- The U.S. Marshals and Court Security
Protection of Federal Judge
On September 3, 1888 Justice Stephen J. Field delivered the final
Circuit Court opinion in the case involving the Terry's anti a scene of
great violence occurred in the courtroom. Defendants Sarah and David
Terry had arrived early and seated themselves inside the well of the
courtroom next to the clerk's desk and near the Judges. Justice Field,
Judge Sawyer and Judge Sabin were present.
As the proceeding began Mrs. Terry rose from her seat and, in a very
violent and excited manner, began directing verbal insults, this time
toward Justice Field. Justice Field ordered her to be seated and when
she refused, U.S. Marshal John C. Franks was ordered to remove her.
David Terry arose from his seat to prevent Marshal Franks from touching
his wife and a struggle ensued. The struggle was so violent that Marshal
Franks lost a tooth and suffered other injuries, however, he managed to
remove Mrs. Terry. David Terry then unbuttoned his coat, apparently for
the purpose of drawing a bowie knife.
Courtroom spectators and Deputy U.S. Marshals seized David Terry and
to the Marshals office. In the process Terry succeeded in drawing a
which was taken h m him after a severe struggle. The most prominent
person wresting the knife from him was Deputy
U.S. Marshal David Neagle.
For their conduct Sarah Terry was
sentenced to imprisonment for one month
fix contempt and David Terry for six
months. The United States Supreme Court
upheld the Circuit Court's ruling in their
private case as well as their sentences for
contempt. Further, the Terry's were indicted
by a grand jury for their actions. It was later learned that,
during her part
in the altercation in the courtroom, Sarah
Terry was making efforts to open a small satchel which she had with her. This satchel,
taken from her afterward, was found to
contain a pistol.
While being transported to jail and while
serving their sentences, the Terry's repeatedly
threatened to kill Justice Field.
Newspapers in California were filled with conjectures of a probable attack by
Terry on Justice Field as soon as it was learned that Justice Field would attend the
Fall 1889 session of the Circuit Court.
This matter was so serious that Attorney
General W.H.H. Miller wrote U.S. Marshal
Franks expressing concern that every effort by made to protect Justice Field.
Attorney General Miller stated:
It is due to the dignity and independence
of the court, and the character of its
judge, that no effort on the part of the government shall be spared to make
them feel entirely safe and free from
anxiety in the discharge of their high
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