Murdering Holiness: Trials of Franz Creffield and George Mitchell

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Overview

Murdering Holiness explores the story of the "Holy Roller" sect led by Franz Creffield in the early years of the twentieth century. In the opening chapters, the authors introduce us to the community of Corvallis, Oregon, where Creffield, a charismatic, self-styled messiah, taught his followers to forsake their families and worldly possessions and to seek salvation through him. As his teachings became more extreme, the local community reacted: Creffield was tarred and feathered and his followers were incarcerated in the state asylum. Creffield himself was later imprisoned for adultery, but shortly after his release he revived the sect. This proved too much for some of the adherents' families, and in May 1906 George Mitchell, the brother of two women in the sect, pursued Creffield to Seattle and shot him dead.

The authors take us into the courtroom for the trial that made headlines across North America, as Mitchell was acquitted of murder. Though the formal plea was insanity, the defence built its case on the "unwritten law" that justified killing to protect or avenge family honour. Based on court records and archival sources, this case study includes a detailed examination of the trial, the media's response to it, and the dramatic aftermath, and sheds light on the rise of ardent religion in the Pacific Northwest, the justice system in Seattle, and the role of the press in influencing public opinion.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
… in this thoroughly researched, closely argued and admirably dispassionate case study, Phillips and Gartner remind us how seamlessly the legal system, gender hysteria and tabloid alarmism can raise holy hell with the First Amendment's protections of free worship. —Chris Lehmann
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780774809061
  • Publisher: University of British Columbia Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Cast of Principal Characters
1 Introduction 1
2 The Creffield Sect in Corvallis, 1903 7
3 Driving Out the Sect: The Triumph of the White Caps, 1903-1904 35
4 "Sensualist Practices Prescribed and Ordained as Coming from Heaven": Sex and the Creffield Sect 57
5 Disciplining the Sect: Invoking Insanity Law, 1904 76
6 Revival and Revenge, January to May 1906 94
7 Seattle Prepares for Trial, May and June 1906 105
8 Justifiable Homicide and the Unwritten Law: Seattle Debates the Mitchell Case 121
9 The Trial of George Mitchell, Part 1: Jury Selection and the Case for the Prosecution 141
10 The Trial of George Mitchell, Part 2: The Unwritten Law 158
11 "And the Evil That Men Do Lives After Them": The Death of George Mitchell 192
12 The Law, Maud Creffield, and Esther Mitchell 206
Epilogue 233
App The Creffield Sect Membership 245
Notes 247
Bibliography 325
Index 341
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