Northwestern Law

Center on Wrongful Convictions
The Arkansas Exonerated: Charles Hudspeth

After Charles Hudspeth was hanged,
his presumed victim was found alive

George Watkins and his wife, Rebecca, moved in 1886 from Kansas to Marion County, Arkansas, where Rebecca apparently soon became intimately involved with Charles Hudspeth. The following year, Watkins disappeared.

Rebecca and Hudspeth were arrested and, after lengthy interrogation, Rebecca allegedly made a statement accusing Hudspeth of murdering Watkins to get him out of the way so they could be married.

Based on Rebecca’s testimony, Hudspeth was convicted and sentenced to death, but the Arkansas Supreme Court set aside the conviction on the ground that the trial judge, R. H. Powell, had improperly barred testimony regarding Rebecca’s alleged lack of good character. Hudspeth v. State, 50 Ark. 534 (1888).

Upon retrial, Hudspeth was again convicted and again sentenced to death. He was hanged at Harrison, Arkansas, on December 30, 1892, but in June 1893, Hudspeth’s lawyer, W. F. Pace, located Watkins alive and well in Kansas.

This account was written by Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. Permission is granted to reprint, quote, or post on other web sites with appropriate attribution.

Last Modified: February 1, 2005

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