powder and leaden bullets which he the said John Johnson in his hands then and there had and held, then and there feloneously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell did discharge and shoot off, giving to him the said Frank Stilwell then and there with the said gun so discharged and shot off as aforesaid in and upon the body of him the said Frank Stilwell a mortal wound he the said Frank Stilwell instantly died, and the said Doc Holliday, Warran Earp, Wyatt Earp and Sherman McMasters then and there feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought were present standing by, aiding, abetting, assisting, and maintaining the said John Johnson the Felony and Murder as aforesaid set forth, in manner and form aforesaid to do and committ and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do say that said John Johnson Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp and Sherman McMasters the said Frank Stilwell then and there in manner and form aforsaid feloneously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought did Kill and Murder: Contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided and against the dignity and peace of the Territory of Arizona

Hugh Farley District Attorney
of Pima County Arizona Territory
-- end of murder indictment of Wyatt Earp and his "vendetta" posse.

I did not correct the spelling and/or any other errors in the indictment papers. It is presented here as it was written and produced in 1882.

Please keep in mind, Stilwell's body was found on the tracks the following morning after he had been killed and shot by each member of Earp's deputized federal posse. But by that time, Wyatt Earp and his "posse" had fled the scene.

Earp and the others did not report what took place to the local law in that jurisdiction or make any sort of report of what took place as would normally be done by a Deputy U.S. Marshal and his posse. Instead, no differently than the killers that they were supposedly hunting down with warrants in their hands to bring to justice, Earp and the others acted like a gang of killers and murdered Stillwell then fled the scene.

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa





2 comments:

  1. Now, Tom, go into detail about who all was involved in that "trail" and "indictment". Was not the legal system against the Earp's to start with. Granted, the Earp's, et al, were not saints; however, in those days, given a corrupt legal system existed, the Earp's fought fire with fire.

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    1. Hello and thanks for reading my blog. While I agree that a lot of the legal system at the time was very corrupt in more places than most want to admit, the legal system in Tombstone was NOT against the Earps. In fact if you look at the Spicer Hearing you can conclude that the justice system worked very well for the Earps. Also, please remember, that the Clanton faction saw the legal system work for the Earps and against them after Spicer's Hearing exonerated the Earps and Holliday in the shooting near the OK Corral. Remember, right after the Spicer Hearing, Ike Clanton went before Justice of the Peace J.B. Smith in Contention City and again filed murder charges against the Earps and Holliday. He was turned down and Spicer's Ruling was upheld. Ike Clanton saw the system NOT working in his favor and in the favor of the Earps. Clanton's response was the ambush of Virgil and Morgan, who were the actual law in Tombstone and who he saw as ultimately being responsible for the killing of his brother Billy Clanton. Did Ike Clanton's assertion that the legal system was not working for him somehow justify his organizing the ambushing of Virgil and Morgan? Of course not. I've had readers write to tell me that Ike Clanton's organizing the ambushes of Virgil and Morgan was an "eye for an eye" no different than what Wyatt and his posse did after the killing of Morgan. Does the Earp posse thinking that they were not going get justice in the legal system justify what they did? No, it doesn't. Frankly, I agree with my readers who say both sides claimed that the legal system was against them and used that as an excuse to carry out their own idea of justice. As for any lawmen acting like the very criminals that they are supposedly bringing to justice, by fighting "fire with fire"? While there were definitely Old West lawmen who did cross the line and act as vicious as the outlaws they were after, there were also a lot of great lawmen in the Old West who didn't need to take the law into their own hands to bring outlaws to justice. To me, by their actions, both factions used the excuse that the legal system was against them to try to justify committing murder and mayhem. Just my opinion.

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