I’m a bit of a history buff so this movie was on my to watch list. Okay yes Norman Reedus is in it too. Yesterday I noticed that it was on Netflix so I got my chance to watch it.
It is based on a historical incident, the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, and it looks like it stayed pretty close to what actually happened. The plot actually focuses on Mary Surratt, the first woman hanged by the Federal Government. The Actual conspiracy is more in the background.
If you know your history, Mary Surratt owned a boarding house in which the Lincoln assassination was hatched by by John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators, including Mary’s son John. Mary along with several others who may or may not have been guilty and one that was definitely guilty; was arrested, tried and convicted by a military tribunal. Three other conspirators were hanged along with Surratt.
The movie focuses on the actions of the Federal government in conducting what was basically a kangaroo court, culminating in the hangings. We know from history that Booth is clearly guilty of assassinating the President, he did it in a crowded theater. We also know that Louis Payne is guilty of attempted assassination in the case of Secretary of State William Sewell, he attacked Sewell in his home with several witnesses present. The guilt of the others may not be so clear.
Questionable witnesses, denial of a trial by a jury of their peers and government tampering with the panel judging the conspirators show the lengths the government will go to. There is clear crossing of constitutional boundaries including the meddling of President Andrew Johnson in vacating a writ that would have saved Mary from the gallows and granted her a new trial in a civilian court.