American Experience: Murder at Harvard (2003)

Genres - History  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Law & Crime  |   Run Time - 60 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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In 1849, wealthy Bostonian Dr. George Parkman was bludgeoned to death on the campus of Harvard Medical School. After discovering the body, the school's janitor Ephraim Littlefield managed to piece together enough evidence to point the finger of guilt at chemistry professor John White Webster. After a spectacular trial in which there were so many spectators that they had to be admitted to the courtroom in shifts, Webster was found guilty and executed. Case closed? Not so far as contemporary historians like Simon Schuma are concerned. Among others, Schuma has persuasively argued that Webster may have been innocent, the victim of an elaborate frame-up, possibly engineered by Ephraim Littlefield -- but to what purpose? This PBS docudrama attempts to separate speculation from fact, using dramatized reenactments (filmed in black-and-white) to offer alternate scenarios. Murder at Harvard was originally presented as an episode of the anthology series American Experience.

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Keywords

basement, disappearance, doctor, doubt, dramatization, evidence, execution, frame-up, janitor, professor, re-enactment, sensationalism, theory, trial [courtroom]