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Citizens to Perform 'The Trial of Joe McCarthy'

Jun 25, 2013 - By Andrea Novotny, Staff Writer

Deceased Sens. Joseph McCarthy, Styles Bridges and Herman Welker will go on "trial" Wednesday, facing charges of blackmail leading to the suicide of fellow Sen. Lester Hunt, of Lander, in 1954.

"The Trial of Joe McCarthy," sponsored by the Fremont County Democratic Party, will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lander Middle School, 755 Jefferson St.

The event involves a scripted trial, with local citizens standing in for the parts of court personnel, attorneys, witnesses and defendants.

John Vincent and Devon Petersen will play the prosecuting and defense attorneys, respectively. Retired Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden will portray the judge. Other actors include Bill Sniffin, Bruce Palmer and Ernie Over.

"There is definitely a deep local connection here," said Palmer, chairman of the Fremont County Democrats. "(Hunt) actually lived and practiced in Lander."

The course of the trial is planned -- the script for each part already written -- but the fate of the defendants will not be decided until that night, as decided by a jury of Lander community members.

The event was inspired by Rodger McDaniel's book, "Dying for Joe McCarthy's Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt," published in March. The trial script is also based on McDaniel's book.

This will be the third time the senators face charges in Wyoming.

"The Trial of Joe McCarthy" was performed April 7 in Cheyenne by St. Mark's Episcopal Church, the church Hunt attended. The Cheyenne jury found McCarthy, Bridges and Welker guilty.

The second trial, performed June 5 in Rock Springs, resulted in a hung jury. The Rock Springs event was sponsored by the Sweetwater County Library Foundation, the Sweetwater Board of Cooperative Educational Services, and Actors' Mission.

Hunt came to Lander in 1911 to play for Lander's professional baseball team and spent most of his young adulthood in the area before establishing his political career in the state.

"People from pretty much any side of the aisle learn something," Palmer said. "I'm guessing it's a story that most people in Wyoming don't know anymore. For most of us, we weren't alive or we were very young at that time."

The event gives the community a chance to "be reacquainted with era and story," he said and provides "an opportunity to bring that story and that era to life."

A reception and book signing by McDaniel will follow. McDaniel is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne and a former Wyoming legislator.

The event is free and open to the public.

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