This account of the court case that followed the gunfight at the OK Corral “will interest Wild West buffs as well as readers interested in legal history” (Publishers Weekly).
The gunfight at the OK Corral lasted less than a minute—yet it became the basis for countless stories about the Wild West. At the time of the event, however, Wyatt Earp was not universally acclaimed as a hero. Among the people who knew him best in Tombstone, Arizona, many considered him a renegade and murderer.
This book tells the nearly unknown story of the prosecution of Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and Doc Holiday following the famous gunfight. To the prosecutors, the Earps and Holiday were wanton killers. According to the defense, the Earps were steadfast heroes—willing to risk their lives on the mean streets of Tombstone for the sake of order.
The case against the Earps, with its dueling narratives of brutality and justification, played out themes of betrayal, revenge, and even adultery. Attorney Thomas Fitch, one of the era’s finest advocates, ultimately managed, against considerable odds, to save Earp from the gallows. But the case could easily have ended in a conviction—and Wyatt Earp would have been hanged or imprisoned instead of celebrated as an American icon.
“This trial has everything: a family feud, famous outlaws and lawmen, politics, sex, and the most famous shootout in frontier history . . . Lubet’s accessible and highly original book will set a standard for scholarship in a field laden with folklore.” —Allen Barra, author of Inventing Wyatt Earp
The most legendary gunfight in the Wild West the famous shoot-out at the O.K. Corral took place in Tombstone, Ariz., on October 26, 1881. Lubet, professor of law at Northwestern University, provides an unusual account of the heretofore obscure court case that followed the gunplay, when local prosecutors with political connections to the Earp brothers' opponents, the Clantons and McLaurys (of whom only Ike Clanton survived), sought quite earnestly to send the Earps and John "Doc" Holliday to the gallows. "To the prosecutors," writes Lubet, "the Earps and Holliday were murderers law officers out of control.... For the defense, the Earps were steadfast heroes willing to risk their lives on the mean, dusty streets of Tombstone for the sake of order and stability." As Lubet makes clear in his detailed narrative, the tense, bitterly contested trial was nearly as charged as the shoot-out itself: filled with intrigue, fifth columnists and hidden agendas. The level of emotions may best be illustrated by actions after the acquittals: Clanton partisans shot Virgil Earp on a Tombstone street, crippling him for life, while Morgan Earp took a fatal bullet in the back. Wyatt and Doc, meanwhile, found it advisable to get out of town. Lubet's worthwhile account will interest Wild West buffs as well as readers interested in legal history.