"This is anextraordinary and ground-breaking book, a wonderfully creative mix of fact andtheory, imagination and drama. Anyone with an interest in law, history, or, forthat matter, great storytelling will fall in love with A Death at Crooked Creek. The startling origin of the complex'intention exception' to the hearsay evidence rule becomes canvas on which agrand and marvelously detailed tale is told. This is modern narrative at itsbest: a marriage of spectacular writing and hard, documented truth presented bya brilliant author who doubles as a gifted and fastidious legal scholar andhistorian."
—Andrew Popper,American University
One winter night in1879, at a lonely Kansas campsite near Crooked Creek, a man was shot to death.The dead man’s traveling companion identified him as John Hillmon, a cowboyfrom Lawrence who had been attempting to carve out a life on the blusteryprairie. The case might have been soon forgotten and the apparent widow, SallieHillmon, left to mourn—except for the $25,000 life insurance policies Hillmonhad taken out shortly before his departure. The insurance companies refused topay on the policies, claiming that the dead man was not John Hillmon, andSallie was forced to take them to court in a case that would reach the SupremeCourt twice. The companies’ case rested on a crucial piece of evidence: a fadedlove letter written by a disappeared cigarmaker, declaring his intent to travelwestward with a “man named Hillmon.”
In A Death atCrooked Creek, Marianne Wesson re-examines the long-neglected evidence inthe case of the Kansas cowboy and his wife, recreating the court scenes thatled to a significant Supreme Court ruling on the admissibility of hearsayevidence. Wesson employs modern forensic methods to examine the body of thedead man, attempting to determine his true identity and finally put thisfascinating mystery to rest.
This engaging andvividly imagined work combines the drama, intrigue, and emotion of excellentstorytelling with cutting-edge forensic investigation techniques and legaltheory. Wesson’s superbly imagined A Death at Crooked Creek willhave general readers, history buffs, and legal scholars alike wondering whetherhistory, and the Justices, may have misunderstood altogether the events at thatbleak winter campsite.