Killing of Roberts by Judge Yancey
One notorious incident that did occur in Springfield during the pre-war years, however, was the killing of John Roberts by Judge Charles S. Yancey on the public square during the late 1830s. Roberts had served as Greene County's first coroner, but he was considered a rough character, especially when he had been drinking, and he had been charged with felonious assault at least twice for his part in affrays during the early to mid thirties. Yancey was a county court judge, and he had fined Roberts for contempt during one of Roberts's several court appearances. Roberts paid the fine but afterwards started taunting Yancey every time he saw him in public.
The fateful showdown finally came one day during the summer of 1837. After a confrontation on the square, Yancey started to walk away but, as he did so, he noticed Roberts start to reach into his pocket. Thinking Roberts was going for a knife that he was known to carry, Yancey promptly flourished a pistol and shot him dead. As it turned out, Roberts had not been reaching for his knife, but Yancey was acquitted at his subsequent murder trial. He later was appointed a circuit judge.