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Fort Smith National Historic Site Presents An Unusual Night Court Reenactment

FORT SMITH (KFSM)– The Fort Smith National Historic Site held the final night court reenactment of the winter season on Saturday (Jan. 30). The night cour...

FORT SMITH (KFSM)-- The Fort Smith National Historic Site held the final night court reenactment of the winter season on Saturday (Jan. 30).

The night court took a look back at cases in which two women were accused of murder.

Floyd Robison, who plays Judge Parker, said it was unusual for women to be tried for murder.

He said the audience participation is what makes the night court reenactment interesting.

“We have a jury that is taken from the crown, the people who are coming down here,” Robison said. “They make their own verdict, so you never know what they're going to decide based on the way they interpret the evidence.”

In both cases, the jury’s verdicts were true to history. First was a 14-year-old who was accused of poisoning a 3-month-old baby.

“There was just a lot of hearsay, not enough evidence that she actually did it,” Steve Raney, a member of the jury, said.

Raney said they reached a not-guilty verdict quickly for that case, but for the next one involving a widowed mother who said she shot a man in self-defense, they had a harder time coming up with a verdict.

“Ours was a hung jury,” Raney said. “Some thought that it was murder, some thought it was not, so they did a plea bargain. She ended up with ten years, so it actually played out the same as history.”

The transcripts from the actual trials are used for all of the night court reenactments, and Robison said that's because it's about teaching the audience history.

“Being able to tell them what actually happened and educate them, and make it interesting for them,” Robison said. “That's what this here is all about is for the public to come in and see what went on, and we try to make it as real as possible.”

The next night court will be coming up in the spring, and you can reserve your seat for $5 by calling the Historic Site at (479) 783-3961.