Fort Smith Courthouse Photos
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Established in 1851, for twenty years, the federal district court for the Western District of Arkansas was based in Van Buren Arkansas. The district had federal jurisdiction over half of the state of Arkansas and all of the Indian Territory. Coinciding with the closure of Fort Smith by the Army in 1876, the federal court was relocated to Fort Smith. For a year the court was housed in a downtown office building; during the summer of 1872, the jail was moved into the old barracks building inside the second fort. That fall, court operations were moved into the upper floor of the barracks.
Isaac Charles Parker (October 15, 1838 ? November 17, 1896) served as a U.S. District Court judge presiding over the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas for twenty-one years. He served in that capacity during the most dangerous time for law enforcement during the western expansion. He is remembered today as the legitimate “Hanging Judge” of the American Old West.
In 21 years on the bench, Judge Parker tried 13,490 cases, 344 of them were capital crimes. Guilty pleas or convictions were handed down in 9,454 cases. Of the 160 (156 men and 4 women) sentenced to death by hanging, only 79 were actually hanged. The rest died in jail, appealed, or were pardoned. During that time, over 60 US Marshals and Deputy US Marshals were killed in the line of duty serving under Parker.
- Fort Smith Criminal Records