Over a period of 21 years, Federal District Judge Isaac C. Parker sentenced 160 people to death from his bench in Fort Smith, acquiring a reputation as “the hanging judge.” It wasn’t really his fault though, since federal sentencing guidelines in place until 1898 required the death penalty for those found guilty of rape or murder. There was quite a bit of that going on in that part of Arkansas given the friction between various Indian and lately-arrived tribes with both Union and Confederate leanings. Of the 160 condemned, only 86 were executed. (To put that in perspective, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas oversaw his 500th execution in 2013.) Anyway, see Judge Parker’s courtroom at the Fort Smith Museum of History, ride the trolley through town, etcetera…
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