Lot #206
Charles Guiteau Autograph Letter Signed

"I desire you to assist in the trial of my case"—Garfield's assassin seeks legal help amidst his murder trial
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Estimate: $4000+


"I desire you to assist in the trial of my case"—Garfield's assassin seeks legal help amidst his murder trial

ALS, one page, 5 x 8, November 22, 1881. Handwritten letter to attorney John D. Townsend, seeking legal aid amidst his trial for the assassination of President James A. Garfield. In full: "I desire you to assist in the trial of my case & I invite you to meet me in Court at your earliest convenience. I send this with Mr. Scoville's approbation. Please let me hear from you at once." In very good to fine condition, with a diagonal slice across the upper blank area repaired on the reverse.

After shooting President Garfield on July 2, 1881, Guiteau was initially apprehended and held on charges of attempted murder; it was not until Garfield succumbed to infection from his wounds nearly three months later that he could be brought up on charges of murder. Guiteau was formally indicted for murder on October 14, 1881, pleading not guilty, and the trial began in Washington on November 17, 1881—just five days before he wrote this letter. Although Guiteau would insist on trying to represent himself during the entire trial, the court appointed Leigh Robinson to defend him. Robinson retired from the case after just a few days, and Guiteau's brother-in-law George Scoville—a real estate attorney—then became lead counsel for the defense, feeling obliged to represent his family member. Townsend, who had earned a reputation as 'The Fighting Lawyer,' evidently declined Guiteau's plea, and the assassin was found guilty and sentenced to death on January 25, 1882.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts
  • Dates: #616 - Ended September 15, 2021

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