Actress Allison Williams talked to CBS News on Monday about her new podcast, which tells the story of the first recorded murder trial in U.S. history.
Williams stars in and executive produces the six-episode true-crime podcast, titled “Erased: The Murder of Elma Sands.”
She described it as “a historical podcast set in modern language,” in the style of a radio show.
The podcast centers on the murder of 22-year-old Elma Sands, who was found dead in a Manhattan well on January 2, 1800, after having disappeared on the evening of December 22, 1799.
Her lover, Levi Weeks, was accused of the murder and defended in court by none other than Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
Williams was joined by Allison Flom, the podcast’s creator and narrator. She said she first learned about the case from Flom, who had researched the case as a tour guide in New York.
Sands’ murder site is now the basement of a luxury clothing store in SoHo.
“So, I’m standing in this clothing store,” Flom said. “I see people around trying on sweaters and slacks, and mannequins everywhere, wanting to just scream, like, ‘Someone was killed here!’ Like, why doesn’t anyone know? Why doesn’t anyone care?”
Flom told CBS News that reading the trial’s transcripts showed her that “our system was set up to do exactly what it did in this trial, which was to erase whoever is inconvenient for consolidation of money and connections and power.”
That remains true today, Flom said. “I wanted to write it like 2023 because it felt like 2023.”
Flom said that Williams, an advocate for criminal justice reform, understood the urgency of the story and helped amplify it beyond her wildest dreams.
Williams told CBS News that working on the podcast put America’s current broken justice system into perspective. She said the first true application of the Constitution in a murder trial could have gone one of two ways — it could have either preserved the status quo or furthered the nation’s new melting pot.
“And of course, we know the way it was created,” Williams said, adding, “So I guess it just gave me context for what was broken from the beginning and has just deteriorated more and more over time.”