Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lizzie Borden: Whack Job

I like to read true crime books once in a while; for some reason, I find them relaxing.

Yesterday, I got the idea to look for a book about Lizzie Borden. I was surprised by the sheer number and variety of books available. I shouldn't have been surprised, her murder trial was one of the most infamous in American history. Also, I was surprised by the widely divergent theories about "who did it"--I always assumed that it was generally accepted that Lizzie did it.

I still think that's mostly the accepted version, but I was surprised to see a lot of wacky titles like Lizzie Borden Didn't Do It! and even Did Lizzie Borden Axe for It?

To my mind, even without reading any books on the subject, she's indisputably guilty. Why? Just look at her. She's got the Crazy Eyes, people.

From Wikipedia: Lizzie Andrew Borden (July 19, 1860 – June 1, 1927) was a New England spinster who was the central figure in the hatchet murders of her father and stepmother on August 4, 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts in the United States. The murders, subsequent trial, and following trial by media became a cause célèbre. The fame of the incident has endured in American pop culture and criminology. Although Lizzie Borden was acquitted, no one else was ever arrested or tried, and she has remained notorious in American folklore. Dispute over the identity of the killer or killers continues to this day.

Over a period of years after the death of the first Mrs. Borden, life at 92 Second Street had grown unpleasant in many ways, and affection between the older and younger family members had waned considerably if any was present at all. Meals were not always eaten together. Conflict had increased between the two daughters and their father about his decision to divide valuable property among relatives before his death. Shortly before the murders, a major argument had occurred which resulted in both sisters leaving home on extended "vacations". Lizzie Borden, however, decided to end her trip and returned early.

She was refused the purchase of prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) by local druggist Eli Bence, which she claimed was for cleaning a seal skin coat.

Shortly before the murders, the entire household became violently ill. As Mr. Borden was not a popular man in town, Mrs. Borden feared they were being poisoned, but the family doctor diagnosed it as bad food.

No blood-soaked clothing was found as evidence by police. A few days after the murder, Borden tore apart and burned a blue dress in the kitchen stove, claiming she had brushed against fresh baseboard paint which had smeared on it.

Despite incriminating circumstances, Lizzie Borden was acquitted on June 20, 1893 by a jury after an hour and a half's deliberation. The fact that no murder weapon was found and no blood evidence was noted just a few minutes after the second murder pointed to reasonable doubt. Her entire original inquest testimony was barred from the trial. Also excluded was testimony regarding her attempt to purchase prussic acid.

Though acquitted for the crimes, Lizzie Borden was ostracized by neighbors following the trial. Lizzie Borden's name was again brought to the public forefront when she was accused of shoplifting in 1897.

No comments:

Post a Comment