The death of Texas multimillionaire William Rice (founder of Rice University) in 1900 was the starting point for one of the strangest murder cases in U.S. history. Albert Patrick, a young lawyer, was quickly arrested for the crime. He had been running all over town cashing checks forged on Rice’s account, and had almost undoubtedly forged the will bequeathing the bulk of the Rice estate to him. He was convicted and sentenced to death after a lengthy, controversial trial.
But that was not the end. Over the years, the lingering doubts about the case grew. Patrick’s sentence was first commuted to life imprisonment. And then, several years later, he received a full pardon. Friedland, a University of Toronto law professor, is primarily interested in examining the proceedings as a case study of American justice, so there’s plenty of transcripts and analysis of the legal maneuvers. But for all the footnotes the writing isn’t turgid, and Friedland holds off on his revisionist tack (he thinks Patrick was guilty of no worse than forgery) to the end. JM
Publisher: University of Toronto
Hardback: 423 pages