Murdering Holiness: The Trials of Franz Creffield and George Mitchell

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UBC Press, 2003 M09 15 - 360 pages
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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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Contents

Introduction
1
The Creffield Sect in Corvallis 1903
7
Driving Out the Sect The Triumph of the White Caps 19031904
35
Sensualist Practices Prescribed and Ordained as Coming from Heaven Sex and the Creffield Sect
57
Disciplining the Sect Invoking Insanity Law 1904
76
Revival and Revenge January to May 1906
94
Seattle Prepares for Trial May and June 1906
105
Justifiable Homicide and the Unwritten Law Seattle Debates the Mitchell Case
121
The Trial of George Mitchell Part 2 The Unwritten Law
158
And the Evil That Men Do Lives After Them The Death of George Mitchell
192
The Law Maud Creffield and Esther Mitchell
206
Epilogue
233
The Creffield Sect Membership
245
Notes
247
Bibliography
325
Index
341

The Trial of George Mitchell Part I Jury Selection and the Case for the Prosecution
141

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About the author (2003)

Jim Phillips is director of the Centre of Criminology and a professor in the Faculty of Law and Department of History at the University of Toronto. Rosemary Gartner is a professor at the Centre of Criminology and the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto.

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