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UW College of Law Puts John Wilkes Booth on Trial

April 6, 2016

What would have happened if John Wilkes Booth had been taken alive and tried in a court of law for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln?

The question will be answered when the University of Wyoming College of Law hosts the second annual Spence Law Firm Historical Trial Production Monday, April 11, at 6 p.m. in the College of Law large moot courtroom.

The mock trial is free and open to the public. An overflow room, with a live stream of the trial, will be provided in case of an overflow audience. Refreshments will be provided at the break.

Collaborating with the Spence Law Firm, the College of Law created the annual historical trial as a fun and interesting way to learn about important historical events through a legal lens, while also providing UW law students a way to simulate a trial of a high-profile case.

This year’s historical trial will put Booth on trial for the murder of Lincoln.

Following the assassination of Lincoln, Booth famously fled Ford’s Theatre on horseback, was tracked down days later and killed in a shootout. Though a trial never took place, the Spence Historical Trial team gathered all of the facts surrounding the case and will present the evidence in a proceeding intended to show what could have happened had Booth survived.

The research team included UW College of Law Professor Steve Easton and second-year law student Evynne Fair, of Arvada, Colo. The team worked closely with members of the UW departments of History and Psychology, while leaning heavily on several publications about the incident to gather historically accurate facts. The team was loaned period-appropriate costumes from the UW Department of Theatre and Dance to transform the courtroom back to 1865.

Presiding over the United States v. John Wilkes Booth trial will be Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Keith Kautz, who received his bachelor’s (1975) and juris doctorate (1978) degrees, both from UW.

Representing the United States for the prosecution will be Easton and third-year law student Emily Williams, of Flagstaff, Ariz. Representing Booth will be Spence trial attorney Kent Spence and third-year law student Macrina Sharpe, from Cheyenne.

Booth will be played by law/MBA student Nathan Ridgway, of North Liberty, Ind. The rest of the cast will be portrayed by current law students, and UW faculty and staff members.

Booth and his attorneys are expected to present an insanity defense.

For more information about the mock trial, contact Christine Reed, UW College of Law communications director, at (307) 766-6562 or email

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