These volumes contain testimony by Edison and several of his associates in a habeas corpus proceeding following the conviction of William Kemmler for murder. On May 16, 1889, a judge in Cayuga County, New York had sentenced Kemmler to die in the electric chair. He was the first person to be sentenced under the state's new electrocution law, signed on June 5, 1888. Kemmler's attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the law and initiated proceedings in July 1889 against Charles F. Durston, the warden of the state prison in Auburn.
Edison, along with Harold P. Brown, Arthur Kennelly, and other associates testified. Edison had been directly involved in the events surrounding the passage of the electrocution statute. He had supported Brown's efforts to lobby New York prison officials to use Westinghouse dynamos in electrocutions. He had also allowed Brown and others to conduct electrocution experiments on animals at his West Orange laboratory in 1888. Much of the testimony in Volumes I and II relates to these experiments. There is also testimony regarding Edison's views on the physiological effects of electricity, the passage of the New York electrocution law, and Brown's campaign to use Westinghouse equipment in electrocutions. Vol. III [not selected] contains printed documents relating to a subsequent appeal, along with duplicate copies of material found in the first two volumes. The following items have been selected: