I've just returned from a couple of hours at the IRAD at Eastern
Illinois University, where many files from Shelby Co IL are stored.
Have obtained a copy of the full murder trial record of Robert
SELLERS for the murder of James RODMAN in 1842, as well as some
lawsuits filed against Robert by creditors.  At first read, I thought
he was a "deadbeat," but these suits were filed during the trial
period..  No real "family" info but a pretty good read, in parts--
more than fifty pages, with much redundancy.  Will sift through the
pages, summarize them, and copy a few in their entirety.  Much

             1842 R. Sellers/James Rodman
     [SUPREME COURT RECORD CONTINUED--Decided not to omit anything,
but the
legal precedents may be difficult to follow.]
     First whether Howlett was a competent juror, and secondly, if
incompetent, whether that
incompetency under the peculiar circumstances of this case, entitles
the prisoner to a new trial.  In
the case of Smith vs. Eames, decided at the July Term 1841, this
court say that a juror is
disqualified if he has expressed a decided opinion upon the merits of
the case.  If within any
qualification whatever a juror says the defendant is guilty, or the
like, or that the plaintiff ought to
recover in an action, or that the verdict ought to be against the
plaintiff he would be disqualified,
as not standing impartial between the parties--In Vermilyeas [?] case,
 the Supreme Court of New
York say, it is admitted that every citizen, whether arraigned for
crime or impleaded in a civil
action, is entitled to a trial by an impartial jury.  A trial by jury
is justly considered an invaluable
privilege but would become a mocker if persons who had prejudged the
case, were admitted as
impartial triers.  All the elementary writers, with the exception of
Chitty, lay down the proposition
broadly, that if a juror has declared his opinion beforehand it is a
good cause of challenge.
     In support of this position, Mr. Justice Wordworth cites 1
Archibald 181.182: 2 [unsure of
letters] 779-780.  Bacon title Juries.  Bull N.P. 307: Healis [?] Com
Law 138.
     Lord Coke (C on Litt 155-6) says he ought to least suspicions,
that is, to be indifferent as
he stands unsworn, and then he is accorded in law liber et legalis
homo, otherwise he may be
challenged and not suffered to be sworn.
     What is meant by a person standing indifferent?  Manifestly that
the mind is in a state of
neutrality as respects the person and matter to be tried, that there
exists no bias for nor against
either in the mind of the juror, calculated to operate upon him: that
he comes to the trial with the
mind uncommited and prepared to weigh the evidence in impartial
scales 7 Cowan 121.122.
     Applying these principles to the case under consideration, there
can be no question of
Howlett's utter incompetency as a juror.  It appears from the
affidavits which, for the purposes of
this motion, must be taken as true, that a short time previous to the
trial, and on different
occasions, he expressed a decided and unqualified opinion, that the
prisoner would be hung, that
he ought to be hung, that salt could not save him, and that there was
no law to clear him.
     It would be difficult for any one in the fullness and richness
of our language, to select or
invent forms of expression, which would more clearly or emphatically
convey a firm conviction of
guilt, and at the same time exclude all hope or possibility of escape
on the part of the prisoner.
They furnish a strong case, and bring it fully within the authorities
cited and hence establish the
incompetency of the juror.
     But it is said that at the time of the trial the prisoner knew
that Howlett had formed and
expressed an opinion as to his guilt or innocence and having accepted
him on the jury with a full
knowledge of the fact, he is estopped from denying his competency.
     The only evidence in support of this assumption is contained in
the affidavit of Alfred
Doyle, who heard the prisoner say that Howlett, before the trial told
him, that he ought not to be
hung, and if he (Howlett) was on the jury he should not be hung, and
also the affidavit of James
Cutler, who heard the prisoner say, that Howlett had made statements
to him, through the
window, before he was impanneled on the jury as to what his opinion
was.  On the contrary the
record contains the affidavit of the prisoner himself, who denies all
knowledge of Howletts
opinion or of the fact, that he had formed one, until he was sworn
upon the jury: and also the
affidavit of Anthony Thornton (prisoners counsel) who denies all
knowledge of the fact on his
part, and states that Howlett when examined, touching his competency
as a juror, testified that he
had formed and expressed no opinion upon the subject.  We would
prefer reconciling these
affidavits, so as to give full faith and credit to each if it were
possible so to do, but they will not
admit of such a construction.  Two witnesses swear, that the prisoner
told them, that he knew that
Howlett had formed and expressed an opinion, and he denies that he
was in possession of any
such information.
     Of course we must credit the two disinterested witnesses in
preference to the prisoner.
The case, then stands thus: two or three weeks previous to the trial,
the juror expressed the
opinion, that the prisoner would and ought to be hanged.
Subsequently, he went to the jail and
told the prisoner, that he ought not to be hung and that if he were
on the jury he should not be
hung.  Afterwards, when sworn on the trial, touching his competency
as a juror, he stated that he
had formed and expressed no opinion.  The prisoner supposing that his
opinion was in his favor,
according to his statement at the jail, or that he was impartial
according to his oath in court,
consented that he should serve on the jury.  He did serve and find a
verdict against the prisoner, in
conformity to his previous statements that he would and ought to be
hanged.  If this be a true
state of the case, can it be said that that juror was impartial, that
he possessed that moral
perception, that sense of justice, that integrity of character which
would qualify him to pass upon
the life of a fellow citizen?  It presents the revolting spectacle of
a deep seated malice, concealed
under the sacred garb of friendship destroying its victim by adding
treachery to perjury.  It is
wholly immaterial, for the purposes of this motion, whether the
prisoner be guilty or innocent.
Law, justice and humanity forbid, that he should be deprived of his
life by such means and by a
jury thus constituted.
     It has always been held as a ground for a new trial, if a juror
pre-judge the case and it is
unknown to the failing party in time to challenge, as in the case of
Dent vs. The Hundred of
Hertford.  A new trial was granted upon affidavit, that the foreman
has declared the plaintiff
should never have a verdict, whatever witnesses he produced.  Graham
or new trials p 129.
     It is clear upon authority, that if the prisoner had not known
the fact that the juror had
formed and expressed an opinion, he would be entitled to a new trial.
 Does not the oath of the
juror made in the presence of the prisoner, that he had no opinion
upon the subject, bring this case
substantially with this rule?  Upon a full view of the facts of the
case as presented in the record,
and of the law applicable to those facts, we are of opinion that
Alfred Howlett was an
incompetent juror and that the prisoner is entitled to a new trial.
In conclusion we feel it due to
the juror, upon whose conduct it has been our duty to animadvert, to
say, that there are some
things appearing in the record which would authorize a hope, that his
conduct was susceptible of
such explanation as would acquit him of the injurious imputations
which the facts set forth in the
bill of exceptions attach to him.
     The judgment of the Circuit Court is reversed and a new trial
I, Ebenezer Peck, Clerk of the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois,
 do hereby certify, that the
foregoing is a true copy of the final order of the said Supreme Court
and the opinion of the said
Supreme Court there on in the above entitled cause of record in my
     In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the
seal of the said Supreme
Court at Springfield this twenty fifth day of March. A.D. 1843
E Peck
[There will be one more note on this trial and one additional note on
the lawsuits filed against Robert Sellers.]