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Collection 668 - Address to the Jury, April 26, 1889

Creator: Burleigh, Andrew F., b. 1858

Provenance Note: An original typewritten draft of a defense presentation to a Montana territorial court was donated to Montana State University by Merrill G. Burlingame of Bozeman, Montana in the spring of 1969.

Historical Note: Andrew F. Burleigh was born on January 7, 1858 in Pennsylvania. He moved with his parents to Yankton, South Dakota in 1861 and, following his graduation from the University of Iowa in 1878, practiced law there until his move to Miles City, Montana Territory, in 1881. He worked in private practice until December, 1883 when he was appointed district attorney for the territory's first judicial district. In December, 1888, Burleigh and two other attorneys were retained by Peter V. B. Strong to defend him against a murder charge. Strong and his family had lived on a homestead claim on Hawk Creek northeast of Billings, Montana with the family of William P. Houx in early 1888, but left after Houx became too close to Mrs. Strong. On December 16, 1888, Strong shot Houx to death in front of the Strong family cabin and claimed during his preliminary trial that Houx had threatened his life several times before the fatal visit. When the trial took place in Billings in late April, Burleigh's strategy was to claim a justifiable homicide defense for his client and delivered an address to the jury on April 26, 1889, detailing the case. Strong was found not guilty the following day.

Content Description Note: The Burleigh address to the jury is a typed legal argument, with handwritten corrections, describing the technical definition of first degree murder based on malice aforethought. After giving details the flirtation of William P. Houx towards Mrs. Strong, Burleigh describes several incidents where Houx threatened to kill Strong or his wife if she would not abandon her husband and go with him to California. The conclusion argued by Burleigh, and subsequently accepted by the jury, is that Strong's shooting of Houx was based on his reasonable expectation that his life was in danger.

Updated: September 4, 2012