The Sixth Amendment Center (6AC) acknowledges the Nevada Supreme Court’s Rural Courts Coordinator and Court Services Supervisor, John McCormick, for his supervision of this project. Mr. McCormick is one of a number of Nevadans providing significant assistance in the research and writing of this report.
Natacha Faillers, Archives Assistant of the Nevada State Archives, found the original and amended versions of Thomas Wren’s Assembly Bill 122 (1875), which authorized payment to appointed counsel, and she unearthed the prison records and pardon requests of Shepherd L. Wixom. She also tracked down biographical information on Thomas Wren contained in the only known copy of a short-lived Virginia City periodical, Nevada Monthly, at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. We would have known little of the motivations of Wren for supporting the right to counsel had not Anita Lawson Weaver, an Assistant in the Rare Book Department of the Huntington Library, generously copied the periodical for us.
Assembly Bill 122 (1875) took on new significance when the Nevada Supreme Court handed down In re Wixom in April of 1877. Paula Doty, Assistant Librarian at the Nevada Supreme Court Library, went through the Court’s microfilm records to find the original briefs. Though there is a gap in the microfilm reel, Ms. Doty employed the assistance of Ms. Faillers at the State Archives and diligently found the original paper documents.
Our understanding of the political and social culture in Nevada’s early days as the western part of the Utah Territory was greatly aided by materials sent by Michael Maher and Juil Dandini of the Nevada Historical Society. The 6AC is also significantly indebted to historian Michael Makley. Nevada’s desire for statehood was in many ways triggered by a longing on the part of the populace of the Carson Valley for a justice system that was neither meted out by vigilance committees nor in the control of Mormon leadership seated some 500 miles away in Salt Lake City. Our knowledge of this dynamic was greatly enhanced by Makley’s book, The Hanging of Lucky Bill (which he sent to us free of charge).
A 1991 article by Nevada historian Phillip I. Earl led the 6AC to question some of the facts surrounding the trial of Mr. Wixom. Mr. Earl spoke to us at some length about stagecoach and train robberies in 19th century Nevada, and he assisted Mr. Maher of the Nevada Historical Society in tracking down local newspaper accounts of the Wixom trial that confirmed Mr. Earl’s earlier work.
Finally, this report simply could not have been written without the support and guidance of former Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha. Mr. Rocha provided us with key contacts throughout the state and suggested numerous avenues of research for us to trove. Most importantly, he gave generously of his time and energy during numerous phone calls and e-mail exchanges, where he not only acted as an objective sounding board, but also provided needed encouragement enabling the 6AC to connect the dots of what occurred in Lander County over a hundred and forty years ago.