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Thompson v. United States

155 U.S. 271 (1894)

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Thompson v. United States

United States Supreme Court

155 U.S. 271 (1894)

Facts

Thompson (defendant) was a 17-year-old Native American boy living in the Creek Nation who did not speak or understand the English language. Charles Hermes and his father Mr. Hermes lived near Thompson and believed that Thompson had abused and killed some of their hogs. Charles and Mr. Hermes had threated to injure or kill Thompson if he came near them or their animals again, and Thompson was aware of these threats. One day Thompson was riding his horse on an errand past a field that Charles and Mr. Hermes were working in. Charles and Mr. Hermes began angrily gesturing at Thompson and arguing with him, although Thompson could not understand what they were saying. Thompson rode away. After completing his errand and realizing that he must ride back past the same field to get home, Thompson decided to arm himself with a gun borrowed from another neighbor. When Thompson was near the field, Charles began shouting at Thompson, and Mr. Hermes moved toward a gun that was nearby. Thompson drew his gun, shot and killed Charles, and then fled, pursued by Mr. Hermes. Thompson was convicted for the killing and appealed. Thompson claimed that the trial judge’s instructions to the jury had erroneously presented the law of self-defense.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Shiras, J.)

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