In Courting Trouble my heroine Grace Davenport is in big trouble.—the kind of trouble no sane man would want to mess with Not even Wild West attorney Brock Daniels. Not only is his beautiful new client charged with killing her husband, her two previous husbands died under dire circumstances. Things sure didn’t look good for Grace and when I sat down to write her story I had no idea how my hero would defend her. It was time to hit the books.
My research for this story turned up many surprises. Namely, the number of lawyers required for frontier justice. Whenever a large mining boom began lawsuits were filed in incredible numbers. “Go west young man” went double for lawyers.
“We didn’t need laws until the lawyers got here.”
The wilder the town, the more lawyers (and doctors) it required. Not everyone welcomed the onslaught of lawyers, of course, but most accepted them as the cost of doing business.
Tombstone became a favorite gathering place for lawyers many of whom became rich and ran for office. Residents dubbed the street occupied by lawyer offices Rotten Row.
A court could be held indoors or out. In one murder trial the jury sat on the coffin containing the corpse of the victim. Most trials allowed for regular recesses for “liquid refreshment.” One well-known lawyer was routinely locked up in a hotel room prior to trial to assure he would be sober enough to defend his clients.
Three for the price of one
One of the strangest trials I ran across took place in California in 1845. During the trial of Joseph Wilson, William Ide served as judge, prosecutor and defense attorney. As the district attorney, he questioned his witness and was careful to object to his own questions when needed. He then moved to the bench to rule on the objection.
Women didn’t have the right to vote, but that didn’t keep them from making their presence known in court. Margaret Cody of Denver owned a notions shop with her husband but spent most of her time suing and being sued. I found a dozen lawsuits she was involved in and that was just during Colorado’s Territorial years. When Colorado became a state, she happily continued to enjoy litigation far into old age.
It seems like everyone in the Wild West practiced law in one way or the other, which led a character in my story to lament, “Unless you know the trial of having a wife, you know nothing about law and order.”
Okay, I admit it; I’m hooked on The Good Wife (or was until they killed off Will). Anyone have a favorite TV or movie lawyer?
So how does my hero defend the woman the town called the Black Widow? You’ll have to read the story to find out. While you’re at it, you won’t want to miss the other three stories (one by our very own Mary Connealy) in our exciting new collection. To order just click the cover.