He was convicted on May 3, 1915 of the murder of a deputy sheriff who died at Ludlow during the massacre at a trial held in Trinidad, Colorado and sentenced to life at hard labor but freed on appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court in June, 1917. He served as president of the Colorado Federation of Labor and on the International Executive Board of the United Mine Workers. He was a vice-president and director of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company.
In 1915 Lawson testified before the castigating John Doctorate. Rockefeller, Junior. for his ignorance regarding conditions at his coal mines and camps in Colorado describing local elections in the Rockefeller-controlled company towns in Colorado where election judges counted the votes of sheep, mules, and even box cars.
He also testified that on the night of December 17, 1903 his home in Newcastle, Colorado, and those of 4 other union organizers had been dynamited.