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The American Nightmare of John Petro Forakis - Part 2

Updated: Jul 21, 2023


Yellow journalism: the sensationalistic or biased stories that newspapers present as objective truth. Established late 19th-century journalists coined the term to belittle the unconventional techniques of their rivals.

Racism: a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race [and] the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another.

Racial passing: a deception that enables a person to adopt certain roles or identities from which he would be barred by prevailing social standards in the absence of his misleading conduct.

Ethnic bias: discrimination against individuals based on their ethnic group, often resulting in inequities in such areas as education, employment, health care, and housing.

Lamanites: a member of a people descended from Laman, a son of the Jewish prophet Lehi and identified as the ancestors of the American Indians.

The Man in Court


There is no documentation openly available that states what slurs or phrases were said during the court case, but the reporters who documented the conclusion of Forakis’ case wrote vital observations. John Forakis’ legal team had made accusations of foul play occurring during the trial. According to Forakis's lawyer, the district attorney, the federal government’s legal team, and Judge Tillman D. Johnson, all used ethnically biased language toward Forakis and mistreated him often.

The media also made these similar accusations towards Union Copper’s legal team in a separate case twenty years earlier. Union Copper asked Judge Johnson to dismiss the case based on evidence that the statute of limitations had expired and that Eliza Simmons had already collected the money agreed upon by her assigned counsel. Simmons had contested that Union Copper’s legal team and her lawyer had colluded on the amount of money Simmons received because they allegedly all knew each other. Judge Johnson dismissed Eliza’s case entirely.

Immediately following Forakis’ case, Arthur Gonzalez Rodriguez approached the same table where Forakis had just stood. Judge Johnson quickly dismissed Rodriguez, a 34-year-old man who repaired sewers for a living, that had been caught with a 15-year-old girl because Judge Johnson stated that workers are more needed than prisoners. He then continued advising Gonzalez Rodriguez, while on parole [do not] go out with any woman under 30. These three separate incidents display what the public is allowed and not allowed to see printed in the newspapers in regard to Judge Tillman D. Johnson's professional conduct.

Currently, there is not enough information to prove that Forakis’ lawyer was a novice in the courtroom – there is only evidence of crucially important mistakes that he had made during the trial, which proved deadly for Forakis. Forakis' lawyer had plenty of time to request a mistrial once he brought forward the allegation of ethnic bias, but unfortunately, he missed his chance somehow.

Excerpt from the documentation on the Forakis' case

It is possible that Forakis' lawyer might have also gotten confused and lost his place. According to federal court documents, there was a sense of confusion, several questionable responses, and a lack of clear communication as Judge Tillman D. Johnson went back and forth with the lawyers on the rules of the case several times and how Johnson also wanted the jury to seek the facts of the case.

Looking back at the case, two of the judges that performed a review supported that Forakis acted in self-defense (while a third did not respond). One of the remaining two judges still supported Judge Johnson’s decision based on the technicality performed by Forakis’ lawyer. Forakis was declared guilty in the eyes of the federal court.

According to the same judicial review, the court failed to give any specific instruction with regard to the burden of proof on the issue of self-defense and failed entirely to give any instruction on the amount or quantum of proof required by the government to override the plea of self-defense, which was put in issue by the defendant.

According to the Utah State Legislature, Title 76, Chapter 1, Part 5, Burden of Proof, the two major factors below should have taken place in Forakis’ case, but as we saw in the statements by the reporters and what was written in the judicial review, the following never happened since the court's procedures were unclear:

Presumption of innocence for Forakis' case

Next time, in part 3, we are going to ask: How badly was the media manipulating people during the entire court case? Were the Indians used as political pawns by the federal government? Is 19th-century yellow journalism the predecessor of 21st-century fake news? How did Forakis' family handle this?

to be continued

Special thanks to the Forakis family for allowing Rízes Hellenic Genealogy Research to share

John Petro Forakis' story with the global Greek community. We extend our heartfelt condolences to you.

All citations are available upon request.

Copyright © 2023 Greek Family Search LLC

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