A presidential assassin asks for help in court

    Charles Guiteau Autograph Letter Signed. One page, lined paper, 5" x 8", Washington, D.C., November 22, 1881. After failing to obtain suitable government employment in Washington, a frustrated Charles Guiteau shot and fatally wounded President James Garfield on July 2, 1881. Guiteau was immediately arrested and sent to jail to await a hearing as the president languished for over two months, finally dying on September 19, 1881. On October 14th, Guiteau was arraigned and his brother-in-law George Scoville agreed to act as his attorney. Twelve days later, Leigh Robinson, a young Washington attorney, was appointed by the judge to assist Scoville.

    Guiteau was a difficult client and defending him was an aggravating study in futility. Less than a month later after taking the case, Robinson successfully had himself discharged. At this point, Guiteau began soliciting other attorneys to help his brother-in-law present his case. One such letter is offered here, penned by Guiteau to noted criminal attorney of the time, John D. Townsend. It reads in full:

    "Dear Sir, 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. Yours very respectfully, Charles Guiteau. In Court, Washington D.C. Nov 22/81."

    As can be expected, Townsend declined to assist in Guiteau's defense, and Scoville was left to handle the job on his own. As an interesting side note, Scoville also became disgusted with Guiteau's headstrong ideas and foolish testimony throughout the trial and following Guiteau's murder conviction, Scoville demanded pay for his efforts, saying, "You can pay or hang, as you like." On June 30, 1882, Guiteau was hanged at the District of Columbia jail. This letter is boldly penned, with a large and florid signature. Minor bleeding of ink in signature; partial ink fingerprint in the "D" in "Dear." Mounting remnants on verso.

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    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    8th-9th Friday-Saturday
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