THE TRIAL OF LEVI WEEKS by Estelle Fox Kleiger


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An evocative account of the first murder trial to be recorded in America, with trial transcript plus colorful commentary. In 1800, a young woman named Elma Sands disappeared from her Greenwich Street boardinghouse. Days later, when her body was found in a nearby water well, suspicion fell on a fellow boarder, Levi Weeks, who was supposedly involved with Elma. Here, Kleiger uses the case as a template to display the maze of young New York City's social and political connections, its mood and customs. For instance, she explains how Levi, a carpenter, was able to retain such impressive defense as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr--because Levi's brother was an influential developer who was working to build The Grange, Hamilton's New York estate. Kleiger's chapters are packed with intriguing stories of a time when City Hall was the center of town, pigs ran wild in the streets, and "the upper classes committed their special violence against each other through duelling, which was illegal but very much a part of the social code." The trial itself unfolds dramatically. Through the lawyers' dignified speeches and the various witnesses' testimonies emerges the story of the murdered woman's life; the transcript becomes a sort of mystery novel rich with the appliquÇ of Kleiger's historical chapters. Suspense builds until the stunning, climactic verdict. A neat real-life thriller, then, as well as a rich re-creation of old New York.

ISBN: 89733-297-0
Publisher: Academy Chicago
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