Our thanks go to Bill Rae for sharing this wonderful
story and his copies of the original proceedings.

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James Denton (1818-1880)
and his brother George Washington Denton
(1827-1913)
sons of William and Mary Cogil Denton of Illinois

Prosecuted for the murder of their brother-in-law, Cassing Brown, by
Abraham Lincoln,
1846.
Cassing was the husband of America Denton.

(The following paragraph is taken from Carl Sandburg's book, "Abraham Lincoln,")

"Once a jury picked by the Menard County sheriff got filled up with men of whom Lincoln said: 'I would like to throw the whole panel out, for I know every single one of them; but I can't object to a man among them.' it was a murder case with Lincoln called in as a prosecutor.   Two brothers named Denton had got into a dispute with a brother-in-law named Brown.  They fought with axes; Brown was killed; the Dentons were the only witnesses.

During the trial, which lasted a week, Lincoln felt sure the jury wouldn't convict; he left the questioning of witnesses and the final plea to the jury with another prosecutor.  And as it happened, the jury freed the Dentons.  Lincoln had sensed from the first that it would be uphill work to convict with that particular jury -- and Lincoln never made much of a record when called in as a prosecutor."

The original Grand Jury Indictment of James and George Washington Denton for the murder of Cassing Brown follows:

Of the June term of the Menard County Circuit Court in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty six.---

State of Illinois--
Menard County--

The Grand jurors chosen, selected, and sworn in and for the County of Menard in the name and by the authority of the People of the State of Illinois upon their oaths, present that on the twenty-second day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty six, at the County aforesaid, James Denton and George Washington Denton feloniously and with malice aforethought made an assault upon Cassing Brown,  in the peace of the peace of the people then and there being; and the said James Denton and George Washington Denton with an axe which they then and there had and held in their hands did then and there feloniously and with malice aforethought bruise and cut the said Cassing Brown on the head neck and left side of the body of said Cassing Brown, thereby then and there giving to ?........ said Cassing Brown mortal wounds of which mortal wounds the said Cassing Brown from the said twenty second day of January in the year aforesaid until the twenty fifth day of January in the year aforesaid at the county aforesaid did languish and on the day last aforesaid in the year aforesaid of said mortal wounds the said Brown did die and so the Grand Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do say that said James Denton and George Washington Denton in manner and form aforesaid feloniously and with malice aforethought the said Cassing Brown did kill and murder contrary to the form of the statute in such cases made and provided and against the Peace and dignity of the same People of the state of Illinois.

And the Grand Jurors aforesaid chosen, selected, and sworn as aforesaid in the name and by the authority aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid do further present that on the twenty second day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-six at the County aforesaid James Denton and George Washington Denton feloniously and with malice aforethought made an assault upon Cassing Brown in the peace of the people then and there being, and the said James Denton and George Washington Denton feloniously and with malice aforethought with an axe which the said George Washington Denton then and there had and held in his hands in and upon the head, neck, and left side of the body of said Cassing Brown then and there did inflict mortal wounds of which said mortal wounds the said Cassing Brown afterwards ?.......-- on the twenty fifth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty six, did die and so the Grand jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do say that said James Denton and George Washington Denton in manner and form aforesaid feloniously and with malice aforethought the said Cassing Brown did kill and murder C contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the Peace and dignity of the same people of the state of Illinois.

(Below is a copy of one of the pages from the original Grand Jury Indictment copied above.)

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