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The Whitman Massacre Trial: 1850

Five Cayuse Braves Arrested

Two more years passed before U.S. troopers arrested Chief Telokite and four other Cayuse braves and brought them over two hundred miles to Oregon City to be tried for the murder of Dr. Marcus Whitman, his wife Narcissa, and the other victims. On Tuesday, May 21, 1850, Judge Pratt appointed three defense counsel (Secretary Pritchette and two calvary officers) to represent the five prisoners, who remained in chains throughout the trial. Two interpreters were also there to assist the defense.

On Wednesday, defense counsel presented three separate motions to the court. The first pleaded for a dismissal because the United States had no jurisdiction over an alleged crime that occurred eight months prior to U.S. takeover and that was committed on lands of the Cayuse nation. Judge Pratt denied the motion. The second motion asked that the trial be moved because townsfolk in Oregon City were hostile and sought vengeance against the prisoners. The motion was denied. The third motion sought a postponement of the trial in order to gain time for a defense witness (over two hundred miles away in Waiilatpu) to get to Oregon City. The judge denied the motion and ordered that the trial begin the next morning.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882The Whitman Massacre Trial: 1850 - Five Cayuse Braves Arrested, The Trial Begins, Passionate Closing Arguments, The Sentence Is Death