Beard v. United States, 842

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHARLAN
Citation39 L.Ed. 1086,15 S.Ct. 962,158 U.S. 550
Docket NumberNo. 842,842
Decision Date27 May 1895

158 U.S. 550
15 S.Ct. 962
39 L.Ed. 1086



No. 842.
May 27, 1895.

John H. Rogers, for plaintiff in error.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Dickinson, for the United States.

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff in error, a white man, and not an Indian, was indicted in the circuit court of the United States for the

Page 551

Western district of Arkansas for the crime of having killed and murdered, in the Indian country, and within that district, one Will Jones, also a white person, and not an Indian.

He was found guilty of manslaughter, and, a motion for a new trial having been overruled, it was adjudged that he be imprisoned in Kings County Penitentiary, at Brookln , N. Y., for the term of eight years, and pay to the United States a fine of $500.

The record contains a bill of exceptions embodying all the evidence, as well as the charge of the court to the jury, and the requests of the accused for instructions. To certain parts of the charge, and to the action of the court in refusing instructions asked by the defendant, exceptions were duly taken.

The principal question in the case arises out of those parts of the charge in which the court instructed the jury as to the principles of the law of self-defense.

There was evidence before the jury tending to establish the following facts:

An angry dispute arose between Beard and three brothers by the name of Jones—Will Jones, John Jones, and Edward Jones—in reference to a cow, which a few years before that time, and just after the death of his mother, was set apart to Edward. The children, being without any means for their support, were distributed among their relatives, Edward being assigned to Beard, whose wife was a sister of Mrs. Jones. Beard took him into his family upon the condition that he should have the right to control him and the cow as if the lad were one of his own children and the cow his own property. At the time Edward went to live with Beard he was only eight or nine years of age, poorly clad, and not in good physical condition.

After remaining some years with his aunt and uncle, Edward Jones left the Beard house, and determined, with the aid of his older brothers, to take the cow with him, each of them knowing that the accused objected to that being done.

The Jones brothers, one of them taking a shotgun with him, went upon the premises of the accused for the purpose of taking the cow away, whether Beard consented or not.

Page 552

But they were prevented by the accused from accomplishing that object, and he warned them not to come to his place again for such a purpose, informing them that, if Edward Jones was entitled to the possession of the cow, he could have it, provided his claim was successfully asserted through legal proceedings instituted by or in his behalf.

Will Jones, the oldest of the brothers, and about 20 or 21 years of age, publicly avowed his intention to get the cow away from the Beard farm or kill Beard, and of that threat the latter was informed on the day preceding that on which the fatal difficulty in question occurred.

In the afternoon of the day on which the Jones brothers were warned by Beard not again to come upon his premises for the cow unless attended by an officer of the law, and in defiance of that warning, they again went to his farm, in his absence,—one of them, the deceased, being armed with a concealed deadly weapon,—and attempted to take the cow away, but were prevented from doing so by Mrs. Beard, who drove it back into the lot from which it was being taken.

While the Jones brothers were on the defendant's premises in the afternoon, for the purpose of taking the cow away, Beard returned to his home from a town near by,—having with him a shotgun that he was in the habit of carrying when absent from home,—and went at once from his dwelling into the lot called the 'orchard lot,' a distance of about 50 or 60 yards from his house, and near to that part of an adjoining field or lot where the cow was, and in which the Jones brothers and Mrs. Beard were at the time of the difficulty.

Beard ordered the Jones brothers to leave his premises. They refused to leave. Thereupon Will Jones, who was on the opposite side of the orchard fence, 10 or 15 yards only from Beard, moved towards the latter with an angry manner and in a brisk walk, having his left hand (he being, as Beard knew, left-handed) in the left pocket of his trousers. When he got within five or six steps of Beard, the latter warned him to stop, but he did not do so. As he approached nearer the accused asked him what he intended to do, and he replied, 'Damn you. I will show you,' at the same time making a

Page 553

movement with his left hand as if to draw a pistol from his pocket, whereupon the accused struck him over the head with his gun, and knocked him down.

'Believing,' the defendant testified, 'from his demonstrations just mentioned that he intended to shoot me, I struck him over the head with my gun, to prevent him killing me. As soon as I struck him, his brother John, who was a few steps behind him, started towards me with his hand in his pocket. Believing that he intended to take part in the difficulty, and was also armed, I struck him, and he stopped. I then at once jumped over the fence, caught Will Jones by the lapel of the coat, turned him rather to one side, and pulled his left hand out of his pocket. He had a pistol, which I found in his pocket, grasped in his left hand, and I pulled his pistol and his left hand out together. My purpose in doing this was to disarm him, to prevent him from shooting me, as I did not know how badly he was hurt. My gun was loaded, having ten cartridges in the magazine. I could have shot him, but did not want to kill him, believing that I could knock him down with the gun, and disarm him, and protect myself without shooting him. After getting his pistol, John Jones said something to me about killing him, to which I replied that I had not killed him, and did not try to do so, for if I had I could have shot him. He said my gun was not loaded. Thereupon I shot the gun in the air to show him that it was loaded.'

Dr. Howard Hunt, a witness, on behalf of the government, testified that he called to see Will Jones soon after he was hurt, and found him in a serious condition; that he died from the effects of a wound given by the defendant; that the wound was across the head, rather on the right side, the skull being crushed by the blow. He saw the defendant soon after dressing the wound, and told him that the deceased's condition was serious; and that he, the witness, was sorry the occurrence had happened. The witness suggested to the accused that perhaps he had better get out of the way. The latter replied that he was sorry that it had happened, but that he acted in self-defense, and would not go away. Beard seemed

Page 554

a little offended at the suggestion that he should run off, and observed to the witness that the latter could not scare him, for he was perfectly justified in what he did. This witness further testified that he had known the defendant four or five years, was well acquainted in the neighborhood in which he lived, and knew his general reputation, which was that of a peaceable, law-abiding man.

The account we have given of the difficulty is not in harmony, is every particular, with the testimony of some of the witnesses, but it is sustained by what the accused and others testified to at the trial; so that, if the jury had found the facts to be as we have detailed them, it could not have been said that their finding was contrary to the evidence. At any rate, it was the duty of the court to tell the jury by what principles of law they should be guided, in the event they found the facts to be as stated by the accused.

Assuming, then, that the facts were as we have represented them to be, we are to inquire whether the court erred in its charge to the jury. In the view we take of the case, it will be necessary to refer to those parts only of the charge relating to the law of self-defense.

The court stated at considerable length the general rules that determine whether the killing of a human being is murder or manslaughter, and, among other things, said to the jury: 'If these boys, or young men, or whatever you may consider them, went down there and they were there unlawfully,—if they had no right to go there,—you naturally inquire whether the defendant was placed in such a situation as that he could kill for that reason. Of course, he could not. He could not kill them because they were upon his place. * * * And if these young men were there in the act of attempting the larceny of this cow and calf, and the defendant killed because of that, because his mind was inflamed for the reason that they wr e seeking to do an act of that kind, that is manslaughter. That is all it is. There is nothing else in it. That is considered so far provocative as that it reduces the grade of the crime to manslaughter, and no further. If they had no intent to commit a larceny; if it was a bare, naked trespass; if they were there

Page 555

under a claim of right to get this cow, though they may not have had any right to it, but in good faith they were exercising their claim of that kind, and Will Jones was killed by the defendant for that reason,—that would be murder, because you cannot kill a man for bare trespass,—you cannot take his life for a bare trespass, and say the act is mitigated.'

After restating the proposition that a man cannot take life because of mere fear on his part, or in order that he may prevent the commission of a bare trespass, the court proceeded: 'Now, a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
153 practice notes
  • Miller v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 16, 1909
    ...avert the impending danger, even to taking the life of his assailant. The Supreme Court of the United States in Beard v. United States, 158 U. S. 550, 15 Sup. Ct. 962, 39 L. Ed. 1086, has laid down the law thus: “In our opinion, the court below erred in holding that the accused, while on hi......
  • Frank v. United States, 6065.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 7, 1930
    ...if he kills him he has not exceeded the bounds of lawful self defense. That has been the decision of this Court. Beard v. United States, 158 U. S. 550, 559, 15 S. Ct. 962, 39 L. Ed. 1086. Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife. Therefore in this court, a......
  • People v. Riddle, Docket No. 118181, Calendar No. 1.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 31, 2002
    ...using deadly force, it is clear that retreat is never required in circumstances similar to those delineated in Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550, 15 S.Ct. 962, 39 L.Ed. 1086 (1895),20 the classic American "no duty to retreat" case: when a person is violently attacked and it does not reas......
  • Gainer v. State, 20
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • October 11, 1978
    ...without the castle doctrine exception when the evidence supports its applicability. See Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. at 563-64, 15 S.Ct. 962 (1895); Hedges v. State, 172 So.2d at 826-27; Watkins v. State, 197 So.2d at 313; People v. Lenkevich, 229 N.W.2d at 300-02; People v. McGrandy, 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
132 cases
  • State v. Harden, No. 34268.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 4, 2009
    ...we think, the settled law in the United States as in England. It was so held by the United States Supreme Court in Beard v. United States (158 U.S. 550, 15 S.Ct. 962, 39 L.Ed. 1086). In that case there was a full review of the authorities, and the rule was held to extend not merely to one's......
  • State v. Hamdan, No. 01-0056-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 15, 2003
    ...of those who wish to carry concealed weapons in any circumstance fully remains with the legislature. 28. Cf. Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550, 564 (1895) (concluding that a person who is attacked "[i]s entitled to stand his ground, and meet any attack made upon him with a deadly 29. Thi......
  • State v. Bradley, No. 68320-4.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • May 16, 2000
    ...believe, that what he did was necessary for the safety of his own life, or to protect him from great bodily harm?" Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550, 562, 15 S.Ct. 962, 966, 39 L.Ed. 1086 15. "Manslaughter therefore on a sudden provocation differs from excusable homicide se defendendo in......
  • United States v. Peterson, No. 24299.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 29, 1973
    ...42, 47 L.Ed. 100 (1902); Addington v. United States, 165 U.S. 184, 186-187, 17 S.Ct. 288, 41 L.Ed. 679 (1897); Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550, 560, 563, 15 S.Ct. 962, 39 L.Ed. 1086 (1895); Gourko v. United States, supra note 44, 153 U.S. at 191, 14 S.Ct. 806; United States v. Burks, s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Second Amendment Federalism.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 73 Nbr. 3, March 2021
    • March 1, 2021
    ...state self-defense law to better protect survivors of domestic violence). (146.) See infra notes 169-78 and accompanying text. (147.) 158 U.S. 550 (148.) Id. at 550-52. (149.) Id. at 552-53. (150.) Id. (151.) See id. (152.) Id. at 556-58. (153.) Id. at 551. (154.) Id. at 564. (155.) Id. at ......
  • The State of the Castle
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 34-4, December 2009
    • December 1, 2009
    ...Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Askew v. State, 94 Ala. 4; 10 So. 567 (1891).Bean v. State, 25 Tex. Ct. App. 346 (1888).Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550 (1895).Brown, R. M. (1975). Strain of violence: Historical studies of American violence and vigilantism. New York: Oxford University Press.Bro......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT