A journalist was in touch with me recently, asking about the legal and specifically Constitutional status of “wanted-dead or alive” in 19th century frontier days. I don’t know anything about this, particularly as a historical Constitutional question, and propose to open it for knowledgeable responses from readers.
- First, to what extent was this actually a historical practice, or is it really just a creation of Hollywood westerns- any scholarship on this, or actual examples?
- Second, from the standpoint of the law in force in that period, on what basis was this kind of “dead or alive” language used?
- Third, what was the relevant Constitutional doctrine of that day and did it have a role to play? Why or why not?
I am looking to pass knowledgeable responses along to the journalist, so please only substantive and knowledgeable answers; I will delete others, as I want to be able to forward the comment thread to the journalist in question. I’d certainly ask Co-Conspirators to respond as well. Thanks.