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Charity Lamb Trial: 1854 - Settlers Shocked By Murder, Defendant's Children Testify, The Defense: Insanity, The Verdict

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Defendant: Charity Lamb
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: James K. Kelly, Milton Elliot
Chief Prosecutor: Noah Huber
Judge: Cyrus Olney
Place: Oregon City, Oregon Territory
Date of Trial: September 11-16, 1854
Verdict: Guiltyof second-degree murder
Sentence: Life imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: Charity Lamb was the Pacific Northwest's first convicted murderess. Her case represents one of the earliest known self-defense arguments predicated on what today would be called the spousal abuse syndrome. Then, as now, that defense ran against the traditional notion that in order for self-defense to be justified, the threat defended against had to be imminent and not merely inevitable.

On a Saturday evening, May 13, 1854, in a lonely pioneer cabin deep in the woods and hills of the Oregon frontier, a settler family was seated around the supper table. Four young sons and a teenage daughter, Mary Ann, were listening to their father, Nathaniel's, yarn about the bear he had shot at that day's hunt. A baby was cradled nearby. The woman of the house left the table, went to a woodpile, got an axe, came behind her husband's chair and drove the axe blade into the back of his head two times. Her name was Charity Lamb. Her actions betrayed that name, for in that moment she was neither charitable nor a lamb.

Charles Guiteau Trial - Significance, Guiteau Takes Revenge On Garfield For An Imaginary Insult, Was Guiteau Insane?, Insanity Plea [next] [back] Castner Hanway Treason Trial: 1851 - Slave Master Killed Chasing Fugitive, Politics Dictates Treason Charge, Hanway Tried In Test Case, Suggestions For Further Reading

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over 10 years ago

Charity Lamb was my Great-Great Grandmother. I do believe she was a victim of abuse, and should not be judged by todays standards. She chose he only course a desparate woman in the 1800's would take. Let's face it, that was not a fair trial!! Steven Lamb

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almost 9 years ago

I am trying to find out what actually happened with the daughter of Charity Lamb after the trials! Did she marry this Collins guy & where did she desend too? Any info would be apprecaited.

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almost 10 years ago

I am not a decendant of Charity Lamb, but it does appear that she was a victim of abuse. I think personally that Steven is right. What was she supposed to do? Sit around and wait for him to kill her first? It definately gives you something to think about. What would have you done in her situation? Would you have sit around waiting to die. It appears as if she had the will to live on. On the other hand if her husband had not been a threat to her life, it would indeed be terrible acts! It says right in the report though, that her life was believed to be indangered. I think it is rude to judge badly what we do not fully understand.

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about 11 years ago

oh, that's cute. First you give an unfavorable opinion of charity's actions, then you have the utter gall to claim that we can count on you to give a fair unbiased account of things on this page!!!! NOT.