Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency

Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency


– Hi, I’m Dan Abrams, chief legal correspondent for ABC News, host of Live PD on A&E, and the author of Lincoln’s Last Trial. I’m also someone who has
always been fascinated and interested in Abraham Lincoln. What I’ve learned is there’s
a lot about his legal career that I didn’t know. I didn’t know that he had
tried 27 murder cases, and I certainly didn’t
know about the 1859 case from nine months before he
got the Republican nomination. It’s a fascinating story about a guy named “Peachy” Quinn
Harrison charged with murder. It wasn’t just a typical murder trial. It was a self-defense case, and the victim is someone who’d
actually worked for Lincoln. The star witness for the defense was a longtime political
rival of Lincoln’s. Someone who at that time was probably more famous
than Lincoln himself, and it was a risk for
Lincoln to take this case. It was widely publicized
locally and covered nationally. If he did something wrong,
if he made a mistake, if the public came to hate his client, these could all be potential problems for Abraham Lincoln the candidate. Maybe the most amazing thing
about this particular trial there’s a full transcript,
a handwritten transcript. Those didn’t exist back then, but the family of the defendant had actually paid the
protagonist of our book to write down every word from the case, and that means we’ve got
Lincoln’s interactions with witnesses. We’ve got Lincoln’s cross-examination. We’ve got Lincoln the lawyer. So my co-author, David Fisher,
and I have taken the history, everything we know about
Lincoln at this time, and combined it with this relatively recently discovered transcript, and created what I hope
is a compelling book in Lincoln’s Last Trial.

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