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LIZZIE BORDEN TRIAL

In 1892, a murder of a very different nature occurred in Fall River, Massachusetts. This crime, which also generated extensive media coverage at the time, has almost become the stuff of legend, and is even well-known for its reference in a children's rhyme: "Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one!" Certainly, the rhyme contains elements of truth—Mr. and Mrs. Borden were brutally murdered during a fateful morning in August. But, although all signs pointed to their daughter Lizzie's guilt, we may never be sure what actually transpired that day.

Andrew Borden, who was very wealthy, lived with his second wife Abby and his two unmarried daughters from his first marriage, Lizzie and Emma, aged thirty-two and forty-two. On the morning of August 4, Emma was away on vacation. Andrew left for work, and the maid, Bridget, went outside to wash the windows. The only two people remaining in the house were Lizzie and her stepmother. Due to an unbearable heat wave, Andrew came home from work at around eleven o'clock and rested in the parlor. Bridget, too, was resting in her room in the attic. She was awakened by Lizzie shouting, "Come down quick! Fathers dead! Somebody came in and killed him." Andrew had been killed by numerous blows from an ax, and soon thereafter, Abby's body was found upstairs. Later, an ax with a broken handle was discovered in the basement.

Media attention soon focused on these gruesome events in Fall River, and the Borden murder became front-page news across the nation. Although the police investigation was cautious because of the prominence of the Borden family, Lizzie was arrested two days later. Investigators felt she was the only person who could have committed the crimes, because it was unlikely another culprit could have crept into the house unseen by Lizzie. And, in fact, Lizzie did nothing to help her own situation. She gave different explanations for her location during the murders, the most unlikely being that she was "eating pears" inside a closed barn loft to escape the heat wave.

The media expressed horror at Lizzie's arrest—not because they believed the accusation, but, rather, it was inconceivable that such a well-bred, wealthy, grief-stricken young woman would even be suspected of such a crime. During this period, most newspapers and magazines regularly featured articles about a woman's "natural" characteristics, such as fragility, docility, and gentleness. The extensive media attention given to these matters helped to create a picture in the publics mind of Lizzie as a typically bereaved woman who was incapable of murder. In fact, public sentiment expressed support for Lizzie, and prominent clergy spoke out on her behalf.

The newspapers continued to provide lengthy coverage of the events surrounding Lizzie s trial, which began in New Bedford in June 1893. It attracted reporters from across the nation and drew so many spectators that fences were needed around the courthouse. At the outset, Lizzie's case was helped by Judge Deweys ruling that her inconsistent testimony regarding her location during the murders, which had been presented at the inquest, was inadmissible. Additionally, the prosecution had to contend with the jurors' disbelief that a frail young woman could commit such a crime.

The prosecution presented experts who testified that a woman does possess sufficient strength to wield the fatal weapon, and that the blood could have splattered away from the assailant, thus explaining Lizzie's clean dress after the murders. The defense responded by urging the jury to rely on their own common sense, not scientific information. The jury returned with their verdict in less than an hour, shouting "Not guilty," to the obviously immense relief of Lizzie Borden. Certainly, the prosecution's case was based largely on circumstantial evidence that might not have proven her guilt beyond a "reasonable doubt," though reporters later learned that the jury did not even debate the evidence. After the trial, Lizzie spent her considerable inheritance on a fancy house and fashionable clothes. She lived in isolation until her death at the age of sixty-five and left behind one of the great murder mysteries in American history Did she really kill her parents? If so, why? And was she wrongly freed because of the media, who proclaimed her fragility and innocence?

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TITLE: Law and Legal Services at CitiMall.com Online Shopping Mall

Law Category: Prepaid Legal Services, Law , Legal, Attorney, Advice, Firm, Search, Attorneys, Lawyers, Power of Attorney, Durable, Forms

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