The Creswell Chronicle -

By Finn J.D. John
For The Creswell Chronicle 

Offbeat Oregon History: Murderer learned 'Unwritten Law' doesn't cover brother-in-laws

 

March 29, 2018

Image Provided/UO Libraries

This panoramic lithograph shows the city of Portland as it appeared around the time of John W. Murray's shotgun murder of his brother-in-law. It was published in an 1888 edition of The West Shore magazine.

The late 1880s in Oregon, and around the country, saw a substantial rise in the number of murderers who tried to invoke the "Unwritten Law" to justify their crimes.

The "Unwritten Law" is the idea that if a man (yes, man; the "law" didn't apply to women) truly believed that another fellow was trying to "break up his happy home" by getting intimate with his wife, or was trying to "ruin" a young female relative by seducing her, he was not only justified in murdering the "home-wrecker" but morally obligated to do so.

The belief was that "no jury in the land" would sentence a man to hang for...



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