The Death of Old Man Rice

The Death of Old Man Rice: A True Story of Criminal Justice in America

Martin L. Friedland
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 423
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tv5j1
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  • Book Info
    The Death of Old Man Rice
    Book Description:

    The Death of Old Man Rice is a murder mystery and murder history, a glimpse into the world of forensic science, and that rare book that can engage any reader.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8108-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Cast of Characters
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. PART ONE Arrest
    (pp. 6-48)

    At about ten o’clock on a balmy Sunday evening in late September 1900, Charles Plowright, a Manhattan undertaker, arrived with his assistant at 500 Madison Avenue. He had been telephoned by the superintendent of the apartment building about an hour earlier and asked to make the necessary funeral arrangements for the remains of William Marsh Rice, a wealthy, aged Texan living in New York.

    The stately, chateauesque Berkshire apartment building on Madison Avenue and 52nd Street, now the site of the luxurious Omni Berkshire Place hotel, was one of the finest in New York, just one more example of the...

  7. PART TWO The Tombs
    (pp. 54-122)

    At one in the morning on 5 October 1900, Patrick and Jones were lodged in separate cells at police headquarters. ‘The cells in the present Police Headquarters,’ a chief of police wrote, ‘have officially been adjudicated as the worst in this State.’¹

    Early the next morning, Frederick B. House² came to police headquarters to see Patrick. Born in Cooperstown, New York, the forty-one-year-old graduate of New York University Law School was considered ‘one of the ablest criminal lawyers in the city.’ A Republican member of the State Legislative Assembly at the age of twenty-three, he later became prominently allied with...

  8. PART THREE The Prosecution
    (pp. 128-174)

    On Monday morning, 20 January 1902, Judge John William Goff, the recorder of New York, entered Courtroom 2 of the Criminal Court Building for the trial of Albert Patrick on a charge of first-degree murder. The crowd at the courthouse was even greater than it had been for the Molineux case. Murder charges in New York City were then still relatively infrequent. In all of 1902, there were only eleven murder convictions there and only three in the first degree.¹

    The fifty-four-year-old white-haired and white-bearded Goff had been the recorder of New York since 1894 and would continue as the...

  9. PART FOUR The Defense
    (pp. 180-228)

    The following morning, 6 March 1902, House asked Judge Goff to instruct the jury to acquit without calling on the defense on the basis that the evidence for the People was insufficient to warrant a conviction. ‘Not one single man,’ House said, ‘has been called here to testify that there is any truth as to the combination between Jones and this defendant to kill outside of the testimony of Jones himself.’¹ Even conceding that Patrick forged the checks and the 1900 will to get ‘old man Rice’s’ money, House went on, ‘there is no evidence in this case establishing the...

  10. PART FIVE Appeal
    (pp. 234-282)

    The trial had been the longest on record in New York City.¹ The result, stated theTimesin an editorial, was a surprise to the general public. Some letters to the editor supported that sentiment. TheTimeseditorial, one writer, ‘voices the sentiment of nine out of ten citizens of the city.’ Why not prosecute Jones? the letter went on to state: ‘The man testified on the stand that he had been promised nothing. If that is true excuse can the District Attorney offer for his monstrous proposition [that Jones be given immunity] ... If the man’s testimony to the...

  11. PART SIX Further Steps
    (pp. 288-324)

    Public opinion was slowly moving in favor of Patrick. The New YorkTimes,for example, published an editorial entitled ‘Sympathy for a Fighter,’ stating that ‘when brought here on Wednesday for the resentence that may or may not be his last, Patrick so carried himself when before his Judge as to wake something of admiration and sympathy from all who saw the remarkable scene.’¹ TheHouston Postreported: ‘public sentiment here in New York has to a large extent, undergone a change regard to Patrick.’² And Justice Michael Hirschberg of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court gave...

  12. PART SEVEN Conclusion
    (pp. 330-382)

    Immediately after receiving word of the commutation, Mrs Patrick left for Sing Sing on the 2:06 p.m. train from Grand Central Station. She drove up from the station in one of the horse-drawn station hacks and was taken immediately to her husband, who apparently had not yet been informed of the news. Whatever their private one-hour conversation may have been, Patrick’s public response was one of great disappointment. A letter to his wife was immediately released to the press: ‘It is needless to say that I am bitterly disappointed at the miscarriage of my hope for freedom, but I am...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 383-423)