The most famous trial to
be tried in the court house was the Willett trial. It all started on
December 27, 1880. Two men, George H. Willett and John B. Pair
(Willett's brother-in-law), ran a barber shop in Glens Falls.
It was 9:20 am when Charles W. Cool headed towards his home, and
heard a gun shot. Addison Beecher Calvin, an officer, and L.P Juvet also
herd the shot. When they arrived at the barbershop, they found John Pair
dead on the floor.
Dr. McGregor and Dr. Fred B. Streeter preformed an autopsy. They
found a bullet had passed through the victim's left arm, entered his chest
between the 7th and 8th rib, punctured both lungs, passed out the chest
through another rib, and lodged in his right armpit where it was found.
On December 29, the D.A hired George S. Hotchkiss, a detective from
Brooklyn. He found that Willett was the last to see Pair alive, and he also
found a pistol and cartridges of the same caliber in Willett's rooming
house. Willett had bought them from a gunsmith in Burlington Vermont.
Willett was arrested on December 30, 1880 by Melville Bitely, and
held until January 8 when he was committed to Warren County Jail in Caldwell
(Lake George). The trial was from September 19 to the 30th, and from
October 1 to 10. The trial started on Tuesday, September 20 at 9:00 am.
Upon receiving the news of President Garfield's death, court was adjourned
until 3:30 p.m that day.
Mr. Leets was retained as an expert witness on cartridges, and M.B.
Buswell was an expert witness on the weapon used. Mrs. Wing testified that
on the night of the murder, she saw a "French-Canadian" go into the
alleyway. Constable Warren Allen stated that he saw a man load a revolver
under a coat, also a "French-Canadian type". (Both Pair and Willett were
Willett was found guilty on October 10, and was sentenced to be hung
on December 2. While in jail he remembered his mother telling him to trust
in God. He built a church out of cigar boxes scraps of wood, and anything
else he could find. Word spread about the work of the condemned man and Mr.
Carpenter bought it for $450. The money was used by Willett to secure
additional legal aid, and file for a second trial. This trial lasted from
September 17 to October 1, 1883. It cost $9180 for the two trials.
On September, 1883 the photographer, Seneca Ray Stoddard, took a
photo of the trial in progress. (see picture above) The Morning Star
News said that "He threw open the doors of the court, took a photo, and
ran down street."
It was argued by Charles Evans Hughes that if you refuse to answer,
it can not be considered a guilty plea. On October 1, 1883, George H.
Willett was found not guilty. After this, Willett disappeared, and no
further information can be found on the case.
--Excerpt from a report by Mary Ellen McGowan, Lake George High School
Student -- 1/23/85