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Missouri’s manslaughter law

So… did you watch Who Do You Think You Are? last night?

The Legal Genealogist did.

MissouriIn a room with most of the 200 genealogists attending the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

Where else is a place going to break into cheers when a murder is mentioned? (Records. All those wonderful juicy records.)

And where else will people be yelling that if she’d just read the whole pension file, she’d have found out much more…?

And where else will students in the inaugural session of Law School for Genealogists immediately think to themselves, while they were watching the program, that they needed to “examine the statutes to figure out what constituted ‘manslaughter’ in 1843 Missouri”?1

Because, after all, we can’t possibly begin to decide if Martha Casto was justly convicted of manslaughter or not unless we know just what the elements of the crime were.

So… Could you find the definition of manslaughter in Missouri law in 1843?

Here are some hints.

Missouri’s statutes were revised and codified at least twice around the time of Martha Casto’s murder indictment in 1843:

• They were digested by the Eighth General Assembly in 1834-35 and the Revised Statutes produced by that effort were printed at the Argus Office in St. Louis in 1835.2

• They were also revised and digested by the Thirteenth General Assembly in 1844-45 and the Revised Statutes produced by that effort were printed for the State by J.W. Dougherty in St. Louis in 1845.3

So if you find both of those, and you find the definition of first degree manslaughter there, I have two questions for you:

1. What was the definition of first degree manslaughter in 1843, when Martha Casto was convicted of that crime?

2. Do you think she was guilty of first degree manslaughter?


SOURCES

  1. Cari Taplin, status update, 23 July 2014, Facebook (http://www.facebook.com : accessed 24 July 2014).
  2. Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri (St. Louis : Missouri General Assembly, 1835). And no, I’m not going to tell you exactly where you can find this online. Do your homework, class.
  3. The Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri (St. Louis : Missouri General Assembly, 1845). And no, I’m not going to tell you exactly where you can find this online, either.
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