James Leighton Gilmore

Bicente Ortez, James Gilmore, and a crew of others worked driving cattle from Pierre to Deadwood, in the Dakota Territory, in June 1879. When Gilmore became upset with Ortez, he shot and killed him. The murder occurred on the Sioux Reservation.

Though the crew allowed Gilmore to escape, he was arrested two years later, in August 1881. At trial in the US District Court for the District of Dakota Territory in November 1881, he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Subsequent investigation indicated that Gilmore may have been involved in a number of other killings since arriving in the Territory from Ohio.

On appeal, Gilmore, the son of a prominent Ohio family, argued that he was of unsound mind. That appeal was rejected, as was his father’s plea to President Arthur for clemency.

Though it was widely expected that his connections would ultimately spare him, James Gilmore was hanged in Deadwood on December 15, 1882. The Daily Deadwood Pioneer Times of that date described it as “the first judicial murder in the Black Hills.”

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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