March 19, 1850

Professor's Murder Trial Begins

Greater Boston

On this day in 1850, a sensational murder trial began in Boston. Both the victim and the accused belonged to the city's social elite. The case had been closely followed ever since the dismembered body of Dr. George Parkman was found in a cellar at Harvard Medical School. John Webster, a professor at the medical school, was charged with the grisly crime. The motive? Webster owed Parkman money. After being convicted of the murder, Webster confessed that when Parkman badgered him for payment, he "forgot everything" and in his fury "seized whatever thing was handiest and dealt him an instantaneous blow with all the force that passion could give it." John Webster was hanged in Boston on August 30, 1850.

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