The *Wild Bill* Hickok Trial

“WILD BILL” HICKOK (1837-1876)
Be it remembered that on the 21st day of July A.D. 1865
information having been given to the subscriber Coroner of
Said county that the dead body of Davis K. Tutt supposed to
have come to his death by violence had been found at the
Court House door in the town of Springfield, on the 21st day of
July A.D. 1865. I issued a warrant to the Constable of the
township of Campbell requiring him to summon a jury
according to law to appear fourthwith at the above mentioned
place to examine in what manner and by whom the deceased
came to his death. At the time [I also] issued a subpoena for
Oliver H. Scott, E.J. Armstrong, L. F. Lee, A. J. Budlong, F. W.
Scholter, Thos. D. Hudson, J. W. Orr, [and] W. S. Riggs to appear
at the time and place aforesaid. And the said Constable
aforesaid at the time and place mentioned in said warrant
returned the same that he had Summoned John Hursh, Jay L.
French, L. M. Bigbee, Wm. Massey, A. F. Church, [and] John L.
Holland to appear as therein required and also that he
summoned the Said witnesses to appear as required by
subpoena. There upon the said jury appeared at the time and
place mentioned and being duly impaneled and sworn
proceeded to enquire into the manner and by whom the said
Davis K. Tutt came to his death. …
Source: State of Missouri v. William Hickok, 1865, Greene
County Court, Springfield, Missouri, Missouri Digital Heritage
The Court instructs the jury:
That if they believe from the evidence that Tutt advanced on the Defendant with a pistol drawn, that he
had previously made threats of violence to the Defendent which had been communicated to the
Defendant, & that Tutt was a fighting character or a dangerous man, there are circumstances from which
the Defendant may have had prior cause to believe Tutt intended to do to the Defendant severe great
personal injury. That if they believe from this evidence that Tutt advanced on the Defendant with a drawn
pistol, and that the conduct of Tutt on this occasion with his general character known to the Defendant was
such as to reasonably cause the Defendant to apprehend a design in the part of Tutt to do the Defendant
severe great personal injury, & if they believe from the evidence the Defendant had reasonable cause to
apprehend [immediate] danger of such design being accomplished at the time he shot Tutt, they will acquit
the Defendant.
That when danger is threatened and impending, a man is not compelled to stand with his arms folded until it is
too late to offer successful resistance, & if the jury believes from the evidence that Tutt was a fighting
character, & a dangerous man, & that Defendant was aware such was his character, & that Tutt at the
time he was shot by the Defendant was advancing on him with a drawn pistol, & that Tutt had
previously made threats of personal injury to Defendant & that Defendant had been informed of such
threats & that Defendant shot Tutt to prevent the threatened [impending] injury & that at this time
the Defendant shot Tutt, then Defendant has reasonable cause to apprehend Tutt. [That he] intended
to do Defendant several great personal injury & that the danger to Defendant was of such design …
the jury will acquit …
… The State asks the Court to instruct the jury:
1. If they believe from the evidence that the defendant intentionally shot at the deceased Davis Tutt—and the
death of said Davis Tuff was caused thereby—they will find defendant guilty—unless they are satisfied from
the evidence that he acted in self-defense.
2. That defendant is presumed to have intended the natural and probable consequence of his own acts.
5. If the deceased and defendant
11. If the defendant claims to have acted in self-defense it
engaged in a fight or conflict willingly
on the part of each and the defendant
killed the deceased, he is guilty of the
offense charged, although the deceased
may have fired the first shot.
12. The jury will disregard evidence as to the moral
is his duty to satisfy you that he so acted and it is not
sufficient to create a doubt in your minds whether he so
acted or not.
character of deceased and as to his character for loyalty as
the character of the deceased could afford no excuse for
killing him.
16. That the Jury will disregard any threats made by Tutt against [Hickok] prior to the
meeting at the Lyon House in Haycocke’s room.
The citizens of this city were shocked and terrified of the
idea that a man could arm himself and take a position at a
corner of a public square, in the centre of the city, and
await the approach of his victim for an hour or two, and
then willingly engage in a conflict with him which resulted
in his instant death; …
That the defendant engaged in the fight
willingly is not disputed, and lawyers say—
and the Court instructed the jury to the same
effect—that he was not entitled to an
acquittal on the ground of self-defense unless
he was anxious to avoid the fight, and used all
reasonable means to do so; but the jury
seems to have thought differently.
Source: “Wild Bill,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, February 1867
R O B E R T W.
F YA N ,
Howard Kaplan
[email protected]
(312) 988-5738
Tiffany Middleton
[email protected]
(312) 988-5739

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