Trial of the Century
Americans hung on every word in the summer of 1873
Twice attacked by lynch mobs in Portsmouth, NH, Louis Wagner, already known as the "Smuttynose Murderer," was put on trial in York County in the sleepy rural town of Alfred, Maine. Prosecutor's lined up a "hailstorm of evidence" in a circumstantial case featuring over 40 witnesses. With little more than Wagner's shaky alibi, defense attorneys argued, without success, that Smuttynose Island was not in the jurisdiction of York County, and attempted to move the trial. Farmers left their fields for nine days and dozens of young ladies packed lunches in order to view the handsome prisoner in the packed courtroom. A published transcript gives us a fairly accurate account of the trial that included testimony from police, a Boston prostitute, local fishermen, a blood analysis expert, the husband of one of the murdered women, and Maren Hontvet, the surviving victim. The trial lasted nine days.