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U.S. Marshals Service

History - The U.S. Marshals and Court Security

Protection of Federal Judge

Deputy Neagle shooting TerryThe train arrived in Lathrop in the early morning hours to allow the passengers to disembark for breakfast. Deputy Neagle informed Justice Field of the presence of the Terrys on the train and advised the judge to take his breakfast on the train rather than in the dining room off the train, for security reasons.  Justice Field insisted on leaving the train and taking his breakfast in the dining room. Justice Field and Deputy Neagle were seated at their table and within moments Terry and his wife arrived. They spotted the judge and Sarah Terry ran back to the train while David Terry took a seat. It was later learned that she took a satchel from the train. Before she could return, however David Terry rose from his seat, walked behind Justice Field and struck him twice in the face.

Deputy Neagle arose from his seat and in a very loud voice shouted, "Stop! Stop! I am an officer!" Upon this Terry turned his hand to thrust it in his bosom.  Deputy Neagle, certain that his purpose was to draw a knife, fired two shots from his revolver, killing Terry instantly.  Terry's death came exactly one year after he and his wife first threatened Judge Sawyer.

Sarah Terry entered the room, with the satchel, just after Terry fell to the floor. The satchel which she had was found to contain a revolver.

The legal principles established by the Court concerning the performance of judicial security duties by United States Marshals and Deputies stand today, and still serve as sound guidelines in US. Marshals Service court security work and other law enforcement activities.

 

For Deputy Neagle and Justice Field, their troubles were only beginning.  Justice of the Peace H.V.S. Swain of San Joaquin County, California issued arrest warrants for both, charging them with the murder of David Terry under the California criminal code. Deputy Neagle was arrested by Sheriff Thomas Cunningham for their "crime" and spent three days in the San Joaquin County jail before being freed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Sheriff Cunningham and the State of California appealed this decision to the United States Supreme Court and on April 14, 1890, the Supreme Court issued its decision in favor of Deputy Neagle.

The Court held that the President has power, through the Attorney General, to direct a United States Marshal to accompany and protect from a threatened assault, a justice of the Supreme Court while in the discharge of his official duties. Relying on the authority of the United States to protect federal judges, Deputy Neagle was found to have clear authority to use deadly force to protect the life of Justice Field.

The legal principles established by the Court concerning the performance of judicial security duties by United States Marshals and Deputies stand today, and still serve as sound guidelines in US. Marshals Service court security work and other law enforcement activities.

The U.S. Marshals Service continues in its longstanding commitment to protect federal judges from the David Terrys of the world. Technological advances in security devices and systems, threat analysis, protective services, and training have placed the Service at the cutting edge of this critical task. 

Marshals and Deputies will continue to carry out their court security responsibilities in a professional manner that would make Deputy David Neagle very proud.

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