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Richard Parmelee Robinson Trial: 1836

Bill Easy And Frank Rivers, … Well Known To Every Pedestrian …", Hatchet, Cloak, And Tassel

Defendant: Richard Parmelee Robinson
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Ogden Hoffman, Hugh Maxwell, William Price
Chief Prosecutors: Thomas Phoenix, Robert H. Morris
Judge: Ogden Edwards
Place: New York, New York
Date of Trial: June 2-7, 1836
Verdict: Not guilty

SIGNIFICANCE: Perhaps the first of the sex-sin-and-mayhem cases that have come to dominate much of the daily news, the Helen Jewett murder gives us insight into the intimate side of life among young men and women some 125 years before the sexual revolution.

At 3:00 A.M. on Sunday, April 10, 1838, at a prosperous brothel on Thomas Street in lower Manhattan, a highly paid prostitute known as Helen Jewett, whose clientele included numbers of the city's gentry, was found dead in her bed. The bedclothes had been set afire and still smoldered. Blood had poured from three deep gashes in her head.

New York City then had almost no professional police force. "Watchmen" at sentry posts a few blocks apart, most of them laborers moonlighting for small pay, were alert for fires and robberies, while a few worked full-ime as officers. Two such, watchman George Noble and constable Dennis Brink, raced to the whorehouse and ordered watchmen to search for clues. A long cloak was found in a rear yard nearby. In the brothel's backyard, a hatchet caked with wet earth turned up.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882