Skip to Content

U.S. Marshals Service

History - The U.S. Marshals and Court Security

Protection of Federal Judge

Deputy Neagle shooting TerryOn 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.

Supreme Court Justices in 1889

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 took him to the Marshals office. In the process Terry succeeded in drawing a bowie knife, 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 duties.

Continued:  Page One | Two | Three | Four

 
usmarshals.gov is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justicee