American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Strange Stories of a Detective; or, Curiosities of Crime. New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1863. 177-84
The Trial for Murder

by A Retired Member of the Detective Police
[William Russell]

  notebook, took place very little less than thirty years ago. It is instructive in many points of view. To those who believe that they see the finger of Providence especially pointing out the murderer, and guiding, in a slow but unerring course the footsteps of the avenger of blood, it will afford a matter of deep meditation and reflection.

In the year 18—, John Smith (I use fictitious names) was indicted for the willful murder of Henry Thompson. The case was one of a most extraordinary nature, and the interest excited by it was almost unparalleled. The accused was a gentleman of considerable property residing upon his own estate, in an unfrequented part of the country. A person supposed to be an entire stranger to him, had, late in a summer’s day, requested and obtained shelter and hospitality for the night. He had, it was supposed, after taking some slight refreshment, retired to bed in perfect health, requesting to be awakened at . . .


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    IT has frequently occurred to me that if any member of the bar, who has been for a few years in practice in our criminal courts, possessing the not uncommon qualities of a moderate understanding, a mind open to conviction, and a tolerable share of attention to the cases which occur, would communicate to the world the result of his experience, he would do more to enlighten the public mind upon the nature and practical operation of that most valued of our institutions, trial by jury, than could be effected in any other mode. No man can have attended, even for a single day, either as a juror or a witness, in anyone of our courts whether civil or criminal, without having been struck, if he be of an observant habit, by verdicts utterly at variance with the facts upon which these verdicts have been founded.

One of the most extraordinary and interesting




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