this day in crime history: june 30, 1882

On this date in 1882, Charles J. Guiteau was hanged in the District of Columbia for the assassination of President James A. Garfield. Guiteau had shot Garfield on July 2nd of the previous year. Garfield lingered for two months, finally dying on September 19, 1881. The motive for the shooting: Guiteau was angry at the president for failing to offer him an ambassadorship as a reward for a pro-Garfield speech Guiteau wrote which almost no one heard or read. In short, the guy was a nut.

If Guiteau’s motive for the assassination isn’t proof enough of his nuttiness, his conduct at the trial was sure to seal the deal. He gave testimony in the form of epic poetry. He passed notes with spectators, often asking them for legal advice. He even publicly bad-mouthed his defense team during the trial (Hint: you should really wait until after you’ve been convicted before you start tossing brickbats at the people who are trying to save you skin). Guiteau was convicted on January 25, 1882 and sentenced to die.

Further reading:

The Assassination of James A. Garfield, By Robert Kingsbury

Wikipedia – Assassination of James A. Garfield

UMKC Law School – Last Words of Assassin Charles Guiteau


7 thoughts on “this day in crime history: june 30, 1882

  1. John D.:
    Yeah…a REAL nut, that’s for sure.

    I wrote a book report in 7th grade, and few read THAT, but I didn’t take a whack at Pulitzer, asking where MY “prize” was…
    People have such THIN skin, especially nowadays.

    Good story.

    Stay safe out there.


  2. From what I’ve read, Garfield’s doctors are the ones who killed him. They probed the wound with dirty fingers (not even instruments!) and caused a massive, bodywide infection that was untreatable in those pre-antibiotic days, and would be life-threatening even today. Their life-saving efforts were pretty much limited to draining massive amounts of pus that they had created themselves.
    Of course, but for Guiteau, the doctors would never have touched Garfield, so justice was served.
    And for once, I didn’t see the words, “His sentence was later commuted to life.”


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