Cemetery chairman wants full hearing on Booth petition

October 28, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

Green Mount Cemetery's chairman said yesterday that those who want to exhume the remains of John Wilkes Booth, !c President Lincoln's assassin, must prove their case for exhumation under oath in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Two Booth relatives and two historians Monday asked the court to allow disinterment of the body that was buried in Green Mount in 1869 for scientific testing.

The historians believe that Booth escaped from a Union Army trap after he shot the president and that the government, after announcing his death, substituted another body to cover up the escape.

Green Mount chairman William C. Trimble Jr., a lawyer, said he will request a full-scale court hearing.

The petition, which includes agreement from 22 Booth relatives, including those who hold the ownership certificate to the family plot in Green Mount, was not filed under oath, Mr. Trimble said.

The hearing "will be primarily to make them prove it, then leave it up to the judge," he said. "It boils down to whether it is the right of the family to have this person exhumed." The attorney called the exhumation "part prayers for relief and part recitation" of events in the case.

"We want to put this before a judge, with hard evidence, not allegations," he said.

Prepared by Washington lawyer Mark S. Zaid, who did most of the research that produced the relatives' agreement, the petition says the proponents will advertise for additional Booth relatives to determine if any oppose disinterment.

The historical researchers, Nathaniel Orlowek, 36, of Silver Spring and Arthur Ben Chitty, 80, of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., believe Booth lived until 1903 after escaping the Union soldiers.

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