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SHSND Home > Education > Chateau De Mores Lesson Plans > "Frontier Justice in Dakota" > Determining the Facts > Reading 2: Justice of the Peace Hearings 1883

Determing the Facts - Reading 2: Justice of the Peace Hearings 1883

The First Hearing

On Wednesday, June 27, Northern Pacific freight train No. 14 reached Mandan at 6:30 p.m. bringing Deputy Harmon, his prisoners and all who had either participated in or witnessed the events of recent days. But whereas 0'Donald and Wannegan were marched off to jail, the Marquis and his supporters put up at Mandan's largest hotel, the Inter-Ocean. The difference was that the Frenchman had no difficulty finding local residents---C. E. Haupt, a business partner, and Hiram R. Lyon, Cashier of the First National Bank of Mandan---willing and able to put up the $3,000 bond necessary to assure his freedom.

Back at Little Missouri, a coroner's jury met over Luffsey's body and concluded that the dead man had been killed "by a shot or shots from the Marquis de Mores, Frank Miller and Dick Moore." This brought all three back before Mark Bateman, Mandan's justice of the peace and the same person who had urged the Marquis to shoot back only a few days earlier. On June 30th Bateman acquitted them "on the ground that they were provoked to shoot and did so in self-defense." 0'Donald and Reuter, on the other hand, were to be charged with manslaughter as having "provoked the affray, which resulted in the death of their companion.

Thus DeMores not only appeared to have come through the entire affair untouched, but had served notice on any of the tough characters in the Little Missouri community that he was a man to be reckoned with. Public opinion seemed largely in his favor. For example a letter in the Mandan Pioneer signed "Tenderfoot," proclaimed "The killing of one of a band of roughs at the Little Missouri crossing, and the arrest and confinement of two others, marks an epoch in the development of the country west of the Missouri. The friends of these fellows may as well understand now that law and order and protection to life and property has come in northwest Dakota. The "tenderfoot" has come to stay..." Another writer reminded readers that "O'Donald had sworn that he would shoot the Marquis de Morey [sic] on sight," and speculated, quite accurately as it turned out, that "lovers of law and order will, I think, look upon the killing of Luffsey as justifiable homicide."

The Second Hearing

Two days later the Marquis was served with an arrest warrant as he left a Mandan barber shop. O'Donald, who had been protesting his innocence since his arrival in town—or perhaps sympathetic friends from the Little Missouri neighborhood—had reached Daniel Collins, Mandan’s other Justice of the Peace, and persuaded him to arrest the Marquis and his men on the same charges of which they had two days earlier been absolved.

Charged with the murder of Luffsey, the Marquis and his two men were arraigned before Collins on the morning of July 3 after delays which insured that enough legal talent had arrived by train "to make the sidewalks groan." The Marquis's Bismarck attorneys, Flannery, Stoyell and Allen, were present along with E. A. Campbell of Litchfield, Minnesota, who was on hand as counsel for O'Donald and Reuter but who was referred to by the Mandan Daily Pioneer, significantly, as appearing "to prosecute." Justice Collins overruled a motion for dismissal on the principle of double jeopardy and set a hearing for July 6.

The hearing before Collins provided O'Donald with his first opportunity to relate his side of the story before a judicial body, and he sang the same song he had been singing to the newspapers or anyone else who would listen since his arrival in Mandan:

[W]hen Luffsey, Wannegan and I got down about a mile from the station, we were riding our ponies at a walk, laughing and talking together; we were fired upon from the brush without any warning being given; we did not know that anyone was secreted in the brush; . . . one ball struck my horse and the other my gun; Luffsey fell or got off his horse immediately after the firing of the first volley; ... the horse I was on died from the effects of the wound it received; Luffsey was dead before I reached the station; I called out to the men who were shooting and asked what they were shooting for; they told me to throw down my arms; ... from the time I left the station to the time the first firing began I had no reason to apprehend any difficulty with anybody; I never had any cross word with the Marquis de Mores . . . .

The testimony before Justice Collins was as complete and painstaking as that before Justice Bateman had been abbreviated, and continued, with a break on Sunday, through Wednesday, July 11. So riveting were the proceedings, in fact, that they “served almost to demoralize some branches of Mandan’s business,” complained the Pioneer editor. “Real estate is dull because the men who would buy have been watching this case.”

On Thursday morning Justice Collins reconvened court and lost no time in proclaiming the defendants, the Marquis, Miller and Moore as “not guilty of the crime charged.” Since the attorneys had agreed the evidence produced in the Marquis’s hearing would be considered applicable in the cases of O’Donald and Rueter, only two more days elapsed before Justice Bateman bound them over for trial in district court. Bond was continued at $9,000, which district Judge Sanford Hudson reduced by half in early August. Their subsequent fate at the hands of the Dakota judicial system is unknown at this point, but the fact that both reappeared at Medora in late 1883 suggests that charges against both were probably dismissed. Freed from these legal entanglements, the Marquis continued to develop his business enterprises in the Little Missouri neighborhood.

Reading 2 was excerpted from Frank E. Vyzralek, The Marquis de Mores, His Dakota Experiences and His Enterprises in Dakota, 1883-1913. Bismarck. An unpublished report for the State Historical Society of North Dakota 1995 and Frank E. Vyzralek, “Frontier Justice in Dakota Territory: the Marquis de Mores-Riley Luffsey Murder Case, 1883-1885.” Virginia Heidenreich-Barber, ed. Aristocracy on the Western Frontier: The Legacy of the Marquis de Mores. Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1994.

Questions for Reading 2

  1. Why do you think the Marquis was given bond on a murder charge?
  2. Why was a second hearing held even after the first acquittal?
  3. Why were the businessmen interested in the outcome of the trial?

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