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Crimes of Passion

Crimes of PassionMurder trials involving crimes of passion, both real and imagined, have always been a source of popular entertainment. The tawdry details, especially when well-known individuals are involved, are eagerly publicized by the information media. Appealing to the same kind of public curiosity as programs like Court TV, 19th century contemporary trial transcripts -- the more lurid the better -- were published, often with provocative covers, and sold to a receptive and fascinated audience. Printed on inexpensive wood-pulp papers, accounts of these scandalous trials constitute a valuable storehouse of legal, economic, social and local history. These displays from the New York City Bar’s library feature publications that demonstrate how crimes of passion were sensationalized and marketed.

Nutt, LizzieNutt, Lizzie. Lizzie Nutt's sad experience : A heart broken, and a family plunged in grief. Wreck and ruin! The shooting and tragic death of noble-hearted Captain Nutt, Lizzie's brave father, who flinched not, like a true soldier, to die in defence of his daughter's honor. The great Dukes trial atUniontown, Pa. Full account, and all "those terrible letters." Philadelphia : Barclay & Co., 1883.

James NuttJames Nutt. The very pathetic and truly remarkable trial of young James Nutt, the avenger of his father’s death. Full account from the shooting of Captain Nutt to the death of Dukes and Trial of the son and brother. Philadelphia: Barclay & Co. 1883

Nicholas L. Dukes, a successful attorney, was engaged to marry Lizzie Nutt. Dukes manufactured reasons to break his engagement to Lizzie Nutt by writing anonymous letters to his betrothed’s father, Captain A.C. Nutt, alleging that his daughter, Lizzie, was “criminally intimate” with several young men. At an arranged meeting, Dukes and Nutt scuffled, and Dukes shot the aggrieved father. Fearing that he would be lynched by the townspeople, Dukes surrendered immediately claiming self-defense. Everyone thought that Dukes would be convicted, but a jury, containing many of Nutt’s friends, voted for acquittal. The judge could not conceal his amazement, admonishing the jury as he dismissed the prisoner. Duke was subsequently disbarred and after winning a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, resigned, rather than being expelled, when the slanderous assault on Lizzie’s character was found to be untrue. Soon thereafter, James Nutt, Lizzie’s brother, and Dukes met on a street by chance. Incited by Dukes’ insults, James Nutt stalked, shot and killed him. James was eventually acquitted by reason of insanity.

Fair, LauraFair, Laura . Official report of the trial of Laura D. Fair, for the murder of Alex. P. Crittenden, including the testimony, the arguments of counsel, and the charge of the court, reported verbatim, and the entire correspondence of the parties, with portraits of the defendant and the deceased. From the short-hand notes of Marsh and Osbourne, official reporters of the courts. San Francisco, San Francisco Co-operative Printing Co., 1871.


On November 3, 1870 , Laura Fair fatally shot San Francisco lawyer Alexander Crittenden, her lover of seven years. Although he represented himself as single, Fair soon learned that he was married. On the day of the killing, he was planning to meet his family on a ferry. Fair followed him there, fired the fatal shot and fled to the boat’s saloon where she confessed. The defense asserted Fair was temporarily insane theorizing that she had suffered maniacal attacks due to delayed menstruation and was unconscious at the time of the shooting. The jury rejected this unique argument and found Fair guilty of murder, sentencing her to death. After the State Supreme Court ordered a new trial because of improperly admitted evidence, Fair was acquitted.

Hughes, John WHughes, John W . The Trial and Execution of Dr. John W. Hughes, for the murder of Miss Tamzen Parsons: with a sketch of his life, as related by himself. A record of love, bigamy and murder unparalleled in the annals of crime. Cleveland , Ohio : Published by John K. Stetler & Co., 1866.

Seventeen year-old Tamzen Parsons was seduced and fell in love with Dr. Hughes, a man twice her age. After Hughes showed her a fake divorce degree, she eloped with him to Pittsburgh. Tamzen’s parents called the police who promptly arrested Hughes in the couple’s bridal suite. Hughes was charged with bigamy and sentenced to a year in jail, but was pardoned after serving five months. Hughes continued to make advances toward Tamzen and threatened to kill her if she did not marry him. A final confrontation occurred at the front gate of the Parson house. When Tamzen rebuffed him, Hughes drew his pistol and shot her twice in the back of the neck, killing her instantly. After only two hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree. While in prison, Hughes entertained many sympathetic and impressionable females, who signed a petition asking that Hughes be spared from the hangman’s noose. Ignoring their pleas, Governor Jacob Cox did not commute his death sentence.

Malley, JamesMalley, James.The beautiful victim of the Elm City: being a full, fair, and impartial narrative of all that is known of the terrible fate of the trusting and unfortunate Jennie E. Cramer: giving all the evidence that led the jury to hold James Malley, Jr. as her murderer, and to denounce Walter E. Malley and Blanche Douglass as aiders and abettors in this social tragedy. New York : M.J. Ivers & Co., 1881.

James Malley, Jr., nephew of Edward Malley, owner of the successful Malley's Department Store in New Haven, Ct., was a persistent admirer of Jennie Cramer. On August 3, Cramer and Malley spent the evening with Walter Malley, James's cousin, and Walter's friend Blanche Douglass. When Cramer didn’t return home her frantic mother questioned the Malley boys and Douglass about her daughter’s whereabouts. Douglass said that the two had spent the previous evening at the Elliot Boarding House for Women, but that they had split up that morning, while the Malleys insisted that they had been at home and had not been with her daughter. Two witnesses, however, testified that they had seen Jennie and James together the night she disappeared. Soon thereafter, Cramer's body was found by a fisherman and an autopsy revealed that she had been poisoned with laudanum. The Cramer story exploded, gaining regional attention and appearing repeatedly on the front page of The New York Times.After a trial of nearly three months, both Malley boys and Douglass were acquitted. The people of New Haven, still suspicious of the Malley’s involvement in the murder ostracized the family and no longer patronized their store.

Corder, WilliamCorder, William , An Authentic And Faithful History Of The Mysterious Murder Of Maria Marten, With A Full Development Of All The Extraordinary Circumstances Which Led To The Discovery In The Red Barn ... London: Thomas Kelly, 1834.

William Corder and Maria Marten kept their relationship secret until Maria became pregnant. On May 18, 1827, after leaving her father's cottage for a rendezvous with William, Maria disappeared. Almost a year later, Maria’s father discovered his daughter’s body in a shallow grave. William Corder was arrested, tried, found guilty of murder, and sentenced to death by hanging. Prior to his execution Corder confessed. The public response to the murder and trial was ghoulish. Thousands of spectators attended Corder’s execution despite a heavy rain. Subsequently, his body was cut open and put on show; his skeleton, scalp and part of his skin were preserved. The participating surgeon bound an account of the trial in leather made from Corder's skin. The story formed the basis of the English play and film,Murder in the Red Barn.

Ruloff, Edward HRuloff, Edward H. Life, trial and execution of Edward H. Ruloff, theperpetrator of eight murders, numerous burglaries and other crimes; who was recently hanged at Binghamton, N.Y. ... Philadelphia, Barclay & co., c1872.

Edward Ruloff murdered his wife and child in 1845 but the state convicted him of abduction of his wife. After serving ten years, he was then tried for the murder of his child, convicted and sentenced to hang. He escaped while his appeal was pending. Ironically, the Court of Appeals reversed his conviction on a technicality; the absence of his daughter’s corpse. Many years later, in 1870, Ruloff shot and killed a dry goods clerk during a robbery. Ruloff was tried, convicted and hanged for the murder. Since no one claimed his body, his head was removed for study at Cornell University . Body snatchers dug up the rest of his remains.




Clough, JoelClough, Joel. The trial and sentence of Joel Clough: who was executed on the 26th of July, 1833 for the murder of Mary W. Hamilton, of Bordentown , N.J. Philadelphia : J. Scarlet, 1833.

Joel Clough was infatuated with Mary Hamilton, the widowed daughter of his landlord. He twice asked her to marry him, threatening suicide if she refused. In a fit of anger and frustration when she did not return his affection, he stabbed her to death. In his statement Clough stated he had not meant to kill the object of his love, but his passion was so intense that it got the better of him, and he lost control. The defense counsel unsuccessfully argued that Clough was temporarily insane.

Chapman, Lucretia . Trial of Lucretia Chapman: otherwise called Lucretia Espos y Mina, who was jointly indicted with Lino Amalia Espos y Mina, for the murder of William Chapman, Esq. late of Andalusia, County of Bucks, Pennsylvania: in the Court of Oyer and Terminer, held at Doylestown, for Bucks, December term, 1831, continued to February term, 1832. Philadelphia : G.W. Mentz, 1832. Chapman, Lucretia

Ms. Chapman, with her young Cuban lover, were charged with conspiracy in the arsenic poisoning of her husband William, a Pennsylvania schoolmaster. The Chapman trial pitted the prosecution and the defense against one another as dueling storytellers, and involved testimony from servants, boarders, Chapman children, pupils from the school, neighbors, an itinerant bookseller, the family doctor and clergyman, a pharmacist, a tailor, the undertaker, the Mexican consul in Philadelphia , police officers and sundry medical experts. The prosecution took this wealth of information and shaped it into a coherent account of a woman who committed adultery and murderer in order to marry her foreign lover. The defense took the same facts and crafted it into a tale of a devoted wife and mother. Lucretia was found innocent of all charges, but her lover was convicted of murder.

Sickles, Daniel ESickles, Daniel E . Trial of the Hon. Daniel E. Sickles for shooting Philip Barton Key ... February 27th, 1859 . reported by Felix G . New York : R.M. De Witt, 1859.

Daniel Sickles, a congressman from New York, was the first man acquitted of a murder charge on the grounds of temporary insanity. Sickles shot Philip Barton Key, son of the composer of the Star Spangled Banner, who was having an affair with Sickles’ wife. Sickles publicly forgave his wife, which outraged the public that had applauded his role in the shooting. Sickles became a General in the Civil War, lost a leg at the Battle of Gettysburg and went on to become Ambassador to Spain.

Hitchcock, AlpheusHitchcock, Alpheus . The trial of Alpheus Hitchcock, before the Hon. William W. van Ness, Esq. For the murder of his wife, by poison, at Sullivan County of Madison, on the third day of July, 1807. Reported by George Richards, Jun. Utica, New York,, printed by Seward and Williams, August, 1807.

Alpheus Hitchcock was a voice teacher who lived in Madison, New York. He was more attentive to one of his young pupils than his wife. One night, Alpheus stopped at a drug store and purchased a quantity of arsenic with which he laced his wife's dinner causing her death. Hitchcock’s motive was very simple and to the point as he stated in his confession, “I thought I could live more agreeably with some other woman than my wife.” Alpheus Hitchcock was the person first to be hanged within Sullivan County.