Youthful Murderer

Unidentified Photographer, Youthful Murderer, Charles H. Cuffee, ca. 1870

Without concrete facts it is hard to find a connection between the face of this young boy to the title of “murderer.” Fourteen-year-old Charles H. Cuffee was accused for the bludgeoning death of Benjamin Howard, a farmer and shoemaker of Westport, Massachusetts, in 1870. Days after Howard’s murder police stripped Cuffee from school without a warrant and dragged him to the scene of the crime. Upon his reaction they found him guilty. Cuffee was questioned through the night and on into the morning. At no time was he advised to remain silent nor was he allowed to consult a lawyer. His case was brought before the Supreme Court at Taunton, Massachusetts, were he was arraigned and latter tried in Bristol’s County. Attorney general Charles Allen found that Cuffee’s incoherent statements proved his guilt more then his innocence. Cuffee’s counsel worked to have his statements removed from the evidence, as he was not warned before questioning that anything he said could be used against him. The argument was over ruled and Charles Horatio Cuffee was found guilty of murder in the first degree of Benjamin Howard, with a sentence of death. The details of this case are fragmented and scarce. In the end, this image may represent the unfortunate murder of not only Mr. Benjamin Howard but also Charles Horatio Cuffee.

Teresa LoJacano, ICP-Bard MFA 2012

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