The Aftermath

After the trial, Nicholas Dukes and the twelve jury men became pariahs of Uniontown. Mobs and riots broke out in the streets and people burned effigies of Dukes. As a result of the trial verdict, members of the jury were chased out of their hometowns and one was fired from his job. A bipartisan effort was pushed to disbar Dukes, marking the demise of Dukes’ career. Knowing he was facing tremendous backlash from his colleagues, he resigned from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Love letters written by Nicholas Dukes to Lizzie Nutt came to light after the trial. Since they were not thought relevant to the murder of Captain Nutt, they were not read in court.

Supposedly, Dukes had known about Lizzie’s promiscuous behavior as early as March of 1882 and was planning on leaving her until she was thought to be pregnant to another man. (This claim by Dukes was never verified.) Dukes reportedly pressed Lizzie to get an abortion, but stayed with her to sustain her reputation. According to him, his renunciation of their engagement would confirm the rumors of Lizzie’s pregnancy and ruin her. He positioned his behavior as that of a gentleman.

However, Dukes is contradicted in a letter from June of 1882, where he wrote of his continuing passion and love for Lizzie.

Why did Dukes wait so long to break off the engagement if he had known about Lizzie’s improprieties? Rumors suggested that Dukes was in love with another woman named Mary Beeson, a descendant of one of Uniontown’s founding families. He supposedly intended to leave Lizzie for Mary, but needed a way to terminate the engagement without ruining his own reputation. To this end, he used his skills as a lawyer to build a case against Lizzie in his letters to Captain Nutt.

Dukes’ connection to Mary Beeson would be confirmed in the summer of 1883, after the lawyer had a fateful encounter on the streets of Uniontown.