Six Capsules: The Gilded Age Murder of Helen Potts

Six Capsules: The Gilded Age Murder of Helen Potts

by George R. Dekle Sr.

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Overview

2020 IPPY Awards Silver Medalist, US Northeast Best Regional Nonfiction

The permanent solution to a wife’s chronic headache

As Ted Bundy was to the 20th century, so Carlyle Harris was to the 19th. Harris was a charismatic, handsome young medical student with an insatiable appetite for sex. His trail of debauched women ended with Helen Potts, a beautiful young woman of wealth and privilege who was determined to keep herself pure for marriage. Unable to conquer her by other means, Harris talked her into a secret marriage under assumed names, and when threatened with exposure, he poisoned her.

The resulting trial garnered national headlines and launched the careers of two of New York’s most famous prosecutors, Francis L. Wellman and William Travers Jerome. It also spurred vigorous debate about Harris’s guilt or innocence, the value of circumstantial evidence, the worth of expert testimony, and the advisability of the death penalty. Six Capsules traces Harris’s crime and his sub­sequent trial and highlights what has been overlooked—the decisive role that the second-class status of women in Victorian Era culture played in this tragedy.

The Harris case is all but forgotten today, but Six Capsules seeks to recover this important milestone in American legal history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781606353707
Publisher: Kent State University Press
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Series: True Crime History Series
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 807,472
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

George R. Dekle Sr. served as a legal skills professor at the University of Florida, where he directed the Prosecution Clinic. His most recent book, Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln, won a Superior Achievement Award for Scholarship from the Illinois State Historical Society and Gold Medals for Biography and Politics from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Table of Contents

Dramatis Personae vii

Introduction 1

1 The Secret Marriage 13

2 The Sacred Marriage 26

3 A World of Concern for Harris 38

4 Working Up a Case on Harris 49

5 Wellman States His Case against Harris 61

6 The Prosecution Case-Week One 75

7 The Prosecution Case-Week Two 96

8 The Defense Case-Day One 111

9 The Defense Case-Day Two 126

10 Taylor Sums Up 138

11 Wellman Sums Up, the Jury Speaks 152

12 New Evidence? 165

13 The Raines Commission 185

14 The Curtain Falls 203

Epilogue: The Harris Case Today 215

Notes 220

Bibliography 246

Index 252

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