Fremont Wood, a 51-year-old Republican elected to the bench in 1906, presided over the Haywood trial. Wood was a former U. S. attorney who prosecuted Pettibone and three other miners for their activities in the 1892 unrest. Despite this experience, Wood was so widely perceived to be a fair-minded person that the defense was actually pleased to have the trial in his third-floor courtroom in Boise. Wood sat on a puplit-liked bench, surrounded by law books, issuing even-handed rulings that caused one member of the press to write that Wood "radiates a square deal." Wood seemed to enjoy the attention his trial received. When actress Ethel Barrymore attended one session, Wood adjourned court to hold a spontaneous reception for her in his chambers.
Wood was born in Maine, the son of an abolitionist legislator. After attending Bates College and reading law, Wood travelled to the Idaho Territory in 1881. In addition to his legal career, Wood was a "country gentleman," and the proud owner of one of Idaho's most extensive apple orchards and finest rose gardens. He also was an avid flyfisherman, taking four weekend fishing trips during the trial with New York Times reporter O. K. Davis. In reports after the trial, Davis wrote that Wood was convinced of Haywood's guilt.