- Gary HerbertGovernor
- Sean ReyesAttorney General - Utah
- Board of Pardons and Parole - UtahBoard Members
Help Exonerate Joe Hill
In 1915, Joe Hill, a Swedish-American labor activist, was unjustly convicted and executed by the State of Utah.
In a case that relied primarily on circumstantial evidence, Mr. Hill was found guilty of the murders of John G. Morrison, a grocer, and his teenage son. Prosecutors pointed to the fact that Mr. Hill was brought to an local doctor with a gunshot wound on the same evening as the murders. Hill also refused to offer an alibi for his activities that evening, knowing that the burden of proof fell upon the prosector to provide evidence of his participation. After several appeals and international calls for clemency from Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller, among others, Joe Hill was executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The transcripts of the court case demonstrate that Joe Hill did not receive a fair trial in front an impartial jury of his peers. During jury selection, the judge presiding over the case, Morris L. Ritchie, became impatient with the defense's difficulty finding jurors whose opinions had not been tainted by the excessive media coverage of the murder. The judge selected the final three jurors himself by pulling them from another case that had just concluded.
Throughout the trial, the judge continued to display his partiality toward the prosecution: despite numerous objections he allowed the prosecution to ask leading questions during direct examination; when witnesses made statements that contradicted what they said in preliminary hearings the judge refused to allow the transcripts from the preliminary hearings to be entered into evidence; and most importantly, when Joe Hill invoked his Fifth Amendment right to decline to answer questions wherein the answers might incriminate him, the prosecution used this as an admission of guilt.
In the years since his death, new evidence asserts Hill’s innocence, including proof that he may have withheld critical information regarding his whereabouts that evening to protect other parties. William M. Adler’s book, "The Man Who Never Died," reveals a letter written by Hilda Erickson, Hill’s sweetheart and an alibi for his activities on the fateful night. The letter explains that Hill was shot by Erickson's former fiancé, Otto Appelquist, upon learning of the nature of Hill and Erickson's relationship.
During a hearing with the Utah Board of Pardons, Utah Supreme Court Justice William M. McCarty—speaking on behalf of the board—said to Hill, "If you can show us any proof of circumstance that proves your innocence, we will grant you an immediate and unconditional pardon..." This petition asserts that the letter written by Hilda Erickson is the "proof of circumstance" the Board of Pardons requested and believes the State of Utah now has a duty to fulfill its promise and exonerate Joe Hill
In light of this new evidence, we invite you to sign our petition asking the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, the Governor of Utah Gary Herbert, and the Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to exonerate Joe Hill.
- Attorney General - Utah
- Board Members
Board of Pardons and Parole - Utah
Help Exonerate Joe Hill
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