In 1800, 4 years earlier than they fatefully met on a dueling floor in Weehawken, New Jersey, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr briefly put apart their fierce rivalry to hitch forces in a high-profile homicide trial in New York City.
It all started with a mysterious disappearance
Gulielma Sands was a reasonably new arrival to New York City. The 22-year-old, generally known as Elma, had moved to the town to work in a millinery enterprise owned and operated by her cousin Catherine and Catherine’s husband, Elias Ring. She lived within the Rings’ boarding home on Greenwich Street in what’s now Greenwich Village however was then the northernmost part of the town.
In the summer time of 1799, Sands started a relationship with a brand new boarder. Levi Weeks was a carpenter who was properly related. His brother, Ezra, was one the town’s most profitable architects and builders, liable for the development of Gracie Mansion (now house to New York’s mayors) and far of the rising metropolis’s infrastructure. Among his purchasers was Hamilton, who employed Weeks to construct the one house Hamilton would ever personal, a manor home generally known as the Grange, far uptown in Harlem.
The relationship between Sands and Weeks intensified rapidly. Although they tried to maintain their sexual relationship secret, fellow boarders would later testify that they’d ceaselessly seen the pair in compromising positions. Perhaps afraid of the response of her Quaker relations, on the afternoon of December 22, 1799, Sands instructed a fellow boarder (and cousin) Hope Sands that she and Weeks had change into engaged and had been to elope that very same night time.
Weeks reportedly left the boarding home within the early night, Sands adopted swimsuit round eight p.m. Weeks returned house later that night time, however Sands was by no means seen alive once more.
Suspicion instantly fell on Weeks
A determined seek for Sands quickly started. A number of days after her disappearance, articles of her clothes had been discovered close to the Manhattan Well, a newly constructed water provide system to the north of city. But it wasn’t till January 2, 1800 that the properly was totally searched, and Sands’ battered physique was found.
The Rings later testified that they’d confronted Weeks about each the rumored engagement and Sands’ disappearance, however he had pled ignorance on each fronts, claiming the couple wasn’t engaged and that he spent many of the night time of her disappearance at his brother’s home. Convinced of Weeks’ guilt, the Rings helped fire up curiosity by supplying particulars of the thriller to reporters.
Hundreds of New Yorkers turned out to view Sands’ physique, which was displayed within the Sands’ boarding home for 3 days. Lurid accounts of what might need befallen the sufferer stuffed the papers and following a coroner’s report that concluded Sands had been murdered, Weeks was arrested.
Hamilton and Burr had been a part of a authorized dream staff
With public sentiment towards Weeks rising, Ezra jumped to his brother’s protection. As the courtroom trial approached, he tapped a few of the best-known legal professionals within the metropolis.
Hamilton had served because the nation’s first treasury secretary, creating America’s monetary system. But by 1800 his political profession was on the decline. His brilliance was tempered by his conceitedness and willingness to battle each political opponents and members of his personal Federalist Party. An embarrassing intercourse scandal uncovered shortly after he’d left the federal government had additional tarnished his status. Hamilton was satisfied of Weeks’ innocence and livid on the rush to judgment, so it’s maybe no shock that he joined the protection staff for what was positive to be a high-profile case — a choice probably additionally influenced by his rising debt to Ezra for development of the Grange.
Burr had served in state authorities earlier than defeating Hamilton’s father-in-law in a U.S. Senate race in 1791, a victory that infuriated Hamilton, and additional soured the pair’s already contentious relationship. Burr and Ezra had been additionally financially entwined, because it was a newly-established financial institution backed by Burr that offered funding for a number of of Weeks’ initiatives (together with the Manhattan Well had been Sands’ physique was discovered).
In the then-small authorized world of New York City, Hamilton and Burr’s paths crossed ceaselessly, and regardless of their political and private variations, they’d beforehand labored collectively on a handful of instances. But neither man had a lot expertise with prison legislation, not to mention a homicide case. So, a 3rd protection lawyer, future Supreme Court Justice Brockholst Livingston, was introduced in.
The Manhattan Well Murder trial was a media sensation
The trial started on March 31, 1800, with Weeks’ legal professionals going through off towards a prosecutorial staff that included a future New York governor. The courtroom, in New York’s City Hall (now Federal Hall, and the location of George Washington’s first inauguration), was packed, as curious onlookers took all of it in. Outside the constructing, massive crowds gathered, with these satisfied of Weeks’ guilt braying for justice.
In an period the place most trials took lower than in the future, the People v. Levi Weeks stretched on for greater than 40 hours over greater than two days, stretching into the early mornings, as 75 witnesses took the stand, taxing the resolve and stamina of legal professionals, judges and the jury. Thanks to public curiosity within the case (and the outstanding personalities concerned), it was the primary prison trial in American historical past to be totally transcribed for posterity.
The prosecution’s case rested largely on circumstantial proof. The Rings and others testified concerning the Sands-Weeks relationship and Weeks’ uncommon habits within the days after Sands’ loss of life. They alleged that Weeks had seduced Sands, and, on the lookout for an escape, had promised to marry her as pretense for luring her away from the boarding house to homicide her. One witness claimed to have seen Sands with two males the night time of her loss of life, in a sleigh much like one owned by Ezra.
But the protection staff rapidly chipped away on the prosecution’s case. Their medical consultants refuted the protection staff’s proof that Sands’ neck had been damaged or that her physique confirmed proof of trauma. They additionally said that Sands wasn’t pregnant, which the prosecutors had alleged as a potential motive for Weeks to kill her. Several witnesses, together with Weeks’ household, insisted that he had spent a lot of the night time of December 22 at Ezra’s home, though they did admit that he had briefly left for about an hour earlier than returning, which the prosecution believed was greater than sufficient time for him to have killed Sands and returned to Ezra’s.
The protection additionally besmirched Sands’ ethical character, calling in witnesses who claimed that Sands had slept with others on the boarding room, together with Elias, her cousin’s husband, and that, removed from being dedicated to Sands, Weeks had additionally been sleeping with others, together with Sands’ cousin Hope. They claimed that Sands knew her relationship with Weeks was hopeless, leaving her depressed and probably suicidal within the weeks earlier than her loss of life.
The most dramatic second was the cross-examination of Richard Croucher, a hard, fellow boarder, who had testified concerning the relationship between Sands and Weeks. The protection staff tried to dismantle his testimony bit-by-bit, bringing in witnesses who claimed to have seen Croucher close to the Manhattan Well, casting suspicion on one of many prosecution’s star witnesses.
Sands’ homicide stays unsolved to at the present time
Around 2:30 a.m. on April 2, the protection staff rested. Certain of the power of his case and conscious of the exhaustion of the jury and all concerned, Hamilton declined to current a closing argument. In his directions to the jury, the presiding choose appeared to fall solidly on the aspect of the protection. It took the jury simply 5 minutes to succeed in a verdict: not responsible.
Given the controversy surrounding his acquittal, Weeks fled New York, finally settling in Mississippi the place he turned a profitable architect. Croucher, who the protection had tried to color as Sands’ actual assassin, continued a lifetime of crime. Just months after the Weeks’ trial, Croucher was convicted for raping his teenage step-daughter however was later pardoned and launched resulting from his unstable psychological well being. After an analogous incident in Virginia, he fled to his native England, the place he was purportedly executed for an unknown crime.
On the day of the decision, a despondent Catherine reportedly put a curse on Hamilton. Later that 12 months, Hamilton and Burr would conflict once more, because the erstwhile authorized duo turned entwined in a nasty presidential election that noticed Burr elected vp and set in movement the occasions that will culminate of their deadly duel in August 1804.
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