How was extradition handled in the 1870-80s frontier West?

Stan Hutchison
Sturgis, South Dakota

An interstate extradition normally went through the governor’s office in the state or territory involved. A governor could deny the request—that happened in 1882 when Arizona tried to extradite Doc Holliday from Colorado for the Tombstone troubles; Gov. Frederick Pitkin refused to send the deadly dentist back south.

In one rare case, Pinkerton detectives kidnapped labor leaders allegedly behind the 1905 assassination of Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg, taking them from Colorado to Idaho. The courts did nothing to overturn that action.

In the case of international extraditions, the paperwork was handled by the U.S. State Department and its foreign equivalent.

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