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American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
The New York Ledger, April 5, 1862.
 
A Lawyer’s Story
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by Sylvanus Cobb, Jr.
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  man could do, and in my plea, at his trial, I not only brought tears to the eyes of the jury, but the prisoner wept like a child. But I could not wipe out the stern evidence that appeared against him, and he was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. When he knew that there was no more hope for him on earth, and that he was soon to tread the gallows, he sent for me to come and see him. I went, and found him sober and thoughtful, and wholly resigned to his fate. He declared that he had no desire to live. He would rather die than remain locked up in the dreary dungeon, and were he to be set at liberty, he would carry the brand upon his brow—the world would kick and cuff and curse him, and thus drive him to new crimes and new trials.

“I know I’ve got to die,” he said, as I sat by his side upon the iron pallet, “and before I go I want to ease my mind of some things that lay heavy upon it. I tell them to you because I think you have been my friend, and because I shall feel easier after my confession is out. But I don’t want to criminate others. What I tell you, I tell in confidence, and you are not to publish it to the world, only you may use . . .

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    I had done all for him that I could. I had found him in prison, a friendless, broken, degraded man, charged with murder. The hand of time had touched his hair with silver, and a long course of crime and dissipation had made him almost a brute in outward appearance. He had been committed for murder, and the court had appointed me to defend him. It was a work which I did not seek, and which I would have avoided if possible, but I could not refuse the office under such circumstances. He could look to no friend for help, and no lawyer was willing to volunteer in his defense, for not only was his character notoriously bad, but the evidence against him in the present case was so direct and clear, that a defense could be but a mere empty form at best. And so the court appointed me to conduct the case in behalf of the prisoner, and I did not refuse.

Levi Lorler was his name, and I found him such a stranger to the tones of friendship, that for a long time he refused to trust me. By degrees, however, I won his confidence, and finally he trusted me fully. I did all for him that mortal

   

 

 


 

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