Autopsy postmortem of murder victim 1902

Autopsy postmortem of murder victim 1902

9336-A501 (00358)

Autopsy photo of Warren Curtis. Curtis had a dispute with George Miller over the ownership of a colt (young horse.) On March 22, 1902, Miller cut the wire fence on Curtis’ ranch, located six miles east of Narrows in Harney county, Oregon. Miller, accompanied by two other men, went into Curtis’ barn to take the disputed colt. Curtis awoke and went to look into the disturbance on his property. Miller fired his shotgun at close range five times, killing Curtis. The photographs of the autopsy were taken to prove that Miller shot Curtis from behind, since all of the 84 gunshot wounds were from behind. Ironically, the photographs became the basis of Miller’s appeal for a murder conviction. The appeal court reconsidered the degree to which a photograph could influence a jury if it showed "a gruesome spectacle of a disfigured and mangled corpse" and whether the photographs showed any evidence that had not already been introduced as ordinary testimony. In this case, these photographs were excluded as evidence in the appeal because they impressed upon the minds of the jury "the mental and physical suffering of the plaintiff." [State v. Miller, 43 Oregon 325 (1903) p. 329.] This case has since become a nationally cited legal precedent about the admissability of photographs as evidence in law.

Warren Curits’ obituary is in Burns Times Herald, March 29, 1902. A life portrait and other autopsy photos are available. Photograph by John McMullen, of Burns, Oregon.

source: 6.5" x 8.5" glass plate negative

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