The Lizzie Borden Murder Case Part 3

About the case of Lizzie Borden who was charged with murdering her family with a hatchet, the trial and verdict.


The Trail: All during the trail, Lizzie Borden sat properly attired in a blue suit, a black hat with cherry-colored ribbons, and short white gloves, as befit a gentlewoman and an heiress to a large fortune. Before the horrible events, she had been active in several church societies and taught Sunday School. Her minister sent her a fresh bouquet of flowers every day. The mayor of Fall River and all the other town notables attended the trail faithfully. Sympathy ran high for the ordeal of the middle-aged orphan.

At 1st, Lizzie testified that she was in the backyard eating pears while the crime was committed. Later a lapse of memory had her in the attic gathering lead sinkers for her fishing line. No stranger had been seen by neighbors entering or leaving the house. There were no signs of struggle or forcible entry. And yet, the defense argued, if Lizzie Borden had actually axed her parents, she would have had only 9 minutes between the completion of the crime and her discovery of it to bathe and change her bloodied clothes. She was, by all witnesses' accounts, immaculately spotless when she called for help.

One of her defense lawyers, an ex-governor of the State, summed up the argument for the defense: "Gentlemen, to find Lizzie Borden guilty you must believe that she is a fiend. Does she look it? The prisoner at the bar is a woman, and a Christian woman, the equal of your wife and mine."

The jury was out for an hour and a half. The verdict was unanimously for acquittal. Lizzie Borden, who had become somewhat of a symbol of women's rights, was tearfully embraced by throngs of well-wishers.

The End: Years later, methods used in a similar case proved that a murderer wielding an ax over his or her victim does not necessarily stand directly in the path of blood trajectory. Bloody clothes are no problem.

The new heiress enjoyed a measure of social freedom as never before. She and her sister sold their parents' home and purchased a luxurious residence in the best section of town. After 12 years, sister Emma moved out, telling friends that her life there had become "absolutely intolerable." Lizzie stayed on by herself until her death in 1927 at the age of 66. She was worth well over a million dollars; $30,000 of it was left to the local Animal Rescue League. Her more enduring legacy was a children's jump-rope rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an ax,

Gave her mother forty whacks;

When she saw what she had done,

Gave her father forty-one.

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