Murder and Politics



Governor Joseph Desha

The Isaac B. Desha Story

Joseph Desha, first Governor of Kentucky, had a tumultuous administration which began shortly after taking office when he was notified that his son Isaac Desha was accused of murder in Mayslick, Kentucky. The trial lasted for over two years until a Fleming County Jury found Isaac Desha guilty and a judge sentenced him to hang.

Governor Desha used his influence to move the trial to Harrison County, the Governor’s Home County, for a retrial. The second jury found his son guilty and sentenced him to hang once more.

Yet again, Governor Desha used his influence to institute a third trial, and it appeared the jury was going to find the young Desha guilty a third time. To escape his fate Desha tried to commit suicide by trying to cut his own throat but he failed at the attempt.

On the day that Isaac Desha was to be sentenced to hang, Governor Desha stood up in the courtroom and issued his son a pardon on the spot.

The Story

It appears that Isaac B. Desha fell in company with Mr.Francis Baker at some place near Mayslick. After some conversation, by which he learned that Mr. Baker was traveling eastward, and intended calling on Captain William Beckly, a relation of his living near Washington, he, Desha, offered to accompany him, to show him the way to that gentleman's, which offer was accepted. Nothing more was seen or heard of Mr. Baker until he was found several days afterwards in the woods covered with logs and rubbish, with his throat cut from ear to ear! The back of his head was much bruised, supposed to have been occasioned by the strokes of a large whip in Desha's possession and the thumb of his right hand had been cut , apparently while resisting the knife of the murderer. Desha, we learn, was met near the place where the murder was committed, by a lad, who asserts that his hands and clothes were bloody, and that he was carrying a bridle, which was also bloody. The horse of the deceased was found in the possession of Desha; and a shirt Desha had on, on being compared with Baker's, was found to be of the same quality, with the mark cut out in precisely the same place where Baker's name was written on the other.

It is a tradition that the Governor pardoned his son and immediately thereafter resigned. The archives of the State show that he served his full term. It is also a tradition that his son recovered from the severe self­inflicted wound and that he went to Central America where he changed his name and married a second time and that his descendants became and are now prominent and influential citizens of Honduras.

Politics got an early start in the Commonwealth !!!!!

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