Charles Julius Guiteau

Charles J. Guiteau was an unstable, ambitious, and probably delusional young man. His efforts to make a career in law, theology, and writing had come to naught. His efforts on behalf of various politicians, though of little consequence, led him to believe that he would be rewarded with a prominent patronage position. Over the course of the 1870s, his estrangement from his family increased as his mental health worsened.

Believing that his newly elected President James A. Garfield, whom he supported and believed he had played an important role in electing, was intent on abolishing the patronage system he sought the favor of, Guiteau developed a plan to kill Garfield. Vice President Chester A. Arthur, Guiteau believed, would look more favorably at his record.

Guiteau purchased a pistol, trained in using it, and began following Garfield, looking for an opportunity to shoot him. On July 2, 1881, he shot Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. Garfield died on September 19, 1881, due to infections related to his wounds.

Guiteau, who was arrested immediately after the shooting, was indicted on murder charges on October 14, 1881. His trial in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia began on November 14.

Despite his insanity defense and his increasingly bizarre behavior, Guiteau was found guilty on January 25, 1882, and sentenced to death. After his appeal to the US Supreme Court and his clemency request to President Arthur were rejected, he was hanged on June 30, 1882, in Washington, D.C.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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