Was J.F. Rutherford - Exonerated?

by Amazing 19 Replies latest jw friends

  • Amazing

    One of the cornerstones of the Watchtower Society's claims about the 1918 trial of Joseph F. Rutherford and seven other co-defendants, is that the trial was a travesty of justice, where the defendants were railroaded off to prison.

    To make their point, the Society has repeatedly stated that Joseph Rutherford and his fellow defendants were "Exonerated" of all charges, and subsequently released from prison fully vindicated. The Society also attributed this 'victory' to Jehovah's hand in matters, restoring the symbolic 'Two Witnesses' spoken of in Revelation, and thereby, reactivating the Kingdom preaching work.

    What actually transpired is that the convicted defendants filed a Petition for a "Writ of Error." (Trial Transcript, pages 1-10, parts 1-30 ) The Writ of Error was allowed by the trial Court, Judge Howe, and granted by the District Court Judge Chatfield, whom the Society earlier objected to and had removed from their trial, because they felt he would not be fair to them.

    What does this mean? During the course of any trial, the defense attorney will take exceptions and objections and note any errors in procedure and practices customary to common law. If the defendants lose and are convicted, the defense attorney can use these 'errors' as a basis for appeal.

    Judge Howe, who presided over the trial of Joseph Rutherford and his co-defendants, was very generous to note defense objections and exceptions, and openly stated in Court several times that he would act to preserve the rights of the defendants, and acknowledged that they could make appeals.

    What then is a Writ of Error and how is it processed? "WRIT OF ERROR, practice. A writ issued out of a court of competent jurisdiction, directed to the judge of a court of record in which final judgment has been given, and commanding them, in some cases, themselves to examine the record; in others to send it to another court of appellate jurisdiction, therein named, to be examined in order that some alleged error in the proceeding may be corrected."

    That is it! In this case, the Writ of Error was granted, and the case remanded back to the United States Attorney as is customary. The prosecuting Attorney then decides whether he wants to re-try the case, correcting errors or let it drop. Such 'errors' do not mean that the defendants are suddenly 'not guilty' or in any way 'exonerated,' but rather that if the case were tried, less the errors, it might possibly have a different result.

    What essentially happened is that the US Attorney decided not to pursue the case, and as a result, in accordance with the Writ of Error, the Defendants were released, and the original charges were not refiled. Double jeopardy does not apply, because this goes to the matter of how the first trial made errors. If they would have had a new trial, that trial would then be treated as the 'correct' trial, and the original trial would be treated as a mistrial.

    Were the errors significant, possibly suggesting that the Defendants did not get a fair trial? So far, from reading much of this 1500 page transcript, I have found nothing that jumps out as outrageous or even unfair to the defense. Most all the objections and exceptions taken by the defense were minor.

    While I do not have conclusive information as to why the US Attorney backed off and did not pursue a new trial, it appears that after WWI, the nation settled down, and going through this issue again may have seemed pointless to the Government.

    There you have it ... Joseph Rutherford and company were NOT exonerated, but simply let off of the hook because of procedural errors.

  • DanTheMan



  • Grunt

    Thanks for digging this up. I always found the claim that these days spent in jail in Atlanta fulfilled a Bible prophecy about as convincing as I found the important date of 1932 so inspiring. It was and is bullshit. It amazes me that I could ever have been involved with these people. My only defense is I didn't look too close because so many people I cared about were involved and they established their credibility with me by disproving the trinity, hell-fire and christmas. What a fool I was and what a fool any poor dupe being conned into supporting this group today is making of him or her self. Thanks again for an excellent post.

  • crawdad2

    i just loved that part too!!!!,,,,,,,rutherford went to jail and fulfilled rev 11:7!!!!!!........hahahahahah!!!!!!

    it's really sad, too,.......cause right from the beginning i knew that they were making that up......but i didn't understand the signifigance of it......so i didn't dwell on it.

    later when i understood that prophecy better, i realized that those lies made them false prophets......they claim to be those prophets,.....hahahahaha

  • nancee park
    nancee park

    So Joseph Rutherford and company were released on technicalities, not "exonerated." The Watchtower Society should be ashamed of their telling lies around the world about this, don't you think?

  • PopeOfEruke

    Could someone with access to the WT CD be able to find all the quotes where it says Rutherford was "EXONERATED", and post the hits here?


    The Popeness

  • blondie

    *** Revelation Climax Book 40 8 Striving to Be Conquerors ***
    They were released on bail nine months later. On May 14, 1919, the appeal court reversed their erroneous convictions; there were shown to be 125 errors in the trial.

    *** w50 7/15 217 Postwar Enlargement of the Theocratic Organization ***
    After nine months in the penitentiary bail was granted them on March 21, 1919, and they were released. Later the Appeal Court reversed the judgment against them, and in 1920 the indictment against them was disposed of. Thus they were completely exonerated as innocent of the malicious charges of the enemy.

    *** w61 6/15 382 Pursuing My Purpose in Life ***
    Then, after they had endured nine months of wrongful punishment, the brothers were released by an order of one of the United States Supreme Court justices, who instructed that bail be allowed along with an appeal. In April, 1919, a Federal circuit court reversed the erroneous convictions and completely cleared them.

    *** jv 654 29 "Objects of Hatred by All the Nations" ***
    Nine months after Rutherford and his associates were sentenced—and with the war past—on March 21, 1919, the appeals court ordered bail for all eight defendants, and on March 26, they were released in Brooklyn on bail of $10,000 each. On May 14, 1919, the U.S. circuit court of appeals in New York ruled: “The defendants in this case did not have the temperate and impartial trial to which they were entitled, and for that reason the judgment is reversed.” The case was remanded for a new trial. However, on May 5, 1920, after the defendants had appeared in court, on call, five times, the government’s attorney, in open court in Brooklyn, announced withdrawal of the prosecution. Why? As revealed in correspondence preserved in the U.S. National Archives, the Department of Justice feared that if the issues were presented to an unbiased jury, with the war hysteria gone, the case would be lost. U.S. attorney L. W. Ross stated in a letter to the attorney general: “It would be better, I think, for our relations with the public, if we should on our own initiative” state that the case would be pressed no further.

    On the same day, May 5, 1920, the alternate indictment that had been filed in May 1918 against J. F. Rutherford and four of his associates was also dismissed.

    *** jv 654 29 "Objects of Hatred by All the Nations" (ftn) ***
    That these men were unjustly imprisoned, and were not convicts, is demonstrated by the fact that J. F. Rutherford remained a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court from his admission in May 1909 until his death in 1942. In 14 cases appealed to the Supreme Court from 1939 until 1942, J. F. Rutherford was one of the attorneys. In the cases known as Schneider v. State of New Jersey (in 1939) and Minersville School District v. Gobitis (in 1940), he personally presented oral argument before the Supreme Court. Also, during World War II, A. H. Macmillan, one of the men wrongly imprisoned in 1918-19, was accepted by the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons as a regular visitor to federal prisons in the United States to care for spiritual interests of young men who were there because of having taken a stand of Christian neutrality.

  • Perry

    Does anyone know if an official statement is declared when someone is officially "exonerated"? Or, is the term simply a popculture cliche'?

  • Amazing

    Hi Perry: To my knowledge there is no such thing as a 'Writ of Exoneration.' The legal terms most often used are either Pardon or Clemency.

    Pardons are used to both forgive, wiping out a conviction as though it never happened, and to recognize that the conviction was "wrong or in serious doubt." Were Rutherford and his co-defendants to have been considered 'not guilty' by reason of some new "exculpatory" evidence, then their convictions could be appealed and overturned, or more likely, they would have received a full Presidential Pardon. This is what would have exonerated or vindicated Rutherford and his fellow convicts.

    The 'Write of Error' that Joseph Rutherford and his co-defendants received still allowed for a retrial, because the convicts are still likely guilty, but the trial errors means that these procedures must be corrected, and retried.

    The Government was not out to get Rutherford and the Bible Students. If this had been the case, they could have had a new trial, corrected the errors, and still convicted them. The purpose of the anti-sedition laws during wartime had been served, and there was no further interest in keeping these nuts in jail.

  • Bangalore



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