On this day in 1876, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was murdered in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Hickok was playing poker, his back to the door, when a man named Jack McCall walked up and shot Wild Bill in the back of the head. Hickok was holding two pair, aces and eights: the “dead man’s hand.”
The motive for the murder was never clear. McCall claimed he was avenging the killing of his brother by Hickok. A trial was held in Deadwood and McCall was acquitted and told to leave Deadwood. As it turns out, McCall may have never had a brother. So much for the justice system.
But all was not lost. McCall, as dumbass crooks often do, bragged about killing Hickok. He was eventually arrested and taken to Yankton, Dakota Territory for trial. It turns out that Deadwood was an illegal town, as it was built on Indian land (like they say in the real estate biz, it’s all about “location, location, location!”). Consequently, the trial that was held there was not legit, so a trial in Yankton wouldn’t constitute double jeopardy (“I’ll take screwed, blued, and tattooed for $1000, Alex”). McCall was tried and found guilty. He was hanged (I’m not sure if he was hung, you’ll have to ask Mrs. McCall) on March 1, 1877. Legend has it that when his body was exhumed in 1881, it was discovered that he’d been buried with the noose still around his neck.
Legends of America: Jack McCall – Cowardly Killer of Wild Bill Hickok