James Hawley was one of the two lead prosecuting attorneys in the Haywood trial. With his partner, Bill Borah, distracted by his own legal problems, the 61-year-old Hawley had to carry more than his share of the prosecution's load. He was phsycially drained by the experience, complaining that he was "doing the work of three men."

At the time of the Haywood trial, Hawley was the most experienced trial attorney, both as a defense attorney and a prosecutor, in the state of Idaho. Borah said of him, "Jim Hawley has defended more men, got them acquitted, and prosecuted more men, and got them convicted, than any lawyer in America."

Hawley fit the stereotype of a western lawyer perfectly. He would sit at the counsel table during trials, dressed and groomed casually, chewing on a toothpick with his boots on the tabletop.  He was famous for his ability to establish rapport with Idaho juries, talking to them as a neighbor might, rather than offering flights of oratory.

Hawley was born in Iowa, but emigrated west as a boy, then reading law in northern Idaho. He was elected to the Idaho territorial legistature, served as mayor of Boise, U. S. attorney, and in 1890 opened his own law office.

Hawley was confidant that his efforts in the Haywood trial had secured a conviction. He said that he had "no more doubt of the result than I had of getting up in the morning." Some time after the acquittal of Haywood, Hawley blamed the verdict on instructions favorable to the defense given by Judge Wood.