November 22 - 1963: Woods Hole marine biologist acquitted of murdering his wife

1963: The day Jack Kennedy died. 1991: 69-year-old woman faces eviction from Provincetown artists colony
Sutcliffe, on left seen holding a hat, is shown after his acquittal with his attorney John Murphy, at center, and a WHOI colleague, Dr. Edward Baylor. Photo courtesy of the Brockton Enterprise.

1963: WHOI scientist found not guilty at moment of Kennedy's assassination

On this day in 1963, a Superior Court jury in Brockton acquitted Dr. William H. Sutcliffe Jr., 40, a West Falmouth marine biologist who worked in Woods Hole, of murdering his 34-year-old wife Luise with a wood alcohol-poisoned cocktail in October 1962. The trial had been moved off Cape due to extensive media coverage.

The defense attorney said the Sutcliffe' s wife mistakenly used the bad alcohol in a cocktail, and the jury believed him more than Prosecutor Ed Dinis.

After a week-long trial, jurors began their deliberations in the early afternoon of Nov. 22 and returned to the courtroom shortly after 6 p.m. to render a verdict. Before they could, Judge Frank W. Tomasello had an announcement.

Judge announces JFK's death

"I would like to take a moment here to say that a tragic incident has taken place in the history of our nation," Tomasello said, according to a Nov. 23, 1963 story in the Brockton Enterprise. "We have lost our beloved president, John F. Kennedy," who was assassinated four hours earlier in Dallas as jurors began their deliberations.

The jurors gasped in disbelief and Judge Tomasello asked all to stand for a moment of silence. Then the court clerk asked the jury foreman for the verdict. "We find the defendant not guilty," the foreman said.

Prosecuting the case was District Attorney Edmund Dinis, who contended that Sutcliffe killed his wife after learning she had an affair with his best friend, John H. Ryther, who worked with Dr. Sutcliffe at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (six years later, Dinis prosecuted Senator Edward Kennedy after a fatal accident on Chappaquiddick killed a passenger in Kennedy's car, Mary Jo Kopechne).

Sutcliffe is said to have left Cape Cod in 1964 and moved to New York. 

1963: the day JFK was assassinated

On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. At the age of 43 he was the youngest elected to the office and the first person born in the 20th century to serve as President of the United States.

Read about his assassination here

1991: A 69-year-old woman faces eviction from artists colony  

Was retreat for writers like E. E. Cummings, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer and Eugene O'Neill

In 1991, the New York Times featured an article about the property plight of Grace E. Bessay, a retired bookkeeper. That story began: 

One of the nation's longest-running lawsuits is expected to be resolved on Friday, November 22, 1991, when a 69-year-old woman faced eviction from a two-room cottage that was once part of a writers' colony on Cape Cod.

Nestled behind sea grass on the dunes along the Atlantic in Provincetown, the cottage is one of 17 primitive shanties that were once retreats for writers like E. E. Cummings, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer and Eugene O'Neill. But in 1967, the National Park Service claimed the cottages as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Sixteen owners signed agreements with the Park Service that allowed them to remain in their cottages for 25 years. But the 17th refused and sued in Federal court instead. 

Read the full story here.


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