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But there was one man who was not satisfied—Ephraim Littlefield, the janitor of the Medical Building.? He had noticed that for several days the doors of Dr. Webster's office and laboratory had been locked, which was very unusual ; that the professor had been at work there on Saturday (which was a holiday) and on Sunday and Monday, which was quite contrary to his custom; that when he knocked at the door the professor would not let him in and that the furnace was very hot during all this time and that there were peculiar spots on the stairs to the cellar and on its walls. He told his wife of his suspicions and she aided him in making a search on his own account, watching at the window to notify her husband if the professor should return to his office. The janitor soon became convinced that all was not right and made known his suspicions to Dr. Parkman's family, whereupon a second and thorough search was made of the cellar and Professor Webster's apartments in the Medical Building. This time there was discovered in the ashes of the furnace, which had now cooled down, a human skull and a set of artificial teeth; in a private closet of the professor's was found part of a human leg and in a tea chest hidden in the cellar another leg and the upper part of a man's body.8 Surgeons who put the remains together reported that they were those of a man about the height of Dr. Parkman ;' that the dismemberment must have been done by one having a knowledge of anatomy and the Professor of Anatomy declared that they were not part of any subject that had been used in the college for the purposes of dissection.10 And finally the dentist who had made a full set of false teeth for Dr. Parkman identified the set found in the furnace as his, and he produced the model which fitted the plate exactly.11 Professor Webster was at once arrested and accused of being the murderer, but he boldly declared his innocence and charged that he was the victim of a conspiracy.
The trial took place before Chief Justice Shaw and three 7 Ephraim Littlefield, post, p. 133. 8 Derastus Clapp, post, p. 156.
9 Woodbridge Strong, post, p. 126; Charles T. Jackson, post, p. 128. . 10 Frederick S. Ainsworth, post, p. 127. 11 Nathan C. Keep, post, p. 129.
associate Judges of the Supreme Court. The evidence of the surgeons and dentist sufficiently proved that the body found in the College Building was that of Dr. Parkman. And to prove that Professor Webster was the murderer the prosecution established a number of facts: (1) Dr. Parkman had called on Professor Webster four days before the fatal day and had abused his debtor for his delay in paying his debt.12
(2) Professor Webster had sold the minerals which he had mortgaged to the doctor to another person and had been paid the consideration; the doctor had discovered the fraud and was threatening to prosecute the professor for the crime and have him removed from the faculty.13 (3) The professor had deposited the money received for the lecture tickets in his bank.14 (4) His action for several days in keeping the room in the building locked and refusing to allow even the janitor to enter.15 (5) His endeavors to dissuade the officers making the search from going into the room where part of the remains were found.16 (6) Some of the remains were tied with twine which was proved to have been purchased by him about the day of the murder. (7) Spots of blood were found on the clothes he wore in the laboratory on the days immediately after the murder.
While the search was being made for Dr. Parkman the City Marshal of Boston received three anonymous letters. One that seemed to be written by an illiterate person suggested that a search be made on "brooklynt Heights,” the second stated that Dr. Parkman had gone to sea on the ship “Herculian," and the third, which was signed “Civis," declared that the missing man had been seen in Cambridge several days after the remains were discovered.17 But the handwriting experts swore positively that all three letters were written by Professor Webster.18
The defense produced a host of witnesses,—the leaders in society, literature, science and affairs in the Boston world,
12 Ephraim Littlefield, post, p. 133.
who testified to the previous good character of Dr. Webster, and several persons swore that they had met Dr. Parkman on the street after the time at which the prisoner claimed he had left the Medical Building. But the jury was not long in finding a verdict of guilty and he was sentenced by the Chief Justice to be hanged.
Professor Webster continued to maintain his innocence and in a petition to the Governor declared in the most solemn terms that he was the victim of a foul conspiracy. Finding this of no avail, he made a confession to his clergyman, in which he stated that in a dispute over the debt in his office that afternoon and exasperated by the threats of his creditor to send him to jail and drive him from the college and from society, he had struck him over the head with a stick of wood, and then finding that he had killed him, had been afraid to tell the truth, but had tried to conceal the whole matter by getting rid of the body. But as there was no proof that this story was true other than his own word, and as he had lied about everything relating to the case for months, the Governor refused to interfere and he was hanged.
January 26. On this day the Grand Jury for the County of Suffolk returned into the Municipal Court of the City of Boston an indictment against John W. Webster for the murder on Novem
19 Bibliography. *"Report of the case of John W. Webster, Master of Arts and Doctor of Medicine of Harvard University; member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the London Geological Society, and of the St. Petersburg Mineralogical Society; and Erving Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy in Harvard University; Indicted for the murder of George Parkman, Master of Arts of Har
ber 23, 1849, of George Parkman. In the first count the murder was charged to have been committed with a knife, in the second count with a hammer, in the third and fourth counts with some means, instruments and weapons to the jury unknown.” On the same day the indictment was ordered trans
vard University, Doctor of Medicine of the University of Aberdeen, and member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, including the hearing on the petition for a writ of error, the prisoner's confessional statements and application for a commutation of sentence, and an appendix containing several interesting matters never before published. By George Bemis, Esq., one of the counsel in the case. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown. 1850." This is the official report. It is illustrated with plans and maps, and has for its frontispiece an engraving of the medical building in which the murder was committed.
*“Trial of Prof. John W. Webster for the murder of Dr. George Parkman. As reported for and published in the Boston Daily Times. Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, sitting in Boston, composed of Chief Justice Shaw, and Associate Justices Metcalfe and Wilde. Boston: Published by Roberts & Garfield, No. 3 State Street, 1850.”
*“The Parkman Murder. Trial of Prof. John W. Webster, for Murder of Dr. George Parkman, November 23, 1849, before the Supreme Judicial Court, in the City of Boston. With Numerous Accurate Illustrations. Boston: Printed at The Daily Mail Office, 14 and 16 State Street.”
*"'Illegality of the Trial of John W. Webster. By Lysander Spooner. Boston: Bela Marsh, 25 Cornhill. 1850."
*“A Review of the Webster Case by a Member of the New York Bar. 'In civil cases, it is sufficient if the evidence on the whole agrees with and supports the hypothesis which it is adduced to prove; but in criminal cases, it must exclude every other hypothesis but that of the guilt of the party'-Greenleaf on Evidence, Sec. 13, et seq. New York: J. S. Redfield, Clinton Hall. Redding & Co., 8 State Street, Boston. W. B. Zieber, Philadelphia. 1850.”
*“The Trial of Prof. John W. Webster, indicted for the murder of Dr. George Parkman, at the Medical College (North Grove Street), on the 23d of November, 1849. Supreme Judicial Court. Reported for the Boston Journal. Boston: Redding & Company, 8 State Street. 1850."
*"Trial of Professor John W. Webster, for the murder of Doctor George Parkman. Reported exclusively for the N. Y. Daily Globe. New York: Stringer & Townsend, 222 Broadway. Printed at the Globe Office, 1850.”
*"Report of the Trial of Prof. John W. Webster, indicted for the murder of Dr. George Parkman before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Holden at Boston, on Tuesday, March 19, 1850. mitted to the Supreme Judicial Court and on January 30 it was filed in that court. On February 9 the prisoner was arraigned before Mr. Justice Fletcher24 and pleaded Not Guilty.
March 19. This being the day set for the trial, the Judges entered at nine o'clock and took their seats upon the bench.25
John H. Clifford,26 Attorney General, and George Bemis, 27 for the Commonwealth.
Pliny Merrick28 and Edward D. Sohier,29 for the Prisoner. The Clerk called the names of the sixty jurors summoned,
Phonographic report, by Dr. James W. Stone. Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Company, 110 Washington Street. 1850.".
*Trial of John W. Webster for the murder of Dr. George Parkman. By a member of the New York Bar. New York: Cockroft & Co. 1879.” This is a reprint of the Bemis report with notes on the questions of circumstantial evidence and the corpus delicti. The maps and plans of the original edition are reproduced, but the frontispiece is a portrait of Dr. Webster, and on page 70 is a peculiar portrait of Dr. Parkman.
*“Report of the Case of John W. Webster, indicted for the murder of George Parkman. By George Bemis, Esq. Detroit Collector Publishing Co. 1897.” This is a rather recent report of the Bemis report, but it lacks its plans and illustrations.
20 See 1 Am. St. Tr. 443.
21 WILDE, SAMUEL. (1771-1855.) Born Taunton, Mass. Graduated Dartmouth College, 1789. Studied law with David L. Barnes; afterwards U. S. District Judge of Rhode Island. Began practice at Waldoborough, Maine; continued at Warren and Hallowell, Maine, and other places. Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Mass., 1815-1850. Member of Hartford Convention, and twice Presidential Elector. Member of Convention of 1820.
22 DEWEY, CHARLES AUGUSTUS. (1793-1866.) Born Williamstown, Mass. United States District Attorney, 1830-1837. Judge Supreme Court Massachusetts, 1837-1866.
23 METCALF, THERON. (1784-1875.) Author of Law of Contracts and Reporter of Massachusetts Decisions, 1840-1849. A jurist of high repute and a judge of the Supreme Court, 1849-1865.
24 FLETCHER, RICHARD. (1788-1969.) Born Cavendish, Vt. Member Massachusetts Legislature. Congressman, 1837. Judge Supreme Court Massachusetts, 1848-1853.
25 By statute a capital trial in Massachusetts is required to be held before three or more of the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court.
26 CLIFFORD, JOHN HENRY. (1809-1876.) Born Providence, R. I. Member Massachusetts Legislature, 1835. Attorney General Massachusetts, 1849-1858. Governor of State, 1853. President State Senate, 1862.
27 BEMIS, GEORGE (1816-1878.) Born Watertown, Mass. Grad