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U.S. Marshals Service

History - The U.S. Marshals and Court Security

Protection of Federal Judge

Act I:Copy of letter from Hill regarding alledged marriage.

Scene I: Origins of the Case

Sarah Althea Hill loved Senator William Sharon of Nevada and became his mistress. Later, she claimed they were married, using the marriage license pictured to the left as proof. Senator Sharon denied her as his wife and sued in the District Court of Northern California to stop her from using his name. Sarah hired David Terry as her lawyer. The district court determined that the marriage license was a forgery. Sarah appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court, Justice Stephen Field presiding.

Drawing of Terry attacking Neagle

Scene II: Contempt of Court

While Sarah's case was on appeal, Senator Sharon died and she married her lawyer, David Terry. When Justice Field affirmed the decision of the district court, Sarah went berserk in the courtroom. As Marshal Franks tried to escort her from the courtroom, Terry rose to defend his new wife. He hit the Marshal, knocking out a tooth. A group of spectators subdued Terry and led him out to the corridor, where he pulled his Bowie knife and threatened all around him. One of the spectators, David Neagle, helped take the knife away from him. Justice Field sentenced both David and Sarah Terry to jail for contempt of court.

Drawing of train station

Scene III: Lathrop Station: Setting for a Gunfight

While in jail, Sarah and David Terry made numerous threats against Justice Field. Attorney General William Miller authorized Marshal Franks to appoint a Deputy to protect Justice Field when he returned to California in the summer of 1889. The Marshal deputized David Neagle and Neagle accompanied Field as he rode the circuit.

On August 13, the Terry's, having served their sentence for contempt, boarded the train on which Justice Field and Deputy Neagle were riding. The next morning, the train pulled into Lathrop station (pictured above) in the San Joaquin Valley, where the passengers disembarked to take breakfast. Justice Field, over Deputy Neagle's protest, went to the dining room. Moments later, the Terry's also entered.

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See also related article on Protection of Judges is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justicee