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John Colt Trial: 1842

The Colt Family's Black Sheep, Confusion Over Murder Weapons, A Strange "confession"

Defendant: John C. Colt
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Dudley Selden, John Morrill, Robert Emmett
Chief Prosecutor: James Whiting
Judge: William Kent
Place: New York, New York
Date of Trial: January 19-31, 1842
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Death by hanging

SIGNIFICANCE: The murder trial of John Colt, brother of repeating arms inventor Samuel Colt, began as a missing persons case and culminated with one of nineteenth century New York's most sensational suicides.

On September 17, 1841, printer Samuel Adams went to collect a debt from John Colt, a bookkeeping teacher for whom Adams had manufactured textbooks. The printer was never seen alive again. Adams had been missing for a week when his body was found in the hold of a ship about to leave New York. His decomposing corpse had been jammed into a packing crate addressed to St. Louis via New Orleans. Colt, who denied paying a man to deliver the box to the ship, was charged with murder. For over a year, Colt's case would captivate New York with increasingly astonishing turns.

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