Andrew Stoner’s new book takes up the often startling reality that the county courthouse, designed to be the place where conflicts are resolved, is also often the setting for incredible acts of violence.
Courthouse Chaos looks at infamous trials and lynchings in courthouses big and small across the nation. In Indiana, the book looks at two troubling cases in particular, the 1920s Ku Klux Klan trial in Hamilton County, and the 1930s lynching of two men on the lawn of the Grant County Courthouse in Marion.
The courthouse is often the most prominent building in a community, we look to the courthouse where our disputes are settled votes are counted and marriage licenses are granted. The courthouse as a setting for crime and other bizarre or untoward moments was prompted by my experience in courthouses, big and small. Stoner was a newspaper reporter for The South Bend Tribune, and often visited courthouse in northern Indiana to cover my stories about various criminal trials, or even county council or commissioner’s meetings. When I joined the Indianapolis Police Department as their civilian PIO (1989-92), just like in small town Indiana, the halls (and elevators) of the massive City-County Building were filled with an interesting mix of some of the community’s most powerful individuals right next to those facing fines or incarceration. The contrast always struck me as rather stark.
The book, Courthouse Chaos: Famous and Infamous Trials, Mob Violence, & Justice can be bought at your local national and independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Turn the Page in Westfield, among others and wherever books are sold online.