The Friends of the Fort will recreate the 1895 murder trial of Frank Carver, accused of killing the daughter of infamous hangman George Maledon.
"The law called it murder, but he claimed it was a tragic accident."
Those words are spoken by Floyd Robison, a local re-enactor and longtime supporter of history-based programs, whenever he discusses the 1895 trial of Frank Carver. Carver was accused of murdering Annie Maledon, who was the 23-year-old daughter of the infamous hangman, George Maledon.
"There was no question that Frank did it," said Robison. "The question was, was it accidental?
"Frank claimed he wasn't shooting at her, but he said he had been drinking and he didn't know what he was doing," he added. "Annie lived for three months after she was shot in the former Indian Territory. They brought her to Fort Smith, which is where she died in May of 1895."
Robison is president for Friends of the Fort, a local nonprofit that will host September Night Court — The Trial of Frank Carver. The mock trial will begin at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 and at 6 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, 301 Parker Ave., and will recreate the Carver trial.
"It will be the same trail both nights, and tickets are $7 for this program we are offering," said Robison, who will portray Judge Isaac C. Parker during the event. "It will last about an hour or maybe 90 minutes, because generally after these (mock) trials, people will want to talk about it and ask questions.
"And this is good for all ages, really," he added. "It's not a problem for any age to experience this program, and it will be exciting because it's an interesting case and it's never been presented here before."
Area resident Taylor Gilbreth will portray Carver during the recreation, which will include about 15 cast members. The event, like previous Night Court events held at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, will be "a great time" for everyone in attendance, he said.
"These events bring history to life," Gilbreth said. "We get to recreate interesting trials from the past and let our audience serve as the jury."
Robison also is anticipating the upcoming mock trial.
"We will have some unusual evidence to present on the evidence table for this case," he said. "The evidence will include part of Annie's spine, which had the bullet piece in it. That definitely makes things unique.
"And because she lived for three months, Annie had time to tell her story to others," Robison added. "She knew who shot her."
At the time, the trial garnered controversy, he said.
"Annie was a Catholic, and she'd had a baby out of wedlock; that was a strike against her in some people's minds," Robison said. "We think this program will enlighten people to the thinking of those times and how some people in this area felt about the case."
Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling (479) 831-9274 or emailing FriendsOfTheFort@gmail.com. The money raised will help the Friends of the Fort's ongoing support of the Fort Smith National Historic Site's community programs and events, Robison said.
"We're recommending that people purchase their tickets as soon as possible due to limited seating," he said. "We need to have enough time for the people to be able to mail a check to our post office box, so that everyone who purchases a ticket will be able to attend this educational, entertaining program."
"Our town is full of great stories," he said. "This is one of the best ways to share those stories."