The Trial of Levi Weeks, Or, the Manhattan Well Mystery

Estelle Kleiger, Author Academy Chicago Publishers $18.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-89733-297-2
Gulielma Sands, a young New Yorker, was killed on the night of Dec. 22, 1799, and her body was found in a well a few days after Christmas. Suspicion centered on Levi Weeks, whom Sands had claimed was to marry her on the very night, as events transpired, that she died. The Weeks case, the first recorded murder trial in the United States, went to court in early 1800 and the defendant was fortunate in having the illustrious Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr as his lawyers. There was no forensic evidence connecting Weeks with the Sands murder; he had been tried largely because of popular clamor, according to Kleiger, a historian. The judge's summation was virtually a direction for a not-guilty verdict and the jury so found. Weeks, on his part, was to become an architect of note in Mississippi, where he died in 1819. Although the book offers an interesting view of the way criminal trials were conducted at the time--they were marathon affairs in which witnesses were not discouraged from rambling--only the most rabid true-crime buffs are apt to be intrigued by the case. Contemporary illustrations are included. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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