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New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill

27 Aug 11 - 12:08 PM (#3213487)
Subject: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Amos

An interesting piece in the NY Times here indicates that evidence has been found which exonerates Joe Hill from the murder for which he was framed convicted.

27 Aug 11 - 12:37 PM (#3213497)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Big Mick

Thanks for sharing this, Amos. I just did two of these songs at a house concert at The Circle Pines Center this week. "I never died, says he......."

All the best,


27 Aug 11 - 02:39 PM (#3213555)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Charley Noble

Interesting new information on this cold case.

Charley Noble

27 Aug 11 - 10:25 PM (#3213776)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: GUEST,999

I hope his name is cleared. It'll be a good day.

27 Aug 11 - 11:57 PM (#3213813)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Sandra in Sydney


28 Aug 11 - 01:01 AM (#3213826)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: ChanteyLass

That evidence is interesting. I'd like to see Hill pardoned. Recently Irish immigrant John Gordon of RI was pardoned after being hung on Valentine's Day in 1845 for the murder of mill owner Amasa Sprague. Sprague's ghost is said to haunt the mill building.

28 Aug 11 - 02:08 PM (#3214070)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Mark Ross

Bill Adler is touring the country, and has asked me to appear with him here in Eugene to play some Joe Hill songs. Check out the website for tour dates.

Mark Ross

29 Aug 11 - 06:21 AM (#3214391)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: GUEST,guest Peter

Does the 'new evidence' name the 'guilty' party?

29 Aug 11 - 10:12 AM (#3214492)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Mark Ross

Yes it does.

Mark Ross

01 Sep 11 - 01:07 PM (#3216569)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Newport Boy

Is that a confession, Mark? ;-)

02 Sep 11 - 09:58 AM (#3217048)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Mark Ross

I'll take the Fifth(Rye, preferably).

Mark Ross

02 Sep 11 - 10:07 AM (#3217055)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Rapparee

Joe Hill was set up, just like Big Bill Haywood was set up. Harry Orchard was a fink and a scab.

02 Sep 11 - 04:25 PM (#3217242)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: Stower

Did anyone save the info on the linked page? The link now doesn't work and I'd be really interested to read it. Could the article be posted on this thread, please?

03 Sep 11 - 01:31 AM (#3217434)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: NightWing

I didn't have any problem reaching the story:

Examining a Labor Hero's Death

Published: August 26, 2011

[photo caption] William M. Adler, the author of a new biography of Joe Hill, at the cemetery in Lafayette, Colo., where the last of the union activist's ashes were scattered.

At Woodstock, Joan Baez sang a famous folk ballad celebrating Joe Hill, the itinerant miner, songwriter and union activist who was executed by a Utah firing squad in 1915. "I never died, said he" is the song's refrain.

[photo caption] Joe Hill was executed in 1915 for a murder the year before.

Hill's status as a labor icon and the debate about his conviction certainly never died. And now a new biography makes the strongest case yet that Hill was wrongfully convicted of murdering a local grocer, the charge that led to his execution at age 36.

The book's author, William M. Adler, argues that Hill was a victim of authorities and a jury eager to deal a blow to his radical labor union, as well as his own desire to protect the identity of his sweetheart.

A Salt Lake City jury convicted Hill largely because of one piece of circumstantial evidence: he had suffered a gunshot wound to the chest on the same night — Jan. 10, 1914 — that the grocer and his son were killed. At the trial, prosecutors argued that he had been shot by the grocer's son, and Hill refused to offer any alternative explanation.

Mr. Adler uncovered a long-forgotten letter from Hill's sweetheart that said that he had been shot by a rival for her affections, undermining the prosecution's key assertion. The book, "The Man Who Never Died," also offers extensive evidence suggesting that an early suspect in the case, a violent career criminal, was the murderer.

Hill, who bounced around the West as a miner, longshoreman and union organizer, was the leading songwriter for the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies, a prominent union that was widely feared and deplored for its militant tactics. He penned dozens of songs that excoriated bosses and capitalism and wrote the well-known lyric "You'll get pie in the sky when you die."

His conviction was so controversial that President Woodrow Wilson twice wrote to Utah's governor to urge him to spare Hill's life, and unions as far away as Australia protested on his behalf.

After his death, Hill was immortalized in poetry and song, including the 1936 ballad embraced by Ms. Baez, Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson and others: "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night."

In the letter found by Mr. Adler, Hill's sweetheart, Hilda Erickson, wrote that Hill had told her he had been shot by her former fiancé, Otto Appelquist — someone she had broken off with a week earlier and who had asked her "if I liked Joe better than him." In her letter, she added, "I heard Joe tease Otto once that he was going to take me away from him."

Historians say the letter is groundbreaking because it is apparently the first time anyone has stepped forward to explain exactly how and why Hill was shot. Neither Hill nor Ms. Erickson testified at his trial, although Hill did tell the doctor who treated his wound that a rival suitor had shot him.

The prosecution maintained that Hill had been shot by the grocer's son, even though the police never found any bullet cartridges or traces of blood, other than the victims', at the murder scene. Prosecutors used Hill's silence to persuade jurors that he must have murdered the grocer.

Ms. Erickson wrote the letter in 1949 to Aubrey Haan, a professor who was researching a book on Hill. The book was never published, and Mr. Adler found the letter in papers stored in the professor's daughter's attic.

"When I first read the letter, it was a 'holy cow' moment because all these years people wondered about what happened that night," Mr. Adler said in an interview.

In his book, which Bloomsbury will publish on Tuesday, Mr. Adler also lays out what historians say is highly incriminating new information about the person police originally suspected of the two murders, Frank Z. Wilson.

The police arrested Mr. Wilson the night of the murders after they found him walking without an overcoat near the grocery. They also found a bloody handkerchief on him.

Mr. Adler said Mr. Wilson had lied repeatedly to the authorities after they arrested him, but they soon released him for reasons that remain unclear. Mr. Adler also discovered that Mr. Wilson had used at least 16 aliases during his many arrests and convictions, several for robbing trains. He was later involved in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929, with a getaway car registered under an alias he often used.

"His research is just incredible — it expands what we know in really dramatic ways," said John R. Sillito, co-author of a new book on radicalism in Utah and a retired archivist at Weber State University in Ogden. "It builds a strong case that Wilson should have been the prime suspect."

[photo caption] Photo courtesy Susan Tuttle family: Mr. Hill's girlfriend, Hilda Erickson, wrote a letter that might explain what really happened the night of the killing.

Hill declined to testify at his trial, standing on the principle that he should not have to prove his innocence, especially when he believed that the prosecution could not possibly prove he was guilty with the limited evidence it had.

Mr. Adler's book suggests that Hill also did not testify partly because he wanted to safeguard Ms. Erickson's privacy. She was in her early 20s at the time, the niece of the two Swedish brothers he was boarding with.

Rolf Hagglund, a grandnephew of Hill's who lives in Stockholm, has read galleys of the new book and welcomed its findings.

"From the start, people knew he was set up," Mr. Hagglund said in a telephone interview. "This book presents the strongest case so far that there was an alternative shooter and how Joe was shot and why he was shot." (Hill immigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1902, changing his name from the original, Joel Hagglund.)

But John Arling Morrison, a grandson of the murdered grocer, put little stock in Mr. Adler's findings. "Joe Hill was the one who murdered our grandfather and destroyed the economy of our family," said Mr. Morrison.

Mr. Adler, a Denver resident, decided to write about Hill after reading Bob Dylan's "Chronicles," which argued that the Hill case was a miscarriage of justice.

"Initially I saw the book as a murder mystery, and I saw myself in the role of gumshoe," Mr. Adler said. "I also wanted to explore how Hill went from being an anonymous worker to finding his voice as a songwriter to becoming a working-class hero to becoming, ultimately, a martyr."

Like many historians, Gibbs M. Smith, author of a Hill biography, said the trial was unfair. "Under today's laws of evidence, he never would have been convicted and executed," Mr. Smith said. Historians have observed that the judge unjustifiably ruled against Hill on evidentiary questions and that the prosecution coached witnesses to say they saw Hill near the grocery that night.

Some students of the case say one reason for Hill's silence may have been a belief that he could do more for labor's cause as a martyr than alive. At the time, the I.W.W. had fewer than 20,000 members, but it was detested by business leaders because it pushed miners, lumberjacks and railway workers to use strikes, slowdowns and sabotage to pressure employers to improve pay and conditions.

Shortly before his execution, Hill wrote supporters an emotional note, saying, "Don't waste time mourning, organize," which later became the union catchphrase, "Don't Mourn, Organize."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 1, 2011

A picture caption on Saturday with an article about new questions surrounding the murder case that resulted in the execution of the union activist Joe Hill in 1915 misidentified the city in Colorado where some of his ashes were scattered at a cemetery. It is Lafayette, not Denver.

Since I work in Lafayette and live in the next town over, only two or three miles from that cemetary, it was of personal interest.

06 Oct 11 - 12:23 PM (#3234864)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: katlaughing

Colorado Public Radio aka, has a program called "Colorado Matters." Today's show was an interview with Bill Adler about his book, research, and a few song samples. If you'd like to listen to it, please CLICK HERE.

06 Oct 11 - 08:19 PM (#3235097)
Subject: RE: New Evidence: The Death of Joe Hill
From: katlaughing