Albert Deane Richardson was born in Massachusetts. Inspired by the western expansion, he left New England and established himself as a reporter in Cincinnati. With the outbreak of the Civil War, his restless, inquisitive spirit drove him to the West and the South from one adventure to another. After the war was over, Albert, now well-known, returned to New York to continue his career as a writer and journalist.
Abby Sage spent her childhood in New Hampshire, was educated as a teacher and soon married. Her husband, Daniel McFarland, though nearly twice her age, impressed the naive Abby with his erudition and charm. Ten years and two children later Abby, as the family’s primary wage-earner, was a well-established actress. McFarland, however, turned out to be an alcoholic ne’er-do-well, a man not only incapable of providing for his family but abusive and dangerous as well. Unwilling to take responsibility for his behavior and eventual divorce, McFarland turns his paranoic rage upon Albert Richardson whom he knew had befriended and supported Abby during the final stages of the doomed marriage. McFarland stalked and shot Richardson at the New York TRIBUNE office. On December 2, 1869, sixty hours after his deathbed marriage to Abby Sage, Richardson died.
Author George Cooper graphically and evocatively details the trial of Daniel McFarland and its aftermath. As in modern celebrity trials, a superb defense team, an avid public, and an unbridled press quickly turned the murderer into the victim and the blameless victim into the villain. With the reputations of Albert Deane Richardson and Abby Sage annihilated, McFarland was acquitted, the jury believing the crime to have been committed in a moment of understandable insanity. Cooper’s meticulously researched account of a trial by press and jury provides a compelling case study and timely prologue to the high profile trials of the 1990’s where a seemingly straightforward murder can become somehow justified in the eyes of the jury and the public.