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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

Chapter 7 - State v. Williams


Charged with the illegal importation of convict slaves, William H. Williams faced a series of three trials before the New Orleans First District Criminal Court in 1841. Williams’ defense argued that the slave trader was merely passing through New Orleans en route to Texas, with no intention of selling any convict slaves within the state, whereas the state prosecutor maintained that the fact of Williams’ introduction of the convict slaves was proof enough of his guilt. Jurors struggled to reach a verdict, and the first two trials ended in hung juries. At the third trial, however, Williams was found guilty. He opted to serve a year in the Orleans Parish jail rather than pay exorbitant fines. Williams’ attorneys secured an appeal before the Louisiana state Supreme Court in 1842, and although Williams won, by then he had served almost the entirety of his time in prison.